So it’s gonna be about 70 degrees today. Sunny. Just sayin’. Seems like everyone else is making comments about the weather, so I thought I’d chime in.
– Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles reportedly met with the Browns for their head coaching job on Friday and was supposed to meet with the Vikings about their opening Monday. Neither team seems close to making a decision on their coach, although Bowles reportedly made an impression with the Vikings. Both Minnesota and Cleveland continue to look at more and more candidates, and that doesn’t include coaches still in the playoffs. Bowles won’t be interviewing in Detroit, where he was a candidate back in 2009. That makes sense, because many reports say the Lions would likely hire Chargers offensive coordinator and ex-Cards boss Ken Whisenhunt for that job once the Chargers are knocked out of the playoffs.
– On the all-pro team from profootballfocus.com, Tyrann Mathieu makes first team as a slot cornerback, Justin Bethel first team for special teams. Patrick Peterson is second team at cornerback.
– Cardinals director of football administration (and salary cap guru) Mike Disner was named on Forbes list of top 30 rising stars under age 30 in sports. (The man next on the Forbes slideshow after Disner? Kevin Durant. LeBron and Gronk are among the athletes on the list too.)
– I am not a fan of messing with the playoff format. It caught up with the Cardinals this season yes, it benefited them in the 2008 season. I do not think extra teams should be added to the postseason. That said, it is still often discussed. That doesn’t mean anything is imminent, but things could change at some point.
– In case you missed it — and in case you’d like a smile or two — check out here the year in quotes and quips from coach Bruce Arians.
Tags: Browns, Bruce Arians, Justin Bethel, Lions, Mike Disner, Patrick Peterson, playoffs, Todd Bowles, Tyrann Mathieu, Vikings
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Go … Lavonte David?
In case you missed it last night — and I’m sure most of you didn’t — the 49ers beat the Falcons to clinch a playoff berth and eliminate the one opportunity left for the Cardinals to control their own postseason destiny. The Falcons almost posted a miracle finish, scoring a touchdown to pull within three and then recovering the onside kick and driving deep into San Francisco territory. Then this happened. And the Cards’ hopes were kicked right in the wrong place.
(And as a quick aside, I had no problem with the Falcons passing. Ryan was shredding the Niners in the fourth quarter with the pass and there, you are playing to win, not to settle for a field goal and overtime.)
So that leaves one playoff scenario for Arizona. Beat San Francisco at home, first of all. Second, the Cards must hope the Tampa Bay Buccaneers go into New Orleans and knock off (or at least tie) the Saints. Sure, the Saints are favored by a whopping 12 points. Sure, they are 7-0 at home with an average margin of victory of more than 17 points. Hey, the Bucs only lost by two to the Saints earlier in the season (in Tampa, and the Saints are a totally different team on the road.)
The NFL, into drama as it is, moved the kickoff of the Saints-Bucs game from an early to a late game, meaning the Cardinals’ chances will be riding along in parallel games with the 2:25 p.m. kickoff. Otherwise, the Cards might have known they were eliminated before they even took the field. I can’t see how Bruce Arians and his guys won’t be scoreboard watching in this case.
It’s about winning 11 games now for the Cardinals, and as Arians said, letting the chips fall. But the Cards have come within less than two minutes of two monumentally needed outcomes this weekend before being punched in the face twice — the Panthers were on the verge of a loss before Cam Newton threw a game-winning TD pass with 23 seconds left, and NaVarro Bowman’s game-changing interception last night was with 1:28 on the clock — and those chips are landing exactly where the Cards do not want them. One chip left to play.
Tags: 49ers, Bruce Arians, Buccaneers, Falcons, NaVarro Bowman, playoffs, Saints
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The Cardinals as a group haven’t just moved far forward from this time last year. So too has Darnell Dockett. The trip to Seattle was the back end of a very rocky week for the defensive tackle last season, after his sideline confrontation with Kerry Rhodes at the end of the Jets game and the let-them-score issue. Dockett was demoted that week in practice and then came off the bench in Seattle. It was a bad time for both him and the team.
“Mentally for me, I wasn’t in the right place, our team wasn’t in the right place in the middle of that losing streak,” Dockett said.
