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ESPN: Cardinals could still crash playoff party, but it’s not likely

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) catches a touchdown pass in front of Minnesota Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, left, during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Technically speaking, the Cardinals are still in the playoff race.

At 4-5-1, they are not out of it because, really, the NFC is very mediocre this season.

That said, their 30-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings Sunday put them in a very tough spot, needing to essentially run the table while likely also needing help from some other teams.

With four of their final six games being played away from University of Phoenix Stadium, it all seems like a very tall order.

Still, according to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, the Cardinals are in the mix to be a team that is currently outside of the playoff picture who could ultimately crash the party. In presenting 13 teams, from lowest odds to highest, Arizona is eighth, with a 13.9 percent chance.

Arguably 2016’s most disappointing team, the Cardinals simply can’t protect Carson Palmer as injuries have hit the offensive line. The 36-year-old QB was knocked down a staggering 15 times on 42 dropbacks by the Vikings on Sunday, and Palmer seems to be on a different page from his receivers at times, as was the case when John Brown never seemed to come off of his break on what ended up as a 100-yard pick-12 by Xavier Rhodes late in the second quarter. (A pick-12, as you can probably guess, is when a quarterback turns a situation where his team is likely to score a touchdown and instead throws an interception to the other team for a long return touchdown, which amounts to a 12-point swing.)

Bruce Arians’ bunch is 1-3 in one-score games after going 13-5 in the previous three seasons, and they still have to travel to Atlanta and Seattle in the next month. They don’t really have any impressive wins on their ledger, either: They’ve mostly won big when they have prevailed, but those wins have come against the Buccaneers, Jets and the 49ers twice. Four of their final six games are also on the road.

With regards to their schedule, the good news for the Cardinals — if there is any — is that wins against Atlanta, New Orleans and Washington would help them with tiebreakers, so getting a chance to play them is a bit fortuitous.

However, it’s not exactly the kind of schedule anyone would want to play, and if the Cardinals are to survive the slate, they will have to play much better than they have over the season’s first 10 games.


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