The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

Cards May Change the NFL

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There's nothing wrong with the occasional Cinderella team, but recent events have me wondering if the NBA-ization of the NFL is nigh. (If the officiating gets any worse, we'll be more than halfway there...)

In a recent article for The League, I revealed that the last two Super Bowls featured wins by teams with two of the five biggest deficits in Expected Wins (explained here) below the teams they beat. The Pythagorean Theorem says that the Arizona Cardinals are the worst team ever to appear in the Super Bowl. And if they win this thing? We may have to start stocking up on canned goods and digging those bunkers!

In 2006, it was the Indianapolis Colts, rebounding from a regular season in which they had one of the worst run defenses in NFL history, putting it all together against a group of postseason opponents that inexplicably refused to exploit their one glaring weakness. In 2007, it was the New York Giants, transcending the regular-season foibles of Eli Manning and turning a dominant front four on Tom Terrific and his Perfect Patriots.

After a horrid stretch run (which can happen when you clinch your division in June!), the Cards now have a running game and a run defense they really didn't have with any consistency all year. They face an offense with a suspect line, inconsistent running game, and a very sackable quarterback. The Steelers have the NFL's best defense, but what if Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin prove to be too much for the Steelers cornerbacks and the Cards win a squeaker?

If we have three straight Cinderella Super Bowls, it will be time to crunch the numbers and see what has changed -- what has allowed teams to get so hot at the right time? We may be on the verge of a new era, and it may be the Arizona Cardinals leading us there.

Who knew?

By Doug Farrar  |  January 23, 2009; 2:27 PM ET  | Category:  Arizona Cardinals , Doug Farrar , Pittsburgh Steelers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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funny you put indy in the class of cinderella a season after they were muliple years of the infamous perfect season talk surrounding them...understanding of course their issues on run d...but that was still payton and his offensive machine...i thought of the bears as the cinderella going into that game what with rex as the qb...

anyway...nonetheless would love to see the cards pull of another cinderella upset...those types of games are far more interesting than the blowouts that were the norm for so long...

anyway...

Posted by: deadskin | January 23, 2009 8:00 PM

I think that having unexpected teams winning sometimes makes football more interesting. It would be boring if the outcome were always predictable.

I wonder if the problem that some commentators have with "Cinderella" teams is that it upsets their oh-so-wise prognostications, which detracts from their "expert" status.

Posted by: EnjoyEverySandwich | January 24, 2009 8:25 AM

Doug,

Does your Pythagorean Theorem, (which I skimmed through briefly), include the last three games the Cardinals have played? These performances certainly do not reflect the regular season stats of this "worst team". One point I'm glad to see, (so far), is that the networks and the NFL haven't found a way to eliminate teams that do not favor their "high market" venues that generate the big bucks, unlike the NBA's cloud of suspicion.

Posted by: Rovin2b | January 24, 2009 9:55 AM

"If we have three straight Cinderella Super Bowls, it will be time to crunch the numbers and see what has changed -- what has allowed teams to get so hot at the right time? We may be on the verge of a new era, and it may be the Arizona Cardinals leading us there."

I'm not sure of the Cardinals "secret" for getting hot at the right time, but Bill Walsh, (thru the 80's Superbowl triumphs), made it a point to not "beat up" his talent in spring training and rotated offensive and defensive line players routinely through-out the season to keep them "fresh" at the end.

Posted by: Rovin2b | January 24, 2009 11:01 AM

let's see- first a team has to make the playoff through wild card or winning their division- then they must a play off game to proceed to the next playoff game- then they proceed to the conference championship and then to the Super Bowl- gee i think the Cardinal did all those things. so . . . maybe you don't understand football too well.

Posted by: rk02 | January 24, 2009 1:44 PM

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