There are a number of bubble teams searching for a playoff spot that really have no business in the postseason. The Ravens have been woefully inconsistent, as have the Dolphins, and is there anyone that thinks the Steelers could go anywhere if they somehow make it into the playoffs?
There is, however, one team that will likely be left out that terrifies opponents – the Arizona Cardinals.
Since losing to the Seattle Seahawks, a team widely regarded as the NFL’s best squad, the Cardinals have lost just one game, winning six in that time span. Still, the Cardinals will be left out of the dance unless the 49ers or the Panthers make major missteps in the season’s final two weeks.
On paper, the Cardinals look like a middle of the road offense backed up by one of the league’s better defensive units. As is often the case in the NFL, the stats don’t tell the entire story.
For instance, the Cardinals largely unimpressive team stats don’t tell us just how much of a rhythm the Cardinals’ offense has hit since losing to the Seahawks near the midseason mark. Since October 17th, Carson Palmer, the team’s gunslinger under center, has thrown just four interceptions while tossing 13 touchdown passes. In the first seven weeks of the season, Palmer threw 13 interceptions and only eight interceptions.
By limiting mistakes and capitalizing on forcing opponents to beat them outright, the Cardinals have fought their way into one of the most hotly contested wildcard races in recent memory. The NFC playoff picture is so congested, in fact, that even if the Cardinals won both of their remaining games, they’d likely be left out of the playoffs due to tie-breakers.
The good news for the Cardinals is that even if they fail to make the postseason, they’ve found a head coach that is more than capable of leading a winning football team, and after struggling for the first half of the season, it appears that Carson Palmer can in fact still play at a high level in the NFL. The Cardinals are a team that has no gaping holes in the roster, just places that could be improved upon. Because of that depth throughout their roster, they’re a team that will likely continue to climb the ladder next season.
Unfortunately, the NFL is all about what a team can do right now, and right now, the playoff outlook is bleak for the Cardinals. Even if the Cardinals win both their remaining games, something that isn’t that likely considering they play the Seahawks followed by the 49ers, Arizona still needs help to sneak into the playoffs. In short, Arizona needs to at least tie the Panthers for the final playoff position because it’s the one tie-breaker the Cardinals would win.
The Cardinals face an uphill climb into the postseason, but if they’re able to make it there, they’ll be one of the NFL’s hottest teams at the perfect time. There’s no question they have the ability to run through the playoffs from a wildcard position, and they have the potential to become a rarely feared sixth seed in the postseason. In short, they’re the one bubble team no one wants to play.