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Cardinals Seek NFC West Wins

Posted Dec 7, 2013

Team wants to end divisional drought as they prepare for Rams rematch

Wide receiver Andre Roberts (12) and the Cardinals are looking to break an eight-game losing streak in the division.

Bruce Arians came to work on Monday, fresh off a controversial loss to the Eagles the day before, and told his players to put it behind them.

Normally, that’s easier said than done. There were some eyebrow-raising calls by officials in the last few minutes, and the defeat sent a blow to the Cardinals’ playoff chances.

Arians, though, had the trump card. Once he brought up the team’s woeful recent record against the NFC West, he had everyone’s attention.

The Cardinals are 0-for-their-past-8 against division opponents, with the most recent victory coming over the Seahawks in the first game of 2012. The team has one game apiece left against the Rams, 49ers and Seahawks after losing to each of them earlier this year, and it’s going to take a reversal of fortunes to keep the team’s playoff hopes alive.

“If we’re ever going to do anything,” Arians said, “we better start winning (within) our division.”

With four weeks remaining, the NFC West has proven to be the best division in football.

The teams have combined for a 31-17 record, including a 24-10 mark against opponents outside the division. The AFC West is next, with a 28-20 combined record and a 21-13 mark outside the division.

“To think, we’re sitting here fighting for wild card position and we haven’t won a division game in a year and almost a half,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “It just shows you how strong our division is. But we’re not going to be considered the step-child any longer. We’ve got to come out and win some of these games.”

The Rams are first on the docket, as the Cardinals look to improve to 6-1 at home on Sunday. These teams met in the season opener, and Arizona blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead in a 27-24 loss.

St. Louis is without starting quarterback Sam Bradford, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL on Oct. 20. Despite his absence, the Rams (5-7) have been a plucky squad. They’ve won two of their past three games and were one yard away from beating Seattle in Week 8.

“This is a huge game for both teams, and it’s especially big for us,” said quarterback Carson Palmer, who injured his right elbow against Philadelphia and is questionable against the Rams. “We’re playing at home. We know what’s on the line and we know it’s been a while since we’ve won a division game. This is a very good football team coming in and we must win.”

With games against Seattle and San Francisco looming in the final two weeks, it’s a treacherous path to the playoffs, as the Cardinals could need three or possibly four wins in their last four games to secure a wild card.

The team’s hopes will be pinned on its success against the NFC West the rest of the way, and the message has been like a broken record around the practice facility.

“Every time I read a paper or hear somebody talk: ‘It’s been awhile,’” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “Obviously, we want to get it done, get the monkey off our back.”

This scenario looks familiar to right tackle Eric Winston. He was with the Texans in his second NFL season in 2007, when the team went 8-8. The AFC South was so good that year that Houston finished last in the division despite the .500 record, as the Colts, Jaguars and Titans each won at least 10 games and made the postseason.

“We were a pretty good team, too, but we only won one division game,” Winston said. “That’s the kind of team we can’t be. We can’t sit there at the end of the season and be 8-8 (or) 9-7 and be 1-5 in the division, or something like that, and say, ‘Man, if we would have won a couple more of those division games we would have been fine.’ This is our chance.”

 

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