The mere presence of the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII amounts to nothing short of shocking. At the season's outset, just two of ESPN's 16 self-described "experts" picked the Cardinals even to make the playoffs. None projected any success beyond that.
Such dismal expectations seemed appropriate at the time given the team's history. Since moving to Arizona 21 years ago, the Cardinals have managed just two winning seasons, finishing 9-7 in 1998 and 2008. Before this year's playoff run, the Cardinals had managed just two postseason victories in their 87-year franchise history.
What's more, not since the 1979 Los Angeles Rams has a 9-7 team reached the Super Bowl. And Arizona's 9-7 is especially suspect given that six of its victories came against pillow-soft NFC West divisional opponents with a combined record of 13-35.