The Arizona Cardinals clinched the division last week with a sloppy win over the dismal Detroit Lions -- winning a second, consecutive post-season appearance.
However, if the Cards head into the playoffs acting like they have the last two weeks, it will probably be a pretty short post-season ride for the Redbirds.
At this point in the season the Cards have little -- if nothing -- to play for. They have just a remote chance of winning the second seed in the Western Conference and a first-round bye, but that would mean them winning the last two games, the Minnesota Vikings losing at least one of their last two, plus other help from the likes of the Philadelphia Eagles.
However, if you've watched the team the last two weeks -- to put it politely -- theycould use a little practice.
The Cards host the St. Louis Rams Sunday -- a game ESPN analysts predict them to win easily. Unfortunately, those are the same analysts who predicted the Cards to beat the 49ers two weeks ago, and crush the Lions last week in Detroit.
Neither of those things happened. The Cards lost pathetically to the Niners and barely eeked out a win last week in Detroit -- so ESPN predictions are basically worthless when it comes to the Redbirds.
First step Sunday: Defense.
The Cardinals D has been streaky all season but has had the luxury of Kurt Warner and a high-powered offense that has been able to put up points to counter defensive shortcomings.
When the Cards defense is successful -- like three weeks ago when they beat up on the Vikings, and probably made Brett Favre reconsider retiring -- the D put pressure on the opposing quarterback.
The defense hasn't done this the last two weeks. Linemen aren't clearing holes for linebackers, and are giving quarterbacks too much time to make plays.
The offense is another story, which probably has one moral: Hold onto the fucking ball!
The Cardinals offense has been plagued with fumbles the last two weeks, dropping the ball nine times in two games. Kurt Warner was cited with three of the fumbles.
Kurt's drops weren't entirely his fault, though. The offensive line is giving him little time in the pocket, and two of his three were the result of a defender, who came from Warner's blind-side and slapped the ball out of his hand as he was about to throw.
Aside from forcing fumbles, when Warner gets hurried he goes from the cool, collected, veteran quarterback to a finicky, nervous, thrower, who tosses the ball into coverage and gets intercepted. If that's the Warner who's on the field, the Cardinals might as well start Matt Leinart.
Kickoff is at 2 p.m. and the Cards should win this one. As long as the Redbirds can iron out some of these glitches, they're still goin' to the playoffs, baby!
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