Defeats such as the one Arizona suffered at Lambeau Field in Week 9 can lure a team into thinking victory was near if only a few things had gone differently.
If only receiver Early Doucet had held onto the football. If only quarterback John Skelton had resisted throwing into coverage. If only linebacker Paris Lenon or someone had covered Packers tight end Tom Crabtree. If only the coaching staff had called pass instead of run near the goal line.
Around the NFC West: Nov. 5, 2012
If only, if only, if only.
Back to reality: There was no reasonable expectation for a Cardinals victory on the road against Green Bay. There is little reason to expect the Cardinals, in their current form, to threaten the 8-0 Atlanta Falcons on the road in Arizona's next game.
Benching left tackle D'Anthony Batiste for Nate Potter isn't going to transform the offensive line. Benching Doucet for Michael Floyd isn't going to revitalize the passing game. Benching Lenon for Stewart Bradley -- something the Cardinals have not done, but conceivably could consider -- might actually worsen the situation, based on what we saw from both players last season.
These types of moves can promote accountability even if they don't provide significant upgrades in the short term. Teams have relatively few personnel options at this point in a season, however.
The Cardinals' best bet will be to weather the trip to Atlanta following their Week 10 bye, then focus on defeating St. Louis at all costs at University of Phoenix Stadium the following week. Lose both of those games and the path to 4-12 starts coming into focus.
After facing the Rams, Arizona finishes with three of its final five on the road. The two home games are against Detroit (won three of its last four) and Chicago (7-1).
The Cardinals' remaining opponents have posted a 36-21 record (.632) to this point in the season, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Only Detroit (.706) and Minnesota (.690) play tougher schedules from this point forward.
There should be no way to go but up following a drop from 4-0 to 4-5. That is not necessarily the case for Arizona, however.