When people discuss the Cardinals' rise out of the NFL gutter, the reasons commonly mentioned are the arrival of Ken Whisenhunt, University of Phoenix Stadium finally getting built, Kurt Warner's revival, and Denny Green's 2004 Draft (Fitz, Dockett, Dansby, and Antonio Smith).
The Red Birds moving from the NFC East to the NFC West in 2002 is always overlooked.
The Cardinals had records of 8-8, 9-7, and 10-6 the last three years, but you have to remember this was accomplished in the worst division in football. During those three seasons, the NFC West had only three teams finish with records of 9-7 or better (the two Cardinals seasons above, and the Seahawks went 10-6 in 2007).
During the same time period, 9-7 or better in the NFC East was accomplished eight times.
Imagine if these past three years the Cardinals were dealing with the Giants, Cowboys, Redskins, and Eagles instead of the Rams, Seahawks, and 49ers. The results would not have been pretty.
For a franchise that was known to have bad luck, the Cardinals caught one of the biggest breaks in NFL history getting moved from one of the best divisions in football year in and year out to the one that has been considered the worst in recent history.
The NFC West is once again the main reason for optimism with the Cardinals.
If Arizona was in NFC East, NFC North, NFC South, AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, or AFC West, the best projection for the Cards would be second and in most, they would be battling it out for third or last.
Fortunately for Red Bird fans across the desert, the Cardinals are in the NFC West and are not battling it out with three better teams.
Picking a winner of the NFC West is like having to choose between watching The Day After Tomorrow, Rudy, Fever Pitch, or Spider Man 3. No matter what your selection is, you know it is going to be dreadful.
The 49ers are a solid all-around football team, but they are weak at quarterback, the most important position in the NFL.
The Rams are on their way with Sam Bradford, but they are at minimum one year away from competing, more likely two to three years.
Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks have cleaned house. They are in rebuilding mode.
Even though they are not a good football team, getting to watch Arizona compete for the NFC West title this year will be more entertaining than watching a better team struggle in a stronger division.
For this, the Cardinals owe a huge thanks to the NFL because instead of being stuck at the bottom of the NFC East they will be battling it out at the top of the NFC West.