TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals were not supposed to go into Seattle and beat the Seahawks.
But they did.
The Arizona Cardinals were not supposed to win 11 games this season.
But they might.
The Arizona Cardinals were not supposed to reach the playoffs this season.
They probably won’t.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially the day after the Cardinals beat up the NFC favorite Seahawks in their own building. But unless the Tampa Bay Buccaneers help them out with a win in New Orleans next Sunday, that’s exactly what is going to happen.
“It’s not in our control,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Monday. “I want to be 11-5 and let the chips fall. There is some joy in that, you know, if we’re watching the playoffs we’ll be watching a bunch of teams we beat, and that’s a little bit sour.”
Should the Cardinals miss out on the dance — as Arians likes to call it — the team will have no problem blaming itself, according to their coach. In Week 1, the Cardinals blew a fourth quarter lead in a road loss to the St. Louis Rams. In Week 6, it lost a competitive game to the San Francisco 49ers on the road. And then in Week 13, the Cardinals lost a tough one in Philadelphia to the Eagles.
As Arians noted, winning any one of those games would have changed his team’s odds for the better.
“Every single one we had our chance,” Arians admitted. “If 11-5 is not good enough, then we can look back at those games and say that was one that we should have won, which also puts us in the division race.”
If the Cardinals win 11 games but miss the playoffs, they will be just the second team to do so, joining the 2008 New England Patriots, since the NFL went to eight divisions in 2002.
In a way it’s funny how a season that has surpassed most reasonable expectations, with the franchise’s second 10-win season since moving the Valley after winning just five games the season before, can ultimately end in disappointment.
Having one of the league’s best defenses, an offense that at worst does just enough to win games, a coaching staff that seems to know what it’s doing and a general manager with a deft touch for finding talent certainly gives reason for optimism.
But that wouldn’t be enough for the first-year head coach.
“It will be nice. It’s a nice foundation, but I’m really not about that stuff,” Arians said.
“We play to get in the playoffs and win the championship, and it would be a shame but that’s the way it is. I’m not about changing rules or anything; just a bad year for that to happen.”
In 2008, the Cardinals benefited from the current postseason structure. Five years later, they might not.
Of course, until they’re eliminated, the Cardinals still have a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Winners of seven of their last eight games, with the most recent coming against the Seahawks in a building where a visiting team hadn’t won in nearly two years, they’ve done about all they could to give themselves a chance. Now, they need do others to do as much for them.
“I don’t think too many teams want to see us in the playoffs, especially the way our defense is playing right now,” Arians said. “To have a road win like that, where it’s a playoff atmosphere because they were playing for everything, I would feel very confident going anywhere in this National Football League playing anybody.”