Dockett has bounced back, of course. He was happy with the new scheme that Todd Bowles brought in. He has 4½ sacks, and is coming off – according to profootballfocus.com – two of his best games of the season. The Cardinals need him to play well Sunday in Seattle during this return trip. Dockett sure remembers the last time.
“They had a team that was struggling in every phase and they took full advantage of it,” Dockett said. “They ran the score up. Passing the ball with five minutes left. But that’s cool. I’m not mad. As a team, we have to understand the environment we are going into and we have to understand what is at stake. We have to understand we will face adversity there. Every team that goes there faces adversity. You will have to overcome it real fast.”
Can the Cardinals do that? An excellent question. When Bruce Arians calls this a barometer of where his team is at, that’s a guarantee.
– Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was disappointed in his unit last week, not necessarily because they played poorly but because for the first time this season, he felt the players began watching the clock instead of playing the game once the Cards took a 34-17 lead.
“I thought we shut it down,” Bowles said.
I doubt that will be a problem Sunday, nor a possibility, but it’s always good to learn such a lesson in a win.
– As for the rash of penalties the Cards had in the second half, Bowles said “I thought we lost our composure.” Some flags might have been questionable, but Bowles is right, the Cards have to make sure they keep it together.
– Speaking of penalties, fines were handed out from the Titans game. Tennessee linebacker Kamerion Wimbley was hit for $10,000 for his low hit on Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, the one that left Palmer with a sprained left ankle (and luckily nothing else.) Titans running back Jackie Battle was not fined for his concussion-inducing hit on Larry Fitzgerald, although it wasn’t a foul and I didn’t even think it was that big of a hit.
Two Cardinals were fined. Linebacker Marcus Benard was docked $15,750 for his roughing the passer penalty on Ryan Fitzpatrick. And linebacker Daryl Washington paid $5,000 after his taunting penalty. Safety Rashad Johnson and defensive end Calais Campbell were not fined for their personal fouls.
– I think Larry Fitzgerald plays. He said he’s never missed a division game and that’s true. He’s missed only four games in 10 seasons, against Cleveland in 2007 and against Chicago, Oakland and Green Bay in 2006.
– A bigger concern is the ankle of Palmer. With all those pass rushers, you want your quarterback as mobile as possible. Coach Bruce Arians didn’t sound concerned. We will see how that plays out. Palmer has played at a high level which is why the Cards are doing so well. He hasn’t seen a defense like the Seahawks though, since, well, the Seahawks game.
– Won’t go through all the playoff permutations again but again, a Cards’ loss and a Carolina win and it’s over. Otherwise, the Cardinals are still breathing.
– Finally, below is a message from Tyrann Mathieu that he wanted to make sure the fans saw.
On to Seattle.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Larry Fitzgerald, Marcus Benard, playoffs, Todd Bowles, Tyrann Mathieu
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Somehow, it turned into 2009 again. It shouldn’t have, not with the Cardinals having built a 34-17 lead and holding that lead with less than four minutes to play, but I’ll say this, the Titans kept going and Ryan Fitzpatrick looked damn good.
So, like 2009, when the Titans drove 99 yards to score on the final play of the game and rip one away from the Cards, there the Titans were, heading for the same end zone, facing a chance to score a touchdown and rip a win away from the Cards. Sure, it would just be temporarily since overtime was coming (and there was a moment there where the Titans looked like they were contemplating going for two and ending it one way or the other), but it still hurt.
The Cardinals prevailed, though, leaving Tennessee with a win that keeps their playoff hopes alive. That life span is shrinking though. The other results the Cards really could have used across the league did not happen Sunday. So the monumental task of winning in Seattle is now saddled with the realization that the Cards are going to need a sequence of events to unfold to make the postseason regardless of what they do.
– Because I’ve found on Twitter some confusion, here’s the deal: The Niners have already clinched the tiebreak over the Cardinals because of a better record in the division, regardless of the outcome of the team’s Week 17 contest. The way the tiebreaks work, a three-way tie – say between the Cards, Niners and Panthers – first checks to see if there are two of the teams in the same division. Because the Niners and Cards are, that tie is broken first, and as we already know, the Niners win that tiebreak. Cardinals are out. Which is why any tie involving the Niners is playoff death.
