The Arizona Cardinals were dead an buried earlier this season, having started 1-6. There was no no hope for the playoffs. Then something happened -- the defense started to play like a really good defense, Patrick Peterson returned some punts for touchdowns and John Skelton (and Kevin Kolb in one half) made some big throws late in games. Now they sit at 6-7 and are technically "in the hunt" and, with a favorable end to their schedule, have at least a shot at making a late run and slipping into the playoffs.
If you were watching the pregame stuff on NFL Network before the Thursday night game before the Falcons/Jaguars game, they had the playoff balloons and started popping some, saying that some teams were done.
When the topic of the Seattle Seahawks and the Cardinals (both 6-7 currently), there was a little bit of a differing of opinion. Most of the crew completely dismissed the notion of more than the 49ers coming out of the West. In fact, Rich Eisen popped the Cardinals' and Seahawks' balloon as if the notion of two NFC West playoffs teams was absurd.
Deion Sanders, though, had different thoughts. He said that it was "very possible" one of the two teams could sneak in.
It really isn't too far fetched, even though it is not easy.
The Cards have to win out. Browns at home, Bengals on the road and Seahawks at home -- winnable games, but really only the Browns game is a "gimme" if any.
The Falcons have all but locked up the number five slot. They have to play the Saints on the road and the Bucs at home. They'll have 10 wins.
The Giants have to win one of the next two games and beat the Cowboys (doable) and they win the division. It doesn't matter if Dallas wins the next two. If the Giants win, they win the NFC East.
The Bears have to finish 8-8 (they play Seattle at home, Green Bay on the road and Minnesota at home). Possible. I think they lose to the Seahawks and Packers.
The Lions have the Raiders in Oakland, the Chargers at home and Green Bay at home. If they lose two of three and end 9-7, the Cards have the tie-break. They easily could lose two of those three games. They could also win two of three. But losses would not be shocking.
Will it happen? Hard to say.
But the part that was dumb was the way simple dismissal of the NFC West and the assumption that the Giants and Cowboys would both get in. The NFC East is 23-29 overall, while the NFC West is 24-28. But perception is that the East competitive and the West is a doormat. Never mind that Seattle has beaten three NFC East teams, the Cardinals beat two and the Niners beat three.
Deion was right. It is very possible for either the Cards or the 'Hawks to get in. We should get excited at the thought.
How great would it be to have the Cards in that underdog status again after squeaking in as a surprise across the league?
So let us hold strong and follow the last three games. Be louder, cheer longer and believe. Because it can certainly happen, and I would love to see Rich Eisen have to recant.