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Are the Cardinals in Their Glory Years, Too?

Over the weekend, I wrote that the Bengals are currently in their glory years. Is the same true of the Cardinals? Last year, Arizona outscored opponents by 176 points, even after being outscored by 30 points in the meaningless season finale. That mark narrowly edged the ’48 team (+169) for the best margin in franchise history (of course, it did not win on a per-game basis):

cards pd

The Cardinals have been a bad franchise for most of the team’s existence. The graph below shows the franchise’s cumulative points differential after each year, both as a franchise and broken down by location:

cards franchise cumulative pd

The Arizona years have been bad — really, really bad — up until very recently. But the team is currently enjoying a far better run now than it has had at any time since 1950. Over the last three seasons, Arizona has outscored opponents by well over 200 points; the last time that happened was when the Cardinals were playing for the title in ’47 and ’48:

cards trailing 3 yr

We are definitely experiencing peak Arizona Cardinals, but I don’t think you can put this team ahead of the Charley Trippi/Mal Kutner/Jimmy Conzelman Cardinals just yet.

One thing that is clear? We are definitely at the height of the combined Bengals/Cardinals. In only four seasons have the two franchises combined for more than 20 wins: 1975, when both teams went 11-3, and each of the last three seasons. In fact, Cincinnati and Arizona have combined for a whopping 67 wins over the last three years, ten more than in any other three-year period:

cards bengals wins

From ’91 to ’93, the two teams combined for just 26 wins. From ’00 to ’02, they combined for only 27 wins. These two teams were cellar dwellars for much of the last 25 years, but are now two of the best teams in the NFL.

  • mrh

    I’d put a plug in for the 1925 team over 2015 on the franchise scale: #2 in PD/G (11.8) and #3 in 3yr Cumulative PD/G (22.8) if I built my spreadsheet right. Both beat 2015’s ranks of 3rd and 5th respectively.

    On a per game basis, I think 1948 is clearly peak Cards, #1 in both seasonal and 3-yr PD/G. Then I’d rank the 1925 team followed by the 2015 edition.

    Peak St. Louis Cardinals was Air Coryell v1.4 in 1976, 7th in 3yr PD/G but just 21st in PD/G for the franchise or the 1975 squad which had the 8th best PD/G season but were 15th on the 3-yr measurement. ’75 Cards went 11-3 and won their division; ’76 was 10-4 and 3rd (!) in a 5-team division. The ’74-76 Cards were 31-11, a bit better winning pct than ’13-15 (34-14) although the 2015 team was probably the best single team of those 6 total years.

    A good point that two long-time laughingstock franchises are now near their all-time peaks.