– Just as an FYI, I’m not interested in debating whether that’s fair or not. That’s the tiebreak procedure. It is what it is.
CLARIFYING: The three-way tiebreak does get only the first spot determined. Which does eliminate Arizona. But head-to-head between Carolina and SF is Carolina because the Panthers won head-to-head. So Carolina would be the No. 5 seed, leaving SF tied with Arizona for the No. 6. We know how that turns out. So again, a three-way tie between those teams leaves the Cards out (and by the same breakdown, the same goes for a three-way tie between SF, AZ and NO.)
– Lost a bit in the end of that thriller were the injuries to Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Ellington. Fitz got a concussion when he was hit trying to recover the final onside kick. Ellington left with a thigh bruise. Ellington was fantastic running (7.1 yards a carry) or receiving (21.8 yards per catch on four catches). The Cardinals need both of them healthy and ready in order to beat the Seahawks.
– Spare me the comments that Fitzgerald shouldn’t be out there for an onside kick. It’s called the “hands” team for a reason. You want the guys with the best hands grabbing the ball.
– Justin Bethel did not get a hand on the shanked 50-yard Rob Bironas field goal attempt. “Unfortunately I didn’t,” Bethel said. “If he would have kicked it (straight) I probably would have blocked it.”
– But it is easy to make the argument that without Bethel’s hard push from the right, Bironas would not have kicked the ball like he did.
“A miss is a miss,” Bethel said. “It’s as good as a block so I’ll take it.”
– Antoine Cason with a hero game. Two important interceptions, and he recovered Jay Feely’s “mortar” pooch kickoff to start the second half. Great kick by Feely by the way, and great timing by special teams coordinator Amos Jones to call it there.
– Ryan Fitzpatrick with 402 yards passing? Yeesh.
– The Cardinals had no penalties in the first half. Then they got four on the Titans’ 16-play touchdown drive to begin the second half — two of which negated third-down stops – and the Cards were not happy. They cooled down a bit postgame (winning tends to do that) but didn’t forget.
“There were some weird things that happened,” QB Carson Palmer said. “Some weird things that weren’t called in this game. I don’t know what the penalty, as far as who had more penalties. I’m pretty sure we had more penalties than they did. It was just a weird game, kind of an eerie game like that.”
Said S Rashad Johnson (who was ticked off after his penalty for an illegal hit of a receiver near the goal line and screamed at the officials), “No matter what happened out there, what calls were made, we were going to go home with that win. It just shows the maturity of this ballclub and how much we’ve grown through the year.”
– Ellington led the Cardinals in rushing (71 yards) and receiving (89 yards). The last guy to do that? Running back Marcel Shipp in December of 2002, when he had 79 yards rushing and 79 receiving in St. Louis against the Rams.
– Palmer surpassed three Hall of Fame quarterbacks in career passing yards: Troy Aikman, Y.A. Tittle and Steve Young. Palmer now has 33,154 yards passing, 27th in NFL history.
– The Cardinals just keep winning.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Antoine Cason, Carson Palmer, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Marcel Shipp, playoffs, Rashad Johnson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Steve Young, Titans, Troy Aikman, Y.A. Tittle
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Bruce Arians does not want to talk playoffs. Not yet.
“Somebody asked me once if I’m scoreboard-watching,” Arians said. “I said, ‘Yeah. First down, second down, third down and how much time is left on the clock. I’m calling plays. I’m not looking at who is winning and who is losing.”
But I am not Bruce Arians. So, as many have asked about, here are the playoff scenarios and, realistically, what the Cardinals are looking at going into these final three games. Win just one and it’s over. Win three and the Cards (8-5 right now) might still need help.
If there is a tie with the 49ers for the sixth spot, the 49ers (9-4) would win the tiebreaker. Head to head wouldn’t matter, since the teams would split (the Cardinals can’t afford to lose the finale), and the 49ers in that scenario would win the second tiebreak, winning percentage in the division (San Francisco would be 4-2; The best the Cards can finish in the division even if they win out is 3-3.) With the Niners already a game up in the standings, that’s not the team the Cards probably can catch.
