Updated Oct. 14
Don't shake your head to try and clear your eyes. It is as real as the financial crisis. We're talking about the Arizona Cardinals sitting in the top 10 of the CBSSports.com Power Rankings.
That includes you, Mark Swanson (my skeptical boss who is a long-suffering Cardinals fan).
The Cardinals are for real, which is why they are No. 9 in the rankings. The past two weeks showed us that they are the team to beat in the NFC West. Two Sundays ago they dominated the Bills, Buffalo's only loss, and then beat the Dallas Cowboys this past Sunday in a wacky and wild game which actually wasn't as close as it looked.
The Cardinals have a two-game lead in the NFC West. They haven't had a two-game lead in a division since they moved to Arizona in 1988.
For the past three years, four if you count this one, I've picked the Cardinals to win the NFC West. I've been wrong. And it has led to an endless stream of ripping from my co-workers.
"They're the same old Cardinals," they tell me.
No, they are not.
This Cardinals team can score with a high-octane passing game. Kurt Warner can make all the throws and receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin make the best duo in football. The offensive line has developed into a quality five.
But the biggest difference is with the defense. They can pressure the quarterback. The Cowboys have one of the best offensive lines in football, but on Sunday the Cardinals got after Tony Romo, eventually breaking his pinkie in overtime.
Young talent is fun to watch as it grows. It can be so unpredictable at times, like when the New York Jets lit up the Arizona secondary in that blowout loss three weeks ago, jumping to a 34-0 lead. But when it comes together, which it appears to be doing, look out.
That Cardinals defense has young, fast, aggressive players in their fourth, fifth and sixth seasons that need to start getting some much-deserved attention. I pimped Adrian Wilson as a star long before he made it to Hawaii, and he has continued playing at a high level when he's not being bothered by injuries.
Are the Cardinals for real?
No: They are the CARDINALS
Yes: They will win the NFC West
Total Votes: 29,546
Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, who can also play end, is another young player moving up on the star pecking order. The defense is deep, too. They can run a bunch of players at you in their front seven, which keeps them fresh and keeps the opposing quarterback jumping.
They will stay in the top 10 for another week, too since they are off this week. That takes us to two Sundays from now. That's when they hit the road to play the Carolina Panthers, giving Cardinals fans another chance for doubt.
Arizona is 3-8 on the road under second-year coach Ken Whisenhunt, including two road losses this season. The last time they played in somebody else's stadium, the Jets embarrassed them in that first half.
Same old Cardinals, they said.
They're not. Even my boss has to believe that now.
The Power Rankings through Week 6: