Can either of these men quarterback us into the postseason? (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
With yet another win last Sunday, this one coming against the rival San Francisco 49ers, the question of the Arizona Cardinal's chances of making the playoffs is coming up more frequently, and with seemingly more legitimacy. With our next three opponents being the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Seattle Seahawks respectively, winning out and finishing the year at 9-7 is beginning to look achievable. Much speculation has been made about the Cardinals chances at the postseason if they can win their remaining games, and that's what this post hopes to provide. At Sports Club Stats, they provide a page for each team in the four major sports leagues, among other sports as well, and that teams likelihood of making it to the postseason. Here is the link to the Arizona Cardinals.
Hit the jump for a breakdown of the Cardinals chances
Now, let me point out first that these stats do not presuppose who should win games and who should lose. The stats only look at how, in certain games, a win or a loss affects our chances. Along with a breakdown of each game and how its result changes our probability, there are also two graphs, one which simply shows our record but the other graph is much more telling. The second graph actually shows our chances of making the playoffs, but remember, this is purely statistical, looking at all the possible outcomes and then providing a percentage for how likely it is for the Cardinals to make the playoffs. Lastly there is a neatly organized chart that shows all the possible outcomes for the remaining three games. Along with the possible outcomes of our final three games, the chart shows a percentage, associated with each outcome, for making the playoffs and percentages, based on each possible outcome, for where we will finish in the standings. Now, with all that explained, let's get into a breakdown or Arizona's chances.
Looking at the Big Games section, the most important games from here on out are, of course, the Cardinals games and Detroit Lions games. With the Chicago Bears collapse, largely due to the lose of Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, our chance of passing them in the standing is much higher than that of Detroit, however, since we need to pass both of the aforementioned teams, the Lions losing is of the utmost importance. Even though it is not currently listed, the last week of the season will be crucial for our postseason chances. The next two weeks, both the Cardinals and the Lions play AFC opponents, however in week 17, we both play NFC opponents, the Cardinals against the Seahawks and the Lions against the Packers. With both the Cardinals and the Lions tied at 6-5 in conference games, we will need the Packers to beat the Lions. This is because if we both finish at 9-7, the Lions, if they beat Green Bay, will make it into the playoffs based on strength of schedule, if they lose and we both have 9-7 records, we will make it in due to better conference record.
Moving on to the What If section, there is a very good statistical breakdown of all the possible scenarios from our three remaining games. As can be seen, 8-8, 8-7-1 or 7-7-2 almost guarantees that the Cardinals will be watching the postseason from home. It would require an almost perfect scenario and, because of that, is very unlikely to happen. Winning out, however, increases are playoff chances significantly. Winning out give the Cardinals a 36.1% chance of making it to the postseason; 5% chance of getting the 5th seed and 32% chance of the 6th seed.
So what does this all mean for the Arizona Cardinals? While we shouldn't book a plane ticket to San Francisco or New Orleans for our likely first round opponent, we definitely do have a legitimate chance of making the postseason. Our chances are much lower than the teams in front of us who control their own destiny, Detroit 77.7%, Atlanta 87.3%, Chicago 24.7%, New York 42.1% and Dallas 57.4%, but we shouldn't be ruled out yet. With the way our defense is playing, we have a very good chance of winning our final three games, but that's all we can control. With 5 teams ahead of us fighting for two wildcard spots and the NFC East division title, we will need some help. So what do you think of our playoff chances? Do we actually have a shot, or are these just delusions of grandeur? Let me know in the comments below.