This is why the Arizona Cardinals can have such optimism, despite two upcoming road games and a 2-4 record.
All they have to do is look at the rest of the NFC West.
Every one of the Cards’ division foes are sliding for one reason or another, and if the Cardinals can finish some of the close games they’ve been playing, maybe they can topple their rivals.
In San Francisco, where the 49ers still have only a miracle rally against Arizona to thank for their one win, quarterback and East Valley product Tim Rattay is hurt yet again. He has re-injured his right forearm, a problem that kept him out of the preseason. And the 49ers know Rattay has not been a fast healer.
"It’s hard to say what I’m going to be able to do each day," said Rattay, whose 294.2 passing yards-per-game average is second-best in the league. "I’m just hoping to get it under control."
In St. Louis, the Rams are atop the division with a 4-3 record, but are coming off a crushing loss to previously winless Miami, where the Rams surrendered 31 points to a Dolphins team that had been scoring 9.2 points per game. It has led to criticism of defensive coordinator Larry Marmie, who held the same job in Arizona.
Marmie’s defense is ranked 27th, has failed to produce a takeaway in five of the Rams’ seven contests and has yielded more points (165) than all but three NFL teams. But coach Mike Martz, a close friend of Marmie’s since their coaching days at Arizona State, grew angry this week when asked to evaluate Marmie.
"First of all, that’s none of your business," Martz snapped. "What I think of my staff, my assessment of the staff, is certainly personal. . . . I think he’s a terrific coach, and I think he’s done a terrific job."
Then there is Seattle, reeling after three straight losses and trying to find an offense after the Cardinals harassed quarterback Matt Hasselbeck into a 18.9 rating last week.
Coach Mike Holmgren has decided to simplify his offense — in other words, run more often — because Hasselbeck has "too much of the weight of the world on his shoulders."
FORGET EXIT POLLS
Since 1933, when the Boston Braves were renamed the Redskins, the result of the Redskins’ final home game before a presidential election has correctly predicted the winner every time. If the Redskins win, the incumbent party stays in the White House. If the Redskins lose, the challenging party wins. The Packers visit today.
But that can make it hard for someone like Packers kicker Ryan Longwell, a staunch Republican. "Do you figure to save the free world or do you help your team get to 4-4?" Longwell joked.
Said Packers safety (and Kerry backer) Darren Sharper, "I have an extra incentive to go out there and win. Because I know how that thing is working. So if we win, hopefully the guy that I’m voting for will win."
The Packers, by the way, haven’t won in Washington since 1968.
THE CHIEF REASON
Chiefs guard Brian Waters was fined by his team’s kangaroo court this week. The offense? Being named the AFC’s offensive player of the week, a rare bit of props for an offensive lineman but deserved after the Chiefs piled up an NFL-record eight rushing touchdowns against Atlanta.
Waters is only the fourth lineman — and first guard — to win the award, after tackles Erik Williams (Dallas, 1992), Jim Lachey (Washington, 1990) and Brad Benson (Giants, 1986).
"That’s probably the one thing I dreaded the most out of everything," Waters said. "Offensive linemen, we really don’t like too much attention, so this is kind of a lot."
• "Monday Night Football" analyst John Madden, on how long he wants to keep doing "MNF": "Forever. There’s no heavy lifting here. I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I went from a player to a coach to a broadcaster. I’ve been at recess my whole life. I never had to work."
• Vikings coach Mike Tice, after extending gimpy receiver Randy Moss’ consecutive games streak to 108 by playing Moss just two plays last week: "Were they token plays to keep his streak going? Probably. Was it a mind game with Tennessee so they couldn’t tell how good he was or how bad he was? Probably. Did we introduce him so the crowd could go wild? Probably."
• The five teams with the best sack differential have a 26-5 record. The Eagles (6-0) are plus-11, the Colts (4-2), Patriots (6-0) and Jets (5-1) are plus-10 and the Broncos (5-2) are plus-8.
• The Ravens’ offense continues to stink. The defensive backs have more touchdowns this season (3) than their wide receivers (2).
• Slowed by an ankle sprain, Saints Pro Bowl running back Deuce McAllister has just 280 yards rushing, 380 yards less than he had at this point last season and fewer than Falcons QB Michael Vick (348) and fill-in Vikings rookie Mewelde Moore (347).
• Jacksonville: Four times in five wins, the Jaguars have scored the winning points in the final minute of the game.
• Kansas City: If anything can turn around a season, maybe it is eight rushing touchdowns against the league’s top run defense.
• Mewelde Moore: Rookie RB knocked Michael Bennett from the starting lineup and has team-record 610 yards from scrimmage in three games.
• Seattle: From Super Bowl contender to pretender in three weeks.
• Dallas: Coach Bill Parcells was blunt with the Cowboys’ problems: "It’s my fault. I take full responsibility for it. I really do . . . because I’m the head coach."
• Jake Delhomme: With Steve Smith, DeShaun Foster and Stephen Davis all hurt, Panthers QB isn’t so great anymore.