Steve Kornacki explains how Cardinals still control their playoff destiny
Dec 7, 2020, 9:08 AM
NBC News’ Steve Kornacki has recharged all of his khaki-wearing energy since the 2020 presidential election and this week found himself breaking down the NFL playoff picture for the Sunday Night Football crew.
For the tumbling Arizona Cardinals (6-6), the election analyst has some good news despite the Cardinals’ loss to the Los Angeles Rams taking them, at the moment, out of the final NFC Wild Card spot.
“That loss today for Arizona today, costly. Knocks them out of the seventh spot, knocks them out of the playoffs, puts Minnesota, by virtue of their victory over Jacksonville, in,” Kornacki said while working his digital touchscreen.
“But you can see it here: the Pro Football Focus analytics model (is) not sold on the Vikings despite their win today,” Kornacki added. “Look, Minnesota had a narrow win over Jacksonville, narrow win over Carolina, they got Tampa Bay next week, they still got a game against the Saints. The model still says Arizona with an easier path to the playoffs. So Arizona, a better probability despite falling out of the playoffs today.”
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PFF’s model has Arizona holding a 52% chance of making the postseason to 32% odds for Minnesota, which is also 6-6 but has a tiebreaker with a better record against common opponents.
The Cardinals’ easier remaining schedule begins with a road game against the New York Giants and a home contest against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Then in the final two games of the regular season, Arizona hosts the San Francisco 49ers, who remain hot on the Cardinals’ tail at 5-6, before a road outing against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17.
FiveThirtyEight’s prediction model, like PFF’s, has the Cardinals favored over the Vikings by a percentage point (35% to 34%) as of Monday morning.
San Francisco’s game against the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football will change those odds significantly.
But both models show the importance of the Cardinals’ very next game.
A loss to the Giants drops their playoff chances to 17%, while a win bumps it to 50-50.
While they might need some help from other teams, the Cardinals can’t lose in the next two games without drastically submarining their playoff hopes.
“One more loss for Arizona next week, one more win for Minnesota if they can beat Tampa, that could change those numbers significantly,” Kornacki said.