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A playoff, sort of, Friday before the Seahawks

Posted by Darren Urban on December 29, 2017 – 2:45 pm

One game left, and for one team, so much is on the line. “We’re anticipating by far their best game of the year,” Bruce Arians said about the Seahawks. “It’s a playoff game for them.” This is true. The Seahawks have to win and have the Falcons lose at home against the Panthers to make it to the playoffs for a sixth straight season.

The Cardinals could spoil that. We’ll see how it goes.

“I keep telling our guys it’s a playoff game for us but I didn’t really feel a playoff this week for us,” Arians said. “I think we’re ready to play, but the playoffs are so different.”

The Cards have never really had a problem getting up for the game in Seattle. I mean, last year, the Cards were already eliminated and they still went out and played well – woefully undermanned on the offensive line – and beat the Seahawks. But the Seahawks knew they were already going to win the division. There was no urgency on their part. That’ll be different. It could have an impact.

— The Cards, however, did win last year. Their offensive line, to jog your memory, was John Wetzel at left tackle, Mike Iupati at left guard, A.Q. Shipley at center, Taylor Boggs at right guard and Earl Watford at right tackle. Boggs even got hurt, forcing rookie center Evan Boehm to fill in.

This year, it’s rookie Will Holden-Alex Boone-Shipley-Boehm-Wetzel (unless Watford is healthy enough to come back and start.) So what does last year’s win mean?

“Just to let them know it can be done,” Arians said. “It’s just a matter of going out and beating your guy one-on-one.”

— The secondary was torn up last year too, with Tony Jefferson getting hurt early and Marcus Cooper down (and Tyrann Mathieu already on IR), so Brandon Williams was playing cornerback and Justin Bethel and Harlan Miller were out there. Looking back, it was indeed an impressive performance – knowing, of course, the offense had both Carson Palmer and David Johnson. Those two are on IR this year, so …

— As of right now, the Cardinals are picking 13th – right where they were choosing in the first round last year. My cursory math says they could pick as high as 11 (if they lose and a couple of other teams win), and as low as 18 (with a win and certain teams lose), but likely somewhere in between. We’ll see how that turns out.

— As for next year’s opponents, those are already set. The Cardinals have – of course, judging in December of 2017, long before next year’s rosters are set and injuries happen – a rough road schedule next year.

— Of all the records and plateaus Larry Fitzgerald has reached this season, there isn’t really anything out there in this game – save for his catch streak, which will reach 211 games and equal Tony Gonzalez for the second-longest ever. Fitz has a chance to lead the league in catches for a second straight season, however. He has 101 receptions, which trails Miami’s Jarvis Landry by two. Landry and the Dolphins play at home against Buffalo, which is trying to make the playoffs.

— A win, and Arians becomes the all-time winningest coach in franchise history, snapping the tie he has with former coach Ken Whisenhunt. Before Whisenhunt was hired by the Cardinals, he was close with Arians – Whisenhunt was the Steelers’ offensive coordinator, Arians was the quarterbacks coach. They lived in the same neighborhood, played a lot of golf together. Whisenhunt tried to hire Arians on his Cardinals’ staff at one point.

Both have 49 total wins – Arians 48 in the regular season, one in the playoffs, with Whisenhunt’s split at 45-4.

“To say I played for the all-time winningest coach and the second all-time winningest coach, that’s not really that good but it’s saying I was part of the best era in Cardinals history,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s pretty cool.”

— A lot could happen this offseason. But first, we go to Seattle.


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17 Responses to “A playoff, sort of, Friday before the Seahawks”

  1. By NYCardinals212 on Dec 29, 2017 | Reply

    Darren,

    I might just be a lazy idiot, but I always forget about the Cardinals Underground podcasts. I think you should mention them in your blog when they come up. They’re always worth a listen. Just a suggestion. Thank you.

  2. By Dr. G. on Dec 29, 2017 | Reply

    Cards62 ~ ~ On the note you make…it is probable the 9ers could trade out of 8th to get multiple picks, HOWEVER ~ 2 things::

    1st ~ the 8th spot will probably not be high enough for the Cards to get their QB…

    2nd ~ ~ the 9ers would not likely trade with the Cards if that pick could return to haunt them…same division.

    Perhaps our best chance is to do a deal with the Browns at #4 or maybe even #1 depending upon what wheeling & dealing could happen. I’ve seen some crazy things…eg., Herschel Walker in an 18 player deal…

    Still just hoping with optimism….one more week could tell the tale of some things to come.

