Only three times in their Arizona tenure have the Arizona Cardinals finished with a record that was above the .500 mark.
In 1998, they finished 9-7 and earned an NFC Wild Card spot.
In 2008, they finished 9-7 and won the NFC West.
In 2009, they finished 10-6 and won the NFC West.
Here in 2013, the Cardinals are 7-5 with four games to play, meaning a winning record is well within reach.
But how many wins does the team need to finish with if it expects to reach the postseason? Will nine be enough? How about 10? Do they need to win out and reach 11?
“It’s getting close,” Fox NFL analyst Daryl Johnston told Doug and Wolf Tuesday when asked if the Cards may have to go undefeated the rest of the way.
Johnson said the NFC South is a concern for the Cardinals, as both the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints are two games ahead of the Cardinals. Arizona has the tiebreaker over the Panthers but not the Saints, but either way has a lot of work to do if they are to pass either team.
Then, in the Cards’ own division, the 8-4 San Francisco 49ers have the lead for the final postseason spot. Arizona faces off with the 49ers at University of Phoenix Stadium in Week 17, but would likely need to finish a game ahead of San Francisco due to tiebreakers.
In other words, the Cardinals appear to have little margin for error.
“I think we could have a situation that we’ve seen before, where we’ve got a Wild Card team with a better record than a division winner doesn’t make it into the playoffs,” he said. “And we’ve seen that happen a couple of times recently.
“At this point, they could have to. Eleven and five, I’d be shocked to see a team not get in at 11-5, but the tough part for them is how difficult their schedule is down the stretch.”
Johnston noted that 10 wins is generally looked at as enough to reach the playoffs, but that just may not be the case this season. That said, 11 wins is still mathematically possible for the Cardinals.
“Obviously 11-5 gives you the great opportunity, and that would mean some huge wins for Arizona down the stretch against divisional opponents,” Johnston added.
The Cardinals play the first of three games against NFC West foes Sunday when they host the St. Louis Rams at University of Phoenix Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2:25 p.m. and the game can be heard on Arizona Sports 620 and News-Talk 92.3 KTAR.