The Panthers (9-4) are a slightly different story. With the head-to-head edge, the Cardinals need to just catch them in the standings. Carolina has a one-game lead; they are home against the Jets and Saints before finishing on the road at Atlanta. The Cardinals, of course, play at Tennessee, at Seattle and home against the Niners.
This is, of course, assuming the Eagles (8-5) win the NFC East and don’t drop behind Dallas for a wild card scenario, since they have the head-to-head tiebreak on the Cards. (If you want to see every single step in the tie-breaking procedures, click here.) UPDATE: And the way I read the tiebreaks, the Cards would lose out in a three-way tie with SF and Carolina.
Bottom line? Every loss is crippling. And wins might not be enough.
“I remember, 2008, 24 years old, (making the postseason) and I’m thinking this is something that is going to happen a lot,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “There are no guarantees in this business. When you have an opportunity you have to make the best of it and we have an opportunity right now. I think everyone in this locker room understands if we win out, we’re going to be in the playoffs. Simple as that.”
Tags: 49ers, Bruce Arians, Larry Fitzgerald, Panthers, playoffs
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The playoffs are a long-ago dream, but the Cardinals still can have a hand in it. This week, the Bears — reeling as they are — come to town losers of 5 of their last six after a 7-1 start. Once the playoffs seemed a foregone conclusion. But if Minnesota pulls off an upset in Houston in an early game Sunday, then the Cardinals would eliminate the Bears from the postseason if they can beat Jay Cutler’s crew.
“In order for us to be relevant, we have to win,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “This time of year everybody knows what has to happen for their football team. We are aware of the path we have to take.”
The Cards actually could be in position to do some damage in both the final two games. In the finale at San Francisco, the 49ers could have something on the line. If the Niners lose in Seattle this weekend, they could actually lose the division title the following week if the Cards won. Even if the Niners clinch this weekend by toppling the Seahawks, San Francisco will likely have a chance to clinch a first-round bye on the line in the final week.
What’s amazing is the difference a week makes. The Lions, playing poorly, came into University of Phoenix Stadium as the favorite last week because the Cardinals were on their nine-game losing streak. Now, it seems, many believe the Cardinals have a good shot to knock off the Bears and cripple their playoff chances. At this point, it’s what the Cards have to play for.
Tags: 49ers, Bears, Lions, Lovie Smith, playoffs, Seahawks
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The Cardinals are the 10th seed in the NFC right now. Their playoff chances are very, very slim. They must win their last two games to finish 9-7 and have any measurable hope.
There are two wild card spots up for grabs. The Falcons and Lions are both 9-5, so either one need just win one of their final two games to eliminate the Cards. So one of those teams, at least, must lose both their final two games. The Seahawks won’t matter because the Cards face them head-to-head (and would have knocked them out to go 9-7).
The Cards don’t want to tie the Giants because the Giants beat them; a tie with the Cowboys is OK because the Cards beat them (in a tie for the wild card and not the NFC East title). UPDATE: As has been pointed out to me by a few people, the Cards can’t tie the Giants in a win-out situation because the Giants would win the East in that case. It boils down to the Falcons or Lions losing out (and the Bears losing at least one more).
• Atlanta is the No. 5 seed ahead of Detroit based on head to head (1-0).
• Seattle finishes ahead of Chicago and N.Y. Giants based on head to head sweep (2-0).
• Chicago finishes ahead of Arizona and N.Y. Giants based on conference record (6-4 to the Cardinals’ 6-5 and the Giants’ 4-7).
• N.Y. Giants finish ahead of Arizona based on head to head (1-0).
In a nutshell, it’s the Falcons (at New Orleans, home versus a bad Tampa Bay team) and the Lions (at home against San Diego, at a Green Bay team that may not have anything to fight for) to watch.
We’ll obviously know much more after this weekend. Like whether the Seattle at Cards game will mean anything more than just second place in the NFC West.
(To view a breakdown of the NFL’s tie-breaking procedures go to http://www.nfl.com/standings/tiebreakingprocedures).
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Let’s make this short and sweet. I became a writer in part because math was never my thing. The folks at sportsclubstats.com do the math, however, and their math says that — assuming the Cardinals finish the season winning their last three games to get to 9-7 — that they have a 36.1 percent chance to make the playoffs. They also say the most likely matchup if that happened would be a wild-card game in New Orleans.
