The Arizona Cardinals are the talk of the NFL so far this season — and rightfully so.
Led by superstar-in-training Kyler Murray, the Cards have raced out to a 7-0 record to start the 2021 campaign and have rarely looked troubled in the process. The Murray-helmed offence has put up the second-most points in the league thus far, and the team has seemingly only become more dominant as the season has wore on.
Arizona now helps kick off Week 8 of the NFL season by playing host on "Thursday Night Football" to the Green Bay Packers, who at 6-1 are just off the torrid pace set by the Cardinals. Of course, the Packers and their own superstar quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, have been in the same situation that Murray and the Cardinals now find themselves in.
Back in 2011, the Packers raced out of the gates by winning their first 13 games of the season en route to a 15-1 record and high hopes of a championship run. A Week 15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs was the only blemish in an otherwise perfect regular season for Green Bay, but all the momemtum that was built up ahead of the playoffs disappeared at the first hurdle of the postseason as Rodgers and Co. were humbled in a 17-point loss to the New York Giants in the divisional round.
Even worse for the 2011 Packers is that they were the defending Super Bowl champions, having captured the Vince Lombardi Trophy the season previous. Yet, even with experience and pedigree on their side, the Packers weren't able to get it done when the games started meaning more.
While the current Cardinals aren't coming off a championship campaign, there may be some lessons to be learned from their upcoming opponent's history — and that of many other teams who have gone 7-0, or better, with nothing to show for it at the end. Including the Rodgers-led 2011 Packers, there have been 11 teams to start the season 7-0 prior to the current campaign in the last decade.
Here's how they fared:
- 2011 Green Bay Packers: As mentioned, the Green & Gold went 15-1 in the regular season and lost in the divisional round.
- 2012 Atlanta Falcons: Started 8-0, finished 13-3. The Falcons lost in the NFC Championship to San Francisco.
- 2013 Kansas City Chiefs: Started 9-0, finished 11-5. A huge slump that saw the Chiefs lose five of their final seven regular-season games extended into the playoffs, where they squandered a 28-point lead in the Wild Card round.
- 2015 Carolina Panthers: Started 14-0, finished 15-1. Cam Newton led the Panthers to Super Bowl 50, where they fell to Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos.
- 2015 Denver Broncos: Started 7-0, finished 12-4. The Broncos, as noted, defeated the Panthers to win Super Bowl 50.
- 2015 New England Patriots: Started 10-0, finished 12-4. Tom Brady and the Pats lost in the AFC Championship to the aforementioned Broncos.
- 2015 Cincinnati Bengals: Started 8-0, finished 12-4. The Andy Dalton-led Bengals lost, 18-16, in the Wild Card to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
- 2018 Los Angeles Rams: Started 8-0, finished 13-3. Jared Goff led the Rams all the way to Super Bowl 53, where they were defeated by the Patriots.
- 2019 San Francisco 49ers: Started 8-0, finished 13-3. The Niners, with Jimmy Garoppolo under centre, lost Super Bowl 54 to the Chiefs.
- 2019 New England Patriots: Started 8-0, finished 12-4. In Brady's last season with the Pats, the team lost to the Tennessee Titans, 20-13, in the Wild Card.
- 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers: Started 11-0, finished 12-4. Ben Roethlisberger and Co. fell at the first postseason hurdle, losing by nine points in the Wild Card to Cleveland.
Will Murray and the Cardinals be able to emulate the 2015 Broncos, or will history record another dominant regular-season team that couldn't live up to their hot start in the playoffs?