Running back William Powell grinds ou some yards during last week's loss in Seattle.
Five months ago, the Cardinals and Detroit Lions reported to training camp with their sights set on playing in January and one eye on the possibility of playing the first weekend of February.
New seasons tend to bring new expectations. Slates were blank, optimism had yet to be spoiled. Both teams were coming off the types of season that invited those lofty goals.
The Cardinals won seven of their final nine games, and the Lions were 10-6 and made the playoffs for the first time since 1999. The expectations started high and continued to grow.
But with three weeks left in the 2012 season, those expectations have been shelved. Both the Cardinals and Lions are 4-9 and those training camp perspectives seem as far away as 100-degree temperatures.
"Right now we are in a situation where there's no chance for the playoffs, right now we're playing for pride," linebacker Daryl Washington said. "We still expect to go out there and win and compete, obviously. We just expected to get those games and win those games, but unfortunately we didn't get it done."
Every week the Cardinals have re-evaluated their expectations and with the Lions, Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers left on the schedule, the latest, tempered rendition is to finish the year with three wins and a 7-9 record, cornerback Patrick Peterson said.
Washington said having expectations after losing nine in a row is easier said than done. Yet the Cardinals aren't wallowing in the last 13 weeks. They're looking forward.
"You have no choice but to move on," running back William Powell said. "You have to realize where you are and just try to get better for the future.
"Even now, knowing what position we're in, you still have to play all out to get wins. We want to get these three wins and start over."
Words such as disappointing and frustrating are common vernacular these days around the Cardinals' locker room. After losing 58-0 last week to the Seattle Seahawks, the Cardinals need to be on the same page for the final three weeks, Peterson said.
But the Lions, who have lost five in a row, aren't treating this trip as a vacation.
"It's the same as it is in the NFL on a week-to-week basis. It's not about what happened last week," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "It's about the way you respond and the way that you go about your business. You only have 16 games over the course of the year, and I'm sure they certainly want to get that bad taste out of their mouth from last week at Seattle. They're returning home, so that's always a good feeling for a home team when you're coming back."
The Cardinals are leaning on last season's memory as a reference point for the rest of this campaign. After starting 1-6, the Cardinals finished the season 8-8. They rode that momentum into this season, starting 4-0 so they understand the impact of finishing strong.
They've seen it. They believe it. Now they want to replicate it.
"At this point, both teams have nothing to lose," Peterson said. "We're definitely expecting those guys to come out and give us their best shot. We're going to give them our best shot as well."