At first glance, today’s game between the Cardinals and Miami Dolphins, teams that have just three wins between them, hardly carries top billing on the NFL marquee.
But on this Sunday, every contest is posted in slightly brighter lights, not because of who is playing, but when. After this week’s competition is done, every team will have played at least eight times.
The NFL’s midseason point is in sight. And Arizona would feel a lot better passing that signpost with a win than a loss.
"I think 3-5 is a lot better than 2-6," Cardinals coach Dennis Green said. "That record with the games that we have to play would feel good, but our expectations are still extremely high."
For Arizona, a win over a 1-7 Dolphins squad at Pro Player Stadium would end a 17-game road losing streak and give a boost to a team that hopes to make a push for .500 during the second half of the season.
Quarterback Josh McCown said a victory over Miami — combined with "the things we learned in the games we’ve lost so far" — could help fuel the Cardinals’ confidence and mental toughness.
"A 3-5 record at the midpoint puts us in the position that with our best football yet to come — and I think we all believe it is — that it will put us in a good position late in the year," McCown said.
For the Dolphins, a team that expected to contend for the playoffs before running back Ricky Williams’ defection and an 0-6 start derailed their season, they will spend the second half of the year simply trying to regain their bearings.
"It’s not about trying to make the playoffs or anything," Miami linebacker Zach Thomas said. "It’s about just trying to get a win."
A loss by Arizona could be as damaging to their secondhalf prospects as a win would be beneficial.
For that would mean defeats in consecutive weeks against teams that, up until their game against the Cardinals, had shown little firepower. Last week, Green’s team was routed at Buffalo, 38-14.
"We are fighters. That’s what we do," Green said. "And we are optimistic that it will pay off for us."
Miami comes into today’s game on a short week, having been drilled at the New York Jets on Monday night. The Cardinals, however, do not expect overconfidence to be a problem.
"We can’t look at them as a weaker opponent — they’ve only won one fewer game than we have," defensive end Bertrand Berry said. "We have to do what it takes to get a win, because we need one really badly right now."