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Burns: Is the Cardinals’ season dead?

Arizona Cardinals' Carson Palmer (3) looks back after being sacked by the Carolina Panthers in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

It’s probably the question every Cardinals fan is asking themselves today: Is that it? Are we done?

My answer would be: do you want to know what I know or what I think?

What I know is that 3-4-1 is hardly a playoff death sentence. I know that I wouldn’t have to go very far or search very long to find teams that were around .500 with half the season left who made the playoffs. I know that Seattle lost too and that the Cardinals are only a game and a half behind them. The Seahawks still have games at the Patriots and Packers and home against the Eagles, Panthers, Cardinals and their personal demons in the Rams. Catching the Seahawks seems doable.

What do I think? I think they’re done.

I think that for them to make the playoffs one of two things will have to happen. Either Seattle will have to stumble down the stretch or the Cardinals can only lose one (maybe two) games from here on out. Problem one:  When do the Seahawks get worse over the course of a season? They always get better as the calendar flips. Problem two: Are the Cardinals — the way they’ve played through the first eight games — capable of going 7-1 or 6-2 with a schedule that features trips to Seattle, Atlanta and Minnesota?

Frankly the whole conversation seems misplaced. The Cards haven’t done anything well enough consistently enough to make you think they’re capable of such things. They don’t look anything at all like the 13-3 squad that thrilled us a year ago. At this point the playoffs seem like nothing more than a theory.

Other thoughts from Sunday:

The unexplainable: I just don’t get it. The “fumble” to open the game where Carson Palmer was clearly shoveling the ball in a forward passing motion. I am dumbfounded why someone who is paid to determine the correct outcome of that play, either a ref or a replay official, looks at that and says “that’s a fumble”. Somebody screwed up and it cost the Cards early momentum. Then, the Greg Olsen “catch” that replays easily showed was not. For some reason, Bruce Arians didn’t throw the challenge flag. He threw one last week in a moment where he wasn’t allowed to but didn’t today on a play that Mike Pereira thought for sure would have been overturned. Jonathan Stewart later scored on a touchdown run that made it 21-0. Both directly cost the Cardinals points.

The Slow Start. Down 24-0 late in the first half in a scene eerily reminiscent of the NFC Championship Game. The Cards opened up with the so-called-fumble, punt, punt, punt, punt. Couldn’t run, couldn’t protect, got into third-and-long situations like they were getting paid by the yard, missed tackles, committed penalties. You know, your basic nightmare replay of a game from January we’ve all worked hard to block out. Doesn’t matter if it was because of the long game the week before or the early start time. It put the Cards in a hole they could not climb out of.

The Offensive Line. A Panthers defense that had managed only 12 sacks all year going into the game, picked up eight more on their way out. It made it nearly impossible for Palmer to do his job.

The Injuries. Tyrann Mathieu left the game with a shoulder injury. Jared Veldheer with an arm injury. Last year, the Cards were relatively clean in this area with the exception of Chris Johnson and Mathieu late. The Cards can’t afford too many more of these. I guess it’s a good time for the bye week for everybody to get away from it for a bit and come back renewed and recharged.

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