  3. By Ken Moroney on Dec 29, 2017 | Reply

    I totally am baffled how some writers and commentators mention Gabbert was a failed experiment. The failure was keeping our back up for several years. If you ask the fans..those who pay the bills and buy the tickets, less than 10% would want Stanton over Gabbert. If Gabbert was our 3rd QB in 2018 and 2019, I would be fine with that. We need an experienced QB with recent experience like the current Vikings QB or the current Redskins QB or even Bortles and then to draft a college QB and mentor him and have him compete for 2nd/3rd. Keep 3 QBs or find some linemen to block. Do NOT even THINK about RG3..OMG..seriously? I also think we have some depth in-house with receivers and better coaching can correct the failings. BUT, special teams have to improve dramatically!! Our next two drafts will determine our next four or five years of success and if our current GM is not expected to over-achieve in those drafts, we need a new head coach and a new GM. What miracle has taken place with regards to our DC & staff is beyond me, but if they can keep it up..but play closer to WRs and TEs on 3rd downs, maybe I would give the DC and his staff one more year. Keep the beer cold, love the downstairs pre-game bar atmosphere, and get more Hispanic and black cheerleaders. Maybe a tad more country bands on the great lawn and I will be one happy, content Fan with loyalty for Cardinals dating back to St. Louis

  4. By Rowlan Colorado Springs on Dec 30, 2017 | Reply

    It’s this time of the year that the frustration of the season is fading and the sentiment of what could’ve been and what will be sets in for me. Whatever the case may be, we will all be back next year! Happy New Years Red Sea

  5. By Joe C. on Dec 30, 2017 | Reply

    What will be challenging is to decide what players were hurt and will up their game next year. Buc, HB, Golden. What players will step up, John Brown, Nicklaus, Nkeckmeche (sp), Boehm, Seals, Reddick, Baker B. Williams. Has Palmer got one year left? He was playing well with a poor o-line and loss of DJ. T Williams? Invest in o-line this off season and CB2. Draft a QB if at all possible. The team is good enough to compete.

  6. By JohnnyBluenose on Dec 30, 2017 | Reply

    There were a lot of ups and downs this year with a lot of questions regarding players, coaches and our GM. Through it all we hung in there and with only a couple of instances (the Rams and the Eagles) we showed up and played hard. We lost a few very winnable games (Detroit, Dallas and Seattle come to mind) and despite our injuries, and there were many as we all know, we could have made the play-offs. I thought we had a faIrly decent schedule this year, easier than I expect next year’s to be, especially within our own division. The NFC West will truly be wild next year. Keim has promised changes next year. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered that’s for sure. Our defense seems pretty solid especially when most of them are healthy. But it is good to remember that they played against some pretty terrible offenses this year (the Giants, the Colts and the Texans) Our offense has a lot of holes, even if Fitz and Palmer return for one last time. Hopefully we will have a better result next year but it will not be easy. Happy New Year to everyone and thank you Darren for all you do.

  7. By John S. on Dec 30, 2017 | Reply

    Well, regardless of the game outcome with Seattle, or the over-all team records, I for one certainly wish for Fitzgerald, Palmer, and Arians to be back next year (together with some others). It just gets a little tiring to me hearing so many in the media (and elsewhere) that almost seem to “want” retirements for these guys, both last year and this one as if it is expected behavior somehow; and mostly based just on age in discussions for the players… what’s the rush to push them out the door? They can still play, play well, and contribute in more than one way to boot.
    A disappointing season? Sure, and despite the injuries and alI would have done a few things different myself as an “arm-chair” coach/GM. But, I also remember back when winning four or five games a season seemed like some kind of a miracle… and for quite some years too. This team still has a good core, can be very competitive, and with a few good moves in the off-season, or the draft, perhaps even some asst. coaching changes, that they will come back big. Yeah… it could be worse, a lot worse, and I’ve not lost all my confidence in the organization… not yet anyway, ha! A touch of wishful thinking… maybe.. but I don’t think I’m reaching too far myself.
    Go big Red…

  8. By Scott H on Dec 30, 2017 | Reply

    I think the Cards will go all out in this last game. I’d be VERY surprised if they looked flat, like they’ve already checked out. But even if they do go all out….one wonders if they have enough, as depleted by injuries as they are, to compete with Seattle, at home, playing a game that means everything for them.

    That said, I don’t rule out an up-set. The Seahawks are much more beatable these days. And nowhere near as consistent. They were good enough to beat the Eagles….then lost to the Jags….then got thoroughly dis-mantled by the Rams. I mean….the Seahawks do NOT get beaten like that. Who can figure them out at this point or know which version of the Seahawks is showing up on any given Sunday?

