The term “must-win” is thrown around often in sports, probably too much. It’s not a term coaches and players like to embrace, for the simple reality that most of the time, “must-win” is used in context of the assumption there are other games that team probably will not win. Such is the narrative with the Cardinals right now, at 4-4 and knowing three of their final five games are on the road and the last two are against Seattle (there) and San Francisco (here).
It would seem to make Sunday’s home game against the 2-6 Texans crucial if the Cardinals want to make the playoffs. Not that coach Bruce Arians is buying it. “There are so many things that could happen,” Arians said. “To say if we lose this game we can’t go to the playoffs? No. That’s ridiculous. There are way too many more games. I think if you lose this one, and you went 11-5, I think you’d make it. This is not an end-all be-all.”
Here’s what the Cardinals are up against: A 9-7 record is going to be right on the fringe of being playoff-worthy. Even 10-6 might be on the cusp. To go 9-7, the Cards still have to win five of eight the rest of the way. The schedule features three teams that seem to be pretty sure bets for the postseason, with home games against the Colts (Nov. 24) and 49ers (Dec. 29 to close the season) and a road trip to Seattle (Dec. 22). Of the other five opponents, only Tennessee — where the Cards must visit — are at least .500, and the Titans have the same record as the Cards.
The Texans’ game is different in so many ways. The stats scream they should be better — Houston has the top-ranked defense and the eight-ranked offense — than 2-6. “How they are 2-6 is beyond me,” Arians said. But they are without their head coach and playcaller, and they pushed a lot of chips in on the table needing last week’s win against the Colts, which they could not finish. Now they have to come to University of Phoenix Stadium.
This gauntlet was always looking like an important stretch, with struggling Atlanta, struggling Houston and struggling Jacksonville. No, it’s not must-win. But the climb gets a whole lot harder without victories.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Texans
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