Arizona Sportspage

November 24, 2009 1:20 AM

Cardinals Can Set Sights On Higher Seed

Darnell Dockett photo.jpg
The Arizona Cardinals have all but wrapped up the NFC West division title.

The race is finished and they can now move on to other things. Arizona, having won its fifth straight road game, 21-13 Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, opened a three-game lead over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West.

The lead is big enough to where the Cardinals can now worry about bigger and better things, like securing a first-round bye in the playoffs.

For Arizona to lose their lead in the NFC West, it would take a perfect storm. The Cardinals (7-3) would have to lose three of their final six games. The 49ers, on the other hand, may just have to run the table.

No team has been more perplexing than the Cardinals this season. They're 5-0 on the road and 2-3 on the road. Arizona has defeated the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears on the road, while also losing to the Carolina Panthers at home.

No team has been more confusing, but no team has been more dangerous. Arizona is emerging as one of the darkhorse teams in the NFC.

With a strong grasp on their division, the Cardinals can now concentrate on trying to secure a home playoff game, or two, in January.

And it's possible.

The Cardinals finish their season facing the Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings, 49ers, Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams and Green Bay Packers. Of their final six opponents, the Cardinals face only two teams with winning records. One of the teams they are chasing for a top seed (the Minnesota Vikings), they'll face at home.

A late-season trip up, such as last season's, doesn't seem likely. The Cardinals have begun to play their best football. The scariest part is, Arizona is now running the ball and dictating the pace and direction of the game.

Arizona rushed for 183 yards against the Rams. Tim Hightower had 100 while Beanie Wells gained 74 yards. In week 10 against Seattle, the Rams rushed for 122 yards. In week 9 against the Chicago Bears, Arizona compiled 182 yards. The running game has made the Cardinals' offense more potent. During their three-game winning streak, Kurt Warner has passed for nine touchdowns and zero interceptions and the Cardinals offense has averaged over 30 points per a game. The Cardinals' defense is also playing well, stopping opponents, creating momentum and making plays. It's a mixture which has turned a team which got off to a slow start, into one which is in the hunt for a top seed in the playoffs.

Their revived running game, improvement of an already strong offense and a three-game winning streak has helped the Cardinals create a lot of breathing room in the NFC West race. With a three-game lead, the Cardinals can now breathe easy and exhale. The division race is essentially over and a first-round bye, with some fortune, is still within reach.

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