With another week in the books it's time to take another look at the NFC Playoff picture and where your very own Arizona Cardinals stand amongst their playoff foes. Per boogatt's request, we'll try to include some 'what if' scenarios to paint a better 'mental picture' of what the Cardinals will face in January.
1. New York Giants (11-2): Did they show a chink in the armor on Sunday? Maybe, maybe not. The bottom line is that they did come back to the pack a little bit and their lead isn't insurmountable. They still control their own destiny but the remaining schedule is tough with three games against teams that are currently in the NFC playoff picture. They have to travel to Dallas before coming home to face the Panthers and then they travel to Minnesota to finish the season.
2. Carolina Panthers (10-3): Wow, the Panthers look amazing last night. In case you missed the game, you might not know that the Panthers control their own destiny and if they win out, they'll be the #1 seed. If you did see the game, sorry for bringing that up again, because the booth sure beat that dead horse all night long. The remaining schedule won't help them out though. They've got a home game Denver before they head out on the road to face the Giants and Saints.
3. Minnesota Vikings (8-5): The Vikes squeezed by the Lions last week so they still control the #3 seed. We'll cover all things Minny over the next couple of days but just know that the Vikings are ahead of the Cardinals because they have a better record against NFC teams (6-3 vs. 6-4). That will become a moot point after Sunday though because a head-to-head victory supersedes the conference record. Their remaining schedule will test them considering that they've got to come into the desert then finish the season with home games against the Falcons and Giants.
4. Arizona Cardinals (8-5): The Cards are still fourth but they have the opportunity to jump to #3, and take a very strong hold of that seed, with a game against the Vikings. The remaining schedule includes home games against the Vikes and Seattle with a road game against the Patriots in between.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-4): The Bucs got demoralized last night in front of the nation but they're not out of the NFC South race just yet. Their remaining schedule is the easiest of any team currently in the playoff picture but the Panthers will have to lose a game to open thier door. Their remaining schedule includes a road game in Atlanta before two home games against the Chargers and Raiders.
6. Dallas Cowboys (8-5): Even though the Cowboys lost to the Steelers last week, they move into the playoff picture basically because their loss was to an AFC team. The Falcons lost to the Saints which dropped their conference record below Dallas. That's the good news for Cowboys fans, the bad news is that the remaining schedule is still brutal. They've got home contests against the Giants and Ravens before traveling to an ultra-hot Philadelphia.
Best of the Rest:
Atlanta Falcons (8-5) - TB, @MIN, STL - It's won't be easy but it could be worse
Philadelphia (7-5-1) - CLE, @WAS, BAL -A huge win over the Giants gives them a legit shot
Washington (7-6) - @CIN, PHI, @SF - They probably have to run the table
Chicago (7-6) - NO, GB, @HOU -Only one game back in the North so they're very much alive
New Orleans (7-6) - @CHI, @DET, CAR - Huge win over ATL but they probably still have to win out
Plenty of "what-if's" after the jump......
Chances of First Round Bye: Ok, just to put this to rest, the Cardinals chances of getting a first round bye are very slim to none and almost any scenario would involve the Cardinals winning their remaining three games and Carolina losing two of their next three and Tampa Bay losing at least one game or the Giants would have to lose all of their remaining games. Either way that would create a crazy tie breaking scenerio that involve winning percentage among common opponents or strength of schedule, etc (aka too much guessing at this point). Just know that getting a bye is about about as likely as winning the lottery at this point.
The #3 Seed: This is a bit more simple and it all hinges on winning this weekend. A victory over the Vikes wouldn't guarantee the #3 seed but it would give the Cardinals a two game lead (one game lead with head-to-head tiebreaker) with two games left. Chicago's conference record is pretty poor (5-5) so even if they overtake Minnesota, they really can't beat the Cardinals out of the #3 seed.
So, the bottom line is win this weekend and the #3 seed is almost a lock.
As for once the playoffs start, we all know the first game will be in Arizona. If they get the #3 seed, they'd be guaranteed to play the #2 seed in the second round. If they end up with the fourth seed, they'd have to wait to see who wins the other NFC wild card game to see who the second round game would be against (if the #6 seed beats the #3 seed, then the Cards would play the #2 seed but if the #3 seed wins, then they'd play the #1 seed). Thoroughly confused?
To add to the confusion and uncertainty....if the Panthers win out and the Cardinals end up the #3 seed, their second round game would be against the Giants in the Meadowlands. In the same scenario, if the Cardinals end up with the #4 seed, they'd likely play the Panthers in the second round (assuming #3 beats #6).
Thoughts, questions, concerns? Feel free to ask an specific questions and we'll find out the answers so way or another. Anyone have anymore wild cards to add to the confusion?