    It is still hard to run against Seattle. Their secondary is greatly diminished but their front 7 is still rock solid. And the Cardinals WILL have to be able to run the ball to have any chance on Sunday. That means keeping it close. And that means shutting Wilson down. Never been easy for the Cardinals. Seems like many of Wilson’s most spectacular plays have been against the Cardinals.

    Drew Stanton is not going to win this game for us and I don’t see the Cardinals being able to stay in a shoot-out type game. They have to contain Wilson ( yeah….good luck there ) and keep it close. The Seahawks can’t run the ball worth a damn, so if they are getting to / containing Wilson, it might just be do-able.

    A defensive or ST’s TD ( yeah….good luck there, too ) could be a real difference maker in this one.

    I don’t imagine the weather is gonna be very friendly…..

    One wonders what, / how many eras might be coming to an end after Sunday.

  9. By Scott H on Dec 30, 2017 | Reply

    Addendum to the above – on defense, I say have The Honey Badger spying on / tracking Wilson on every play. Do whatever else you have to do with the other 10 guys on the field. But have #32 on Wilson on every play. He is well-suited to be able to run Wilson down and can be a tenacious tackler. If you can keep Wilson behind the line, you go a long way toward winning the battle against him.

    When you come off the edges and miss and the middle is open, he’ll kill you.

    When you come up the middle and miss and he can get around the outside, he’ll kill you.

    Keep him behind the line and you can beat him. Might sound simple but he is SOOOOOO damn good, there is never anything simple about it.

    But a player like the Honey Badger is well suited to track him.

  10. By Scott H on Dec 30, 2017 | Reply

    I agree with Arians – the playoffs are so different. This is a playoff game for the Seahawks. For the Cardinals, it is not. And that just…..well, kinda sucks. There might be something to be said for playing the role of spoiler….taking somebody else down with you – especially a hated division rival. I would love to knock the Seahawks out of the playoffs in Week 17. BUT…..

    That is nothing next to being IN the playoffs. Doesn’t even compare.

    And one wonders when the playoffs will happen again for this team. The outlook for the immediate future is pretty bleak. Just keepin’ it real.

  11. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Dec 30, 2017 | Reply

    You mean to tell me we were woefully undermanned on the offensive line last season too? That’s too full seasons in a row. Who in the heck is in charge of securing talent for the O-line as well as their position coach?

  12. By Darren Urban on Dec 31, 2017 | Reply

    Ottis —

    RE: OL

    You can argue about the talent level to begin with, but my reference was being undermanned on the OL last year in Seattle — when again, injuries decimated. When healthy, back in 2015, the OL was fine. No one was complaining then.

  13. By Steve on Dec 31, 2017 | Reply

    Darren: Adam Schefter is reporting that Arians will step down after today but has not told the team yet.

  14. By Corgon on Dec 31, 2017 | Reply

    Yeeeeeeeeees! Let’s Blairwalsh it! Chickens out. For sure! Cool. Thx Cards, happy new year for everyone!

  15. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Dec 31, 2017 | Reply

    Darren –

    Totally understood your post. I was just being sarcastic. Two full seasons of awful O-line play, even when healthy, has done that to a lot of us. I hope it gets addressed this offseason as our top priority. Our future lies in David Johnson and a new QB and that future is toast if the offensive line talent and coaching does not improve. Injury-prone players need to be replaced. Minnesota had an awful O-line last year and this season, it’s been one of the best.

  16. By Darren Urban on Dec 31, 2017 | Reply

    Ottis —

    RE: OL

    Fair enough.

  17. By JTDG on Jan 1, 2018 | Reply

    Darren,

    2015 Oline –

    When healthy, no one complained ??? So , no one was saying we need a RG and Center ? Hmm , might want to go back.

    But truth is, in 2015, you had Veldheer at LT after signing a big contract the year before. You had Iupati healthy and going to the pro bowl. You had a Rt in Massie who held his own, but you also had an aging Lyle Sendlin at center and Jon Cooper and others who both were struggling at Rg. I think I voiced my displeasure over these guys several times.

    So, in 2015, you had a very solid Left side and a decent Rt. You needed a center and Rg. I think most felt the line was 3/5 ths there.

    So, question is, in 2016 offseason and draft, why, if the left side was locked down on with talent and salary, would you spend a first round pick on a LT, let your RT walk, and not address center and Rg ?

    Does that make sense to anyone?

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