TEMPE, Ariz. — The starters are going to play. The Arizona Cardinals are going to try to win.
When the Arizona Cardinals take the field Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, they will do so with their stars and key players on the field. Though it is Week 17 and pretty much every major regular season goal the team may have had has been achieved, this will not be the time for rest.
“We will approach this game as if it were Game 1 of the season,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Monday. “We’ll treat it like every game. We don’t want to set a pattern of different behavior.”
Arians, who said this was his decision to make, does not want to mess with the routine and rhythm the team is in. Arizona has won its last nine games and has played about as well as it has all season over its last two. The idea is not only to make the playoffs, but be playing your best football when the postseason starts.
The fear is any departure from the norm could throw them off. Treating this like a normal game was an easy decision, Arians said.
“We’re playing so well right now I don’t want to change any way that we prepare,” he said. “We’ve got a week to rest — we know we’re going to get a week to rest anyway, so we’ll get plenty of rest.”
The coach said his players not only back his decision, but pushed for it.
“I don’t know of any of them that wanted to sit out,” he said. “Matter of fact, all of them came to me and said, ‘Look, we want to win this,’ and I said, ‘Of course we do.'”
“When you go out there, you want to play to win, and we still have the chance for the No. 1 seed,” defensive lineman and captain Calais Campbell said. “I know it’s tough because Carolina is such a good team, but if Tampa Bay does us a favor we’re playing for something still.”
Campbell pointed to the team wanting to maintain its momentum heading into the playoffs, and with one bye week already coming, another, to him, does not really make sense.
And then there’s the fact that the game is against the Seahawks.
“It’s a division game, plus there’s a chance we could play these guys again in the playoffs because they’re guaranteed a playoff spot too, so you don’t want to give them any confidence winning on your field,” he said. “We’d love to beat them because you never want to give a team confidence going into the playoffs.”
A victory Sunday would be the 14th of Arizona’s season, and if the Carolina Panthers lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, would also give the Cardinals the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC and homefield advantage up until the Super Bowl.
Besides, Campbell said what would essentially amount to two weeks off at this point in the season could easily turn into a negative.
“I’ve never had two weeks off during the season before; I don’t know how it would feel,” he said. “I could imagine, though, but you take too much time off it almost, you have to get back going again. It’s easy coming out of a bye week and playing your best ball. That’s what you want when you go into a bye week, you come out of a bye week furious, wanting to do some damage, that’s what a bye week does for you.
“But two weeks off, that might be too much time, in my opinion.”
The caveat to the mind set is of course if a key player was to get seriously injured in a game that may not hold any significance to the team’s postseason position, well, that would be a tough pill to swallow. Arians was with the Colts when they lost linebacker Cornelius Bennett during a Week 17 loss in 1999.
“Probably wouldn’t have had Cornelius anyway, he was playing on one leg that whole year — he was more inspirational,” Arians said. “I don’t think you get anything out of resting guys, especially playing a team that’s in our division and we haven’t beaten them at home in a couple of years.
“We don’t want to start a precedent now.”
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