Of course, that — again — means the Cards have to finish the regular season on a six-game winning streak just to have a slightly better than one-in-three opportunity. And it doesn’t matter, since I said I wasn’t talking such possibilities until the Cards got to .500 anyway. Right?
(h/t to @jason62082 on Twitter)
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
When all that noise cropped up around the Cardinals in January of 2009 – the stuff about that team being the worst in playoff history, etc., etc., — I remember thinking, “This team is better than the last Cardinal playoff team.”
Turned out both squads ended up shocking the world. Back in 1998, it might have been an even bigger deal.
The Cards barely squeezed into the playoffs as a wild card (remember, the 2008 Cards clinched the division relatively early). Their first playoff game in years would come in Dallas, against the NFC East rival Cowboys – a team that had beaten the Cards 16 of the previous 17 meetings and who had crushed the Cards, 38-10, in Dallas to open the 1998 season. Forget Cris Collinsworth. The general feeling of the Cards was as a team lucky to be in the playoffs, and probable to fall to the Cowboys – a once-great team that was very ordinary by this time.
The numbers added fuel to the critics’ fire, especially the weakness of the Cards’ schedule (Arizona’s opponents had a .395 winning percentage). On the other side, there was a young team with so much future potential, like rookie defensive end Andre Wadsworth, who at that point was improving after his crazy debut in Dallas earlier in the year (Oh, what could have been). Jake Plummer was the quarterback who was definitely a winner. Cornerback Aeneas Williams was a Pro Bowler who was one of the few in the NFL who had proven he could handle star Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin.
The Cards, at that point, hadn’t won a playoff game since 1947 – the year they won the NFL championship. “My Dad wasn’t even born yet,” guard Chris Dishman said. They had history against them, and a still-potent Emmitt Smith (if you would have suggested then that Smith would eventually be a Cardinal …), but the Cards had played the Cowboys close at Sun Devil Stadium late in the year.
Foreshadowing? Not really. Not after the Cowboys scored 38 and 35 on the Cards in the two regular-season games, only to be shut down for seven points in the playoff game. The Cardinals stunned the Cowboys in a 20-7 win, and that Dallas touchdown came late, with the game all but decided. The cornerback tandem of Corey Chavous and Williams had three interceptions, and safety Tommy Bennett added one in the final seconds for emphasis. Wide receiver Frank Sanders hauled in a 59-yard Plummer pass to set up a score and running back Adrian Murrell broke off a 74-yard run to set up another.
That was all the Cards really needed, the way the defense performed. Slaying the Cowboys was about the present but it was also about unloading on the pre-game disrespect. It was about a fan base starving for success.
It was also short-lived.
The Cards turned their attention to the powerful Vikings for the following week, but that didn’t end well. In the offseason, the Cards lost key players like Larry Centers, Lomas Brown and Jamir Miller and never did battle again for a playoff spot until the magical season a decade later –with the 2008 team that supposedly had too many warts itself. That ride lasted a lot longer.
But for those moments in 1998, when it seemed like the Cards were never going to have any success, the Dallas domination was something to savor.
Tags: Adrian Murrell, Aeneas Williams, Andre Wadsworth, Chris Dishman, Corey Chavous, Cowboys, Cris Collinsworth, Emmitt Smith, Frank Sanders, Jake Plummer, Jamir Miller, Larry Centers, Lomas Brown, Michael Irvin, playoffs, Revisionist history, Tommy Bennett, Vikings
Posted in Blog | 19 Comments »
Not going to lie — with players scattered and coaches in Alabama, there’s not a whole lot to write about right now. Thanks to Twitter, we know Larry Fitzgerald and Darnell Dockett flew out to the Pro Bowl today (and I am assuming Adrian Wilson did too). News on the defensive coordinator is unlikely, because as has been noted a couple of times, waiting for the Steelers to finish their season is probably part of the equation.
If there is enough interest, maybe I can do another live chat later this week.
So I leave you with this: Before this postseason, the Cardinals were the last team each of the current Super Bowl participants played in the playoffs. Perhaps you remember the games?
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Packers, playoffs, Steelers
Posted in Blog | 57 Comments »