It’s easy to overlook the Arizona Cardinals, but they play the 49ers Sunday with a chance at capturing an NFL Playoff berth. Will it be Arizona, or will the New Orleans Saints hold on to that final wildcard spot? Dan Salem and Todd Salem tackle this topic head on in part two of this week’s TD Sports Debate. Two brothers from New York yell, scream and debate sports.
They’ve been a forgotten team of late, with the 49ers and Seahawks owning the NFC West and St. Louis always making noise of its own, yet Arizona has the number one rushing defense in the league. They beat Seattle last weekend, so a victory in their final game over the 49ers wouldn’t be that surprising. I’ve been high on Arizona since their week 5 victory over Carolina and I expect them to beat San Fran this week to end an incredible season for this forgotten franchise.
Imagine if the Cardinals were in the AFC, their record at 11-5 would nearly match the Chiefs and easily clinch them the final wildcard spot. Nevertheless, Carson and his Cardinals need the Buccaneers to beat the Saints. Considering how well Tampa Bay has played of late, and how inconsistent New Orleans has been, I’m expecting that final playoff spot in the NFC to fall right into Arizona’s hands. Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald, now that’s a dynamic duo I’ll be rooting for in the Wildcard round this season.
The Cardinals have truly been a revelation this season. They are perhaps a bigger surprise than the Carolina Panthers have been in the NFC. Arizona has an elite defense and could grab their 11th win. While the NFC North and East division winners could get in with eight wins, 11 might not be enough for the Cardinals as you described.
The problem here is that they need New Orleans to lose this Sunday in order to sneak into the playoffs, and New Orleans is playing at home against the 4-11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. N.O. is not losing that game. They are undefeated at home thus far, notching a 7-0 record. They have beaten the likes of Carolina, San Francisco, Dallas, and those aforementioned Cardinals. In the Super Dome, New Orleans is one of the three best teams in the NFL.
The problem for them of course is that they’ve sucked on the road. While normally an okay road team under Sean Payton and with Drew Brees under center, the 2013 Saints have been downright bad on the road. Losing three consecutive road games, the Saints season road record wrapped up at 3-5. For some comparison, out of all the teams who have clinched a playoff berth, only Cincinnati has failed to collect at least four road wins. Yet they will enter the postseason as a three seed (most likely). New Orleans, even after they win Sunday, will be slotted in as the sixth seed in the NFC. This means they will not have a single home game all playoffs long, no matter how far they advance and who advances with them.
It is weird to think that Arizona may be more deserving of a playoff spot than New Orleans, especially since the Saints beat them head-to-head and have the upper hand in grabbing that spot this weekend. N.O. has also been a fixture of NFL success in recent years, while Arizona has been awful ever since its playoff runs a number of years back. Let’s just say Arizona has been the better football team the second half of the season (6-1 compared to 4-3), but it won’t be enough to vault them into the playoffs. They can take solace in the fact that the Saints won’t be advancing very far once they grab that six seed.