Breaking down Cardinals’ playoff chances

Dec 13, 2011, 4:10 PM | Updated: 6:06 pm

We know the Arizona Cardinals themselves aren’t focused on
making a push for the playoffs. Heck, head
coach Ken
Whisenhunt said so
himself on Monday.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t look ahead to the Cardinals’
playoff possibilities, right?

Seattle’s win over the St. Louis Rams on Monday night
didn’t do the Cardinals any favors. With that victory,
the Seahawks improved to 6-7 on the season, and stayed
ahead of the Cardinals in the NFC wild card standings by
virtue of their head-to-head win over Arizona in Week 3.

That means the Cardinals are 6th in the wild card pecking
order heading into their Sunday showdown with the
Cleveland Browns in Glendale. It’s certainly not where
they want to be, but considering their 1-6 start, we’ll
take it.

Below is a breakdown of the teams involved in the NFC wild
card chase…

New York Giants (7-6)

Remaining schedule: vs. Washington, at NY Jets, vs.

Analysis: The Giants, who currently sit atop the
NFC East by virtue of their head-to-head win over Dallas
on Sunday night, have the advantage of not traveling for
the rest of the season. Their lone “road” game is at
MetLife Stadium against the Jets.

The game against Dallas will loom large for the Cardinals,
as the Giants would hold a tiebreaking advantage over
Arizona. The Giants will feasibly go 2-1 the rest of the
way with a loss to the Jets sandwiched in between wins.

Projected final record: 9-7 – NFC East Champions

Atlanta Falcons (8-5)

Remaining Schedule: vs. Jacksonville, at New Orleans,
vs. Tampa Bay

Analysis: The Falcons have two very winnable games
against the Jags and Bucs, and they’re both in the
confines of the Georgia Dome. Their other game is a
rematch of a tough overtime loss to the Saints in Week 10.
Since it’s in New Orleans, we’ll give Drew Brees and
company the nod.

Projected final record: 10-6 – Wild card #1

Detroit Lions (8-5)

Remaining Schedule: at Oakland, vs. San Diego, at Green

Analysis: Everybody’s been waiting for the Lions’
collapse, but it hasn’t come yet. Granted, they’re just
3-5 since a blistering 5-0 start. And they should
probably have lost to Minnesota on Sunday, but linebacker
DeAndre Levy got away with a blatant facemasking penalty
on Minnesota’s last play from scrimmage at the Detroit 1-
yard line.

Anyway, it’s a pretty tough remaining schedule for the
Lions, with games against the always unpredictable San
Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders. And in Week 17, the
Lions could be all that’s standing between Green Bay and a
16-0 regular season. I see two losses the rest of the way
for Detroit.

Projected final record: 9-7

Chicago Bears (7-6)

Remaining Schedule: vs. Seattle, at Green Bay, at

Analysis: The Bears are reeling following the thumb
injury suffered by quarterback Jay Cutler. Caleb Hanie
has thrown six interceptions in his 3 starts and the Bears
have lost three straight and scored 13 total points in
their last two games.

I can see the Bears winning in Week 17 against a bad
Vikings’ team, but that might be it for the Monsters of
the Midway.

Projected final record: 8-8

Dallas Cowboys (7-6)

Remaining Schedule: at Tampa Bay, vs. Philadelphia, at
NY Giants

Analysis: If the Cowboys could hold a 4th quarter
lead, they’d be sitting pretty at this point. But they
can’t, and after squandering a 12-point advantage with
under six minutes to play against the Giants, Dallas lost
their stranglehold on the NFC East.

The Cowboys should rebound to beat the floundering Bucs on
Saturday, but those two NFC East games could be

Projected final record: 8-8

Seattle Seahawks (6-7)

Remaining Schedule: at Chicago, vs. San Francisco, at

Analysis: The Seahawks are playing pretty good
football, winning four of their last five games, including
an impressive win in Baltimore in Week 10.

The Seahawks’ best chance of winning in any of these games
will be Sunday against the Cutler-less Bears in Chicago.

Projected final record: 7-9

Arizona Cardinals (6-7)

Remaining Schedule: vs. Cleveland, at Cincinnati, vs.

Analysis: The Cardinals’ defense has been the
biggest reason for their resurgence and they’ll have the
luxury of playing against three offenses that aren’t
exactly potent the rest of the way.

I think the Cardinals will take care of their business in
the two home games, so their season could very well hang
in the balance on Christmas Eve. What could be a better

Projected final record: 9-7

So those scenarios would create a tie between the Lions
and Cardinals for the final NFC playoff spot. The first
tie-breaker, head-to-head record, would be moot since the
two teams didn’t play each other in 2011.

So we’d have to go down to the second tie-breaker, which
is record against conference opponents. Currently, both
the Cardinals and Lions are each 6-5 against NFC foes and
each has one conference game left. The difference is
Detroit will
have to play at Green Bay in January while the Cardinals
will host Seattle in Week 17. Advantage Cardinals, who
would finish 7-5 against the NFC.

Look, it’s the holiday season; a time when millions of
kids have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.

Why can’t I have visions of playoffs dancing through mine?

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