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The Heat is uh uh uh uh ON!

The Warmth is uh uh uh uh ON!
Illustration: Getty Pictures

If the Cardinals had overwhelmed the Lions, Arizona can be NFC West champs proper now. Let me repeat that…IF THE CARDS HAD BEATEN THE 1-11-1 LIONS, THEY WOULD BE NFC WEST CHAMPS!

If the Playing cards had overwhelmed the Panthers (albeit they’d’ve had to take action with out Kyler Murray), they’d be NFC West Champs proper now.

If the Playing cards had overwhelmed the Seahawks, they’d be NFC West Champs proper now.

What do all of those video games have in frequent? These have been all second-half contests in opposition to lowly groups who’ve subsequent to nothing to play for that noticed the Cardinals soundly defeated by three possessions in every. That’s the sort of stuff that prices head coaches their jobs.

When the Rams defeated the Cardinals in Week 14, the Cardinals nonetheless held a lead within the division. With 4 video games left, the mixed data of the Playing cards’ final 4 opponents was 31-36-1. The Rams’ opponents mixed for a document of 33-35. The Cardinals went 1-3. The Rams went 3-1. Sarcastically, the Cardinals’ solely win in that stretch was in opposition to the Dallas Cowboys, the one playoff crew they confronted within the remaining stretch.

And now, simply because it’s the crew’s first playoff look since 2015, followers are purported to be grateful to Kliff Kingsbury for making it occur?

I ain’t shopping for it.

Kingsbury’s lackluster gameplans and ill-preparedness within the remaining month of the common season price the Cardinals a division title, and followers have each proper to be upset about it.

Ever since Kingsbury grew to become the pinnacle coach at Texas Tech, he has floundered on the finish of seasons. In 2013, after beginning the 12 months 7-0, Kingsbury’s Crimson Raiders misplaced 5 in a row earlier than beating No. 16 Arizona State within the Vacation Bowl.

In 2014, they misplaced 4 of their final 5 after beginning 3-4.

In 2015, they misplaced 4 of their final six after beginning 5-2.

In 2016, they misplaced six of their final eight after beginning 3-1.

In 2017, the misplaced six of their final eight after beginning 4-1.

In 2018, they misplaced 5 straight after beginning 5-2.

In 2019, after turning into the pinnacle coach of the Arizona Cardinals, Kingsbury misplaced seven of his final 9 after beginning 3-3-1.

In 2020, he misplaced 5 of his final seven after beginning 6-3.

Now, in 2021, why is it a shock that he misplaced 4 of his final 5 after beginning 10-2?

This sample has outlined Kingsbury’s head teaching profession all over the place he’s gone. He begins sizzling, then fades quicker than a Falcon fan’s smile after you point out “28-3.”

Now, Kingsbury has a chance to regain his fanbase’s belief with a win over Sean McVay, whom Kingsbury has a profession 1-5 document in opposition to, lest Kingsbury really feel his seat get hotter. That’s some immense strain, but it surely’s not as a lot strain as Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford will face.

Simply take into consideration what’s on the road for Stafford right here. The Rams received a playoff recreation with Jared Goff final season. They reached a Tremendous Bowl with Jared Goff three years in the past. Now, the Rams’ Tremendous Bowl hopes lie on the person whose incapability to win within the playoffs has outlined his profession up thus far. After all the things the Rams gave as much as get Stafford, if he can’t win them a playoff recreation, it might be as if the Rams moved backwards by buying and selling for him. The crew anticipated to be again in Tremendous Bowl competition with Stafford on the helm, and if they’ll’t handle to go so far as they did a season in the past? That’s a foul search for the Rams quarterback.

When Kelly Stafford is making public pleas asking Rams fans not to sell their tickets to Cardinals fans for concern of Rams gamers not with the ability to hear her husband’s rely, there’s an issue. She, very like her husband, might be nervous as hell going into this recreation. Stafford has all the things he ever wished when in Detroit at his fingertips now: an amazing head coach, a stable protection, a greater than succesful O-line, and a star receiving corps, so he’s probably in search of each benefit he can to show that he was well worth the king’s ransom the Rams gave up for him. A loss would recommend the other although.

Kingsbury ought to really feel some strain, sure, however the epic collapse the Cardinals skilled this 12 months wasn’t completely his fault. For one, star receiver DeAndre Hopkins missed the crew’s final 4 video games of the common season resulting from a toen MCL. With Hopkins taking part in this 12 months, the Cardinals rank first within the NFL in yards per go try (8.8) and third in EPA per play (0.21). With out Hopkins, the crew is sixteenth in yards per try (7.0) and twenty fourth in EPA (0.0).

To not point out, the crew’s offensive line had been a critical concern all season lengthy with Kingsbury and OC Vance Joseph having to roll out 9 totally different beginning O-line mixtures all through the season resulting from COVID considerations and different accidents. It wasn’t till Weeks 15-17 when the projected starters from earlier than the beginning of the season truly noticed the sector. On the identical time, beginning left deal with D.J. Humphries allowed 23 pressures in his remaining 4 video games this 12 months after permitting simply 19 in all of the prior video games he performed this season. Whereas a part of that poor safety may be positioned on Kingsbury and Joseph for not gameplanning higher, Humphries undoubtedly must be higher.

There are many areas the place Kingsbury is worthy of criticism. For instance, first-round choice Zaven Collins was projected to be a direct influence participant for the Cardinals protection. In actuality, he performed simply 20.6 p.c of the defensive snaps. Kingsbury performs a big position in figuring out who the Cardinals choose within the draft, and after one season that looks as if a really poor determination (however hey, it occurs; ask any Giants fan and so they’ll let you know). Nevertheless, based mostly on the variety of accidents and COVID issues Arizona suffered within the common season, the Cardinals’ collapse on the finish of the 12 months appears extra flukey than something.

Even when the Cardinals lose, Kingsbury probably deserves yet one more shot to show he can end a season robust. As for Stafford, the Rams are in win-now mode, and so they can’t afford to be one-and-done with zero draft picks within the two rounds of the upcoming draft. This can be a must-win for Stafford if there’s ever been one.

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