Arizona Cardinals: A 6-Step Guide to a Shock Playoff Berth

Julian NikolovskiContributor IIIDecember 15, 2011

Arizona Cardinals: A 6-Step Guide to a Shock Playoff Berth

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    Firstly let me start off by saying that I am a very optimistic person. So optimistic that it is almost a fault at times.

    Hence, I intend on knowingly letting my hopes spiral up rapidly out of control by giving you a six-step guide to an unlikely playoff berth for the Cardinals. My expectations may be lofty, but my methodology is (somewhat) reasonable.

    It may well be a long shot, but I think that this is the most likely way in which Arizona will find themselves alive and well come January.

    It may seem nigh on impossible, but with fate on our side, who knows what could happen.

Who's in the Hunt?

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    There are a few things which I must clarify before I begin.

    Firstly, three of the four divisions already have been decided. The only division up for grabs is the NFC East, which I will discuss later in the article.

    Secondly, I am assuming that the Atlanta Falcons definitely will be one of the wild-card teams. At 8-5, they have two favourable matchups against the Jaguars and the Buccaneers remaining, and victories in these two matches would safely see them secure a wild-card spot.

    Thirdly, the Seahawks are considered a non-factor in this article, because for Arizona to have any chance at making the playoffs themselves, they must beat Seattle in the final week, thereby eliminating Seattle from the contest.

    As a result the teams in contention for the final wild-card spot are Arizona, Detroit, Chicago and either Dallas or New York (as one will have to win their division).

    So without further ado, let us begin.

Step 1: Make It 6 Wins in a Row

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    This is the first step of my master plan, and it’s the only step of the plan that Arizona has control over.

    If the first step of the plan is not executed, then our playoff dreams shatter in an instant.

    Quite simply, we must win our remaining three games if we want to have any shot at the final wild-card spot. We must finish 9-7; it’s as simple as that.

    With a tough road trip to Cincinnati and a potential playoff decider against Seattle in the cards (excuse the pun), this is no simple feat to achieve (and that's without even mentioning this weekend's game against an unpredictable Browns side).

    In saying that though, this defense is playing with the tenacity required to halt both of these offenses, and hopefully that will be enough to see us secure victories against each team and close out the season with six straight wins.

    The ball is then out of our court. 

Step 2: Hope the Packers Go 16-0

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    I always get jealous of teams that experience outrageous feats of success, although I am hoping this is the case for this year.

    The Packers have two games coming up, one against the Lions and one against the Bears, and they have the chance to put a major dent in each of their playoff hopes with wins against each team.

    This Packers team is hungry to finish the season undefeated, and hopefully Mike McCarthy feels the same way. If he is happy to leave Aaron Rodgers out on the field, the Packers could well finish the season undefeated.

    The Packers need to come up big against both of these teams to give the Cardinals any real hope of securing a playoff spot.

    Sadly though, they aren't the only team we need to rely on. 

Step 3: In Oakland and San Diego, We Trust

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    Our real saviour here could be the incredibly close competition in the AFC West.

    Oakland and San Diego both still have a shot at topping the AFC West, and they have to play like teams that want nothing more than to knock Tim Tebow off his high-bronco and steal the division from the grasp of John Fox and the Denver Broncos.

    The Lions currently sit at 8-5, and assuming that the Packers do beat them in Week 17, they have two shots at securing a wild-card spot with games against both the Raiders and the Chargers.

    Even if the Lions lose to just one of them, Arizona will be granted the wild-card spot by virtue of a better conference record—therefore, we need to hope that either the Raiders or the Chargers can put an end to Detroit’s chances at a playoff spot.

    In our AFC brethren, we trust.

Step 4: Dear Seattle, Please Help

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    As of right now, Seattle is vying for that wild-card spot as well, and if this isn’t enough motivation to win this upcoming game against a demoralised Chicago outfit, then I don’t know what is.

    For the purpose of this article, the first step led me to assume that Seattle would not be able to make the playoffs, yet that doesn’t mean that they can’t still be right in the mix going into the Week 17 clash with the Cardinals.

    If both Seattle and Green Bay defeat Chicago over the next two weeks, they are well and truly out of the playoff race, which makes the chances of Arizona reaching the playoffs tremendously higher.

    Then our only competition would be with either the Cowboys or the Giants

Step 5: J-E-T-S

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    I'll start by saying that I am making the assumption that both the Cowboys and the Giants win this week.

    They each have relatively easy matchups against the Bucs and Redskins, respectively, and each of those assumed wins would put them at a relatively comfortable 8-6.

    As a result of these wins, both the Cowboys and Giants would end up with better conference records than the Cardinals were either of them to finish 9-7.

    Hence, it is paramount that one of these teams loses in Week 16, since they must go 8-8 if the Cardinals are to secure that final wild-card place.

    Therefore, my hopes are riding on the Jets to defeat the Giants next weekend to leave America’s team in pole position to win the NFC East.

    The Jets are in the midst of a wild-card scrap in the AFC, and hopefully this motivation ensures that they can overcome a dangerous Giants outfit.

    Then it all comes down to the Week 17 clash in New York. 

Step 6: Sweet, Sweet Revenge

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    It may well all come down to this.

    After a gut-wrenching loss to the Giants last week, Dallas will want nothing more than to avenge the loss by putting an end to the Giants' season with a win in Week 17.

    If my projections were to go as planned, this would mean that the Cowboys would claim the division with a 10-6 record, whilst the Giants fall to an unfortunately low 8-8.

    This would eliminate the final team that stands in the Cardinals’ path to the playoffs, leaving them with a shock wild-card berth, and a chance to turn a lost season into something special.

The Outcome?

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    If all goes well in my master plan, this is how the NFC Wild Card race would pan out.

    Cowboys: 10-6 (NFC East winners)
    Falcons: 10-6 (Wild Card)
    Cardinals: 9-7 (Wild Card)
    Lions: 9-7 (Defeated on tiebreaker)
    Giants: 8-8
    Bears: 8-8
    Seattle: 8-8

    We can only hope.

In Conclusion...

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    I will be the very first person to tell you that this scenario is a long shot; a whole lot of things need to go right for Arizona, and if just one little thing goes wrong, it could end our chances immediately.

    It would be incredible to see a team come back from a measly 3-7 and storm into the playoffs. From there, the sky would be the limit.

    This man can only hope.