With one more victory, the Arizona Cardinals would enter a territory the franchise has never ventured into before.
The most games the franchise has ever won in a single season is 11, which it accomplished in 2014, 1975, 1948 and 1925.
Arizona has three chances with which to try and earn a 12th win, and doing so at any point over the season’s final three weeks would ensure the Cardinals of the NFC West title for the first time since 2009.
It would also go a long way toward earning the team one of the top two seeds in the NFC Playoffs, and finishing at that spot would give the Cardinals a first-round bye before hosting one of the two NFC divisional round games.
With a two game deficit to top-seeded Carolina and two-game lead over the Green Bay Packers for the NFC’s second seed, odds are the Cardinals will indeed finish with the NFC’s second seed. And, since they are playing Green Bay in Week 16 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, the race could very well be wrapped up by the time the Cardinals take the field against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 17.
Should that likely scenario play out, it would lead to an interesting dilemma for Cardinals coach Bruce Arians. A good dilemma, mind you, but an interesting one.
To rest or not to rest, that is the question.
“I’ve been on both sides of it,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday. “There’s a time when your team needs to keep playing — some guys, they never need to take a break mentally. And there are some times where your 30-somethings need some time off.
“Hopefully we’ll get in that scenario and then we can make those decisions. Right now, it’s pedal to the metal, we’ve got to get there.”
There really is no right or wrong way for a coach to handle this scenario.
In 2009, the Cardinals gave their starters just a handful of snaps before giving way to their reserves in a Week 17 clash with the Green Bay Packers, only to see cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive lineman Calais Campbell and receiver Anquan Boldin suffer injuries.
The two defensive players recovered enough to play the following week, but Boldin was unable to participate in either of the team’s two postseason games.
What transpired in 2009 is not exactly the same as what could eventually happen in 2015, as the Cardinals were not going to be granted a week off after the matchup six years ago and were also set to face that very same Packers team again no matter what.
But the risk that was present then would be present this season in that if the starters play, there’s a possibility they could get hurt. That’s never ideal, but especially after last season, when Arizona’s playoff hopes were short circuited by injuries, seeing someone go down in what could be deemed a “meaningless” game could be too much to stomach.
Of course, the flip side of that mentality is the fear that though healthy, too much time off could be a bad thing.
“That can be difficult because some teams can get into the, almost, a mindset of a preseason mode where you’re playing your backups and you’re resting starters, and when it’s time to go those players have had so much time off that they’re not in football shape or mentally prepared and ready to go,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday morning. “So I think it’s a double-edged sword and it can be tough.
“I know that Coach and I will have some long conversations about it. I know this: I’m just happy to be in that position where we may have to have that conversation.”
The Cardinals will take on the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field before returning home to wrap up the regular season against Green Bay and Seattle.