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What are the Arizona Cardinals? Legit playoff contenders

That's a cool thing to say.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk asks SB Nation his weekly question. This one is fun.

To be GMC Professional Grade, you need to be driven. Assessing the second half of the season, how do you see your team playing coming down the stretch, in terms of the playoffs? What role does your team play in this final stretch? Is it spoiler, hunter, or contender? What do they need to do if they have a chance to get into the playoffs?

Oh, this is fun.


OK, that's out of my system.

But this question is easy. They have the best record in the NFC. They have not lost a single game to an NFC team. They have lost only one game, period.

The best part is this -- they don't really need to change anything. They have the right recipe. They are stopping the run. They don't give up many points. They get turnovers. They don't turn over the ball. Carson Palmer is great on third down.

We have actually reached the point in which fans should see their expectations go up. Simply making the postseason shouldn't be the expectation. Playing 4-4 over the last half of the season will leave them 11-5, which will get them into the postseason.

We should expect them to win the NFC West and get a first round bye. The hope should be that they get the number one seed.

So, what do they need to do?

They don't need to necessarily change anything. They still haven't come together offensively, but as long as they aren't turning the ball over and as long as they continue to make opposing offenses one-dimensional, they will be hard to beat.

What can they improve?

They could use more of a pass rush. Without it, against some quarterbacks, they will be in danger of getting shredded down the field. It is what happened in Denver. But the quarterbacks left on the schedule aren't Peyton Manning. They have Austin Davis, Mattew Stafford (who could be the guy to do it), Matt Ryan (he could, but has always played the Cardinals terribly), Alex Smith, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.

Offensively, they could run the ball a little more effectively. They should stop dropping passes. But they are real close to breaking out on offense.

But even with the improvements they could use, this year has gone so well and they have played so well that you can sense there is something special brewing. All that talk of the Cardinals playing in the Super Bowl on their home field doesn't seem that crazy anymore, does it?

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