Arizona Cardinals, Not Carolina Panthers, Team to Beat in the NFC

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 10, 2015


The Carolina Panthers are 12-0 but they're not the most dangerous team in the NFC.

That honor falls to the Arizona Cardinals, who host the 8-4 Minnesota Vikings tonight in a game that will impact the NFC playoff picture.

The Cardinals are 10-2 and on pace to be the franchise's best team since the defending champ 1948 Chicago Cardinals went 11-1-2 before losing to the Eagles, 7-0, in the NFL title game.

In fact, with two wins in their final four games, Bruce Arians' redbirds will set a franchise record with 12 victories. Pretty impressive: the Cardinals are one of just two original NFL franchises (the other is the Bears). Despite a history that dates back to the very first NFL season in 1920, the sad-sack Cardinals have never won 12 games in a season. That dismal history should change this year.

The Cardinals are also +150 in scoring differential through 12 games, best in the NFL this year, third best in franchise history and tops by a Cardinals team since that same 1948 season. The 1948 Cardinals were +169 in scoring; the NFL champion 1925 Cardinals were +165. 

Arians is erasing the Cardinals' long loser history right before our very eyes. 


More importantly, the Cardinals are the best in the NFC right now in our Quality Stats that correlate most closely to championship success – even better than the unbeaten Panthers.

Some highlights:

Arizona is No. 1 in Passer Rating Differential (+29.7), which we call the Mother of All Stats because NFL champions are usually dominant in this indicator. Carolina is No. 4.

Arizona is No. 1 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings, best in the NFC, with the highest average ranking across the board in each of our Quality Stats. Carolina is No. 6.

Arizona is an NFC-best No. 3 on the Relativity Index, which measures how well teams play relative to the quality of their opponents. Carolina is No. 4.

Arizona ranks in the Top 10 in 18 of our 22 Quality Stats, which you can see by looking at our Vikings-Cardinals game-comparison stat chart. Carolina ranks in the Top in 15 of 22 Quality Stats. See our Week 13 Falcons-Panthers stat chart here

Carson Palmer and the Cardinals boast the best down-field passing attack in the NFL, with 8.11 Real Passing YPA. Cam Newton and Carolina rank No. 11, averaging 6.64 Real Passing YPA.

None of this guarantees the Cardinals a trip to the Super Bowl. But it tells us they are a very dangerous team with all the statistical tools it takes to win a title. An Arizona-Caroline NFC championship game will be one hell of a showdown. 


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