- Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Arizona Cardinals reporter
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They're a figment of the media's imagination, another story line with another headline.
It doesn't matter to Johnson or anyone else in the Cardinals' locker room that the Jacksonville Jaguars are 1-8, finally getting their first win just a few days ago. If they're getting paid to play, there's a chance they can win, Johnson said.
“We all respect one another,” Johnson said. “If we don't show up, we can get beat.
“If you don't prepare and you don't take that team seriously, then you're going to get beat because they have players on that team who are getting paid just like you are.”
All week, the refrain has been the same.
The Jags don't look like a 1-8 team on film. They play hard. Their defense is tough up front. They play all 60 minutes.
These are the types of games in which teams can easily go through the motions. Johnson looked to the Indianapolis Colts' 38-8 loss to the then-three-win St. Louis Rams last weekend as proof. But Arizona knows what happens if it looks past teams like Jacksonville, regardless of their record or stats.
The Jags are ranked last in the league in defending the run, but running back Rashard Mendenhall won't hear any of it. The game isn't played on paper, he said. He's seen it too many times: a team ranked low in the stats comes out and plays well in that area.
“The margin of winning and losing is so slight, I can't imagine any team in this league taking anybody lightly,” Mendenhall said.
If the Cardinals decide to take the Jags lightly, safety Yeremiah Bell said Jacksonville is good enough to take advantage of it, especially because they're playing with nothing to lose.
“They're more dangerous,” Bell said. “They're more apt to take chances, especially defensively (or) trick plays, flee-flickers, anything, onside kicks. So you always have to stay on your toes.”
While it might sound outrageous, if the Jags can win seven straight and finish 8-8, a wild-card berth could be in play. But a win by the Cardinals on Sunday at EverBank Field could derail those optimistic hopes quickly.
Arizona is in the midst of the NFC playoff hunt, sitting one game outside the wild card and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said the Cardinals can't afford to lose a game, so they must treat Sunday like it's a make-or-break game.
“This is a playoff game for us,” Fitzgerald said. “We're sitting at 5-4 right now. You look at the teams right now that are in the hunt for a playoff spot, it's tight. It's a tight race. We can't afford to give up any game.”
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians started the week praising the Jaguars and their defense. He was quick to talk about their 1-8 record not being an accurate indicator of what kind of team Gus Bradley is coaching, especially after watching the film.
Any given Sunday has become a cliché around football, but to the players it holds true.
On any given Sunday, a team that's 1-8 can beat a team that's 5-4. That's where the parity comes into play, linebacker Karlos Dansby said. He's also not a believer in trap games. Not in the NFL. Not against the Jaguars.
“It's not a trap,” he said, “when you know what's coming.”
TEMPE, Ariz. -- To Arizona Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson, trap games don't exist.They're a figment of the media's imagination, another story line with another headline.