“Playoffs!?!?! You want to talk about playoffs? You kiddin’ me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game.” – Jim Mora, coach of the Indianapolis Colts, November 25, 2001, after a loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
You’re right Jim, I am talking about playoffs. Shaun, beware: the zombie apocalypse surely is coming, because the Arizona Cardinals have risen from the dead.
Come back with me for a moment to Halloween. While we were worrying about people’s costumes, the Arizona Cardinals had just blown a 21-point lead to the Baltimore Ravens and were 1-6. Everyone (me included) was wondering if the Cardinals would have a shot at drafting Andrew Luck #1 overall, and having him come and “save” the franchise. I remember specifically being angry when Patrick Peterson brought back a 99-yard punt in overtime to win the following week against St. Louis. I figured we were only going to win 3-4 games this year anyways; why not go for Luck and really suck?
(Let’s not even talk about the fact that on Halloween, ASU was 6-2, ranked in the top 15 and looking like they could contend for the Rose Bowl. That feels like a lifetime ago.)
Now here we are on December 14th, and the Cardinals have won 5 of 6. They’re 6-7 and in a surprisingly decent position to sneak into the playoffs. To have any hope, they have to win all of their remaining games:
Cleveland Browns – Have you seen this team’s offense? No? Neither have I. Colt McCoy just got knocked out by James Harrison (The Dirtiest Player Ever) and most likely won’t play. And the Cardinals are at home. This should be a win.
@ Cincinnati Bengals – This team was a feel good story, rallying behind Andy “Red Rifle” Dalton, but now they have fallen flat the past couple of weeks. This, however, will be the toughest test, on the road against a good defense. The Cards have overcome this before (see: Eagles, Philadelphia), but by no means is this is a given.
Seattle Seahawks – A division foe, on New Year’s Day, with this game potentially being for the final wild card spot. Yeah, it’ll be a big one. It’s at home, and the Cardinals defense has been so good lately that even a beast like Marshawn Lynch can’t run over them.
So if they win all three, they’re 9-7 and have completed one of the best same-season turnarounds in the history of the NFL. But other things have to happen as well. There are two teams currently at 8-5 and three at 7-6. Two of the teams that are 7-6 are in the same division (the Giants and Cowboys), and play each other one more time. So they most likely won’t play a factor in to the Cardinals’ playoff chances. So that leaves us with 3 teams and the Cardinals fighting for the last playoff spot. We need 2 of these three teams to finish at 1-2 or 0-3:
Chicago Bears – They’re 7-6, they just got Tebow’d last week and apparently their running back forgot that running out of bounds stops the clock. Along with their starting quarterback and running back being out for the season, they’re done for. Count them out.
Detroit Lions – Penalties, dumb plays, and immature; that about sums up the Lions. Since they play the Packers in Week 17, we can probably assume that they will only have to go 1-1 in their next two games to give the Cardinals a shot. At Oakland and home against San Diego in those 2 games might be an issue for Cardinals fans though…
Atlanta Falcons – Probably going to make it with “Matty Ice” as their leader. Their schedule is favorable (Jacksonville, @ New Orleans, and Tampa Bay). I see them going 2-1, to finish 10-6.
It might be a lot to ask for for all of those things to happen, and this very blog here might jinx the whole thing. But when you go all in with a team, you go ALL IN. I’m going all in with Arizona. I believe they can make a playoff spot and shock the world, just like they did three years ago.
It’s nice to see that the Cardinals have recovered slightly from last year’s debacle at the quarterback position. They are set up wonderfully for next year, and may be a dark horse pick to win the NFC next year with Kevin Kolb having a full year under his belt. Whether it’s premature or not, it’s nice to be talking about playoffs.