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Playing With Playoffs In Hand

Posted Dec 21, 2009

Cards have choices after clinching; Gandy has hernia surgery

The Cardinals will still use Anquan Boldin and the rest of their starters in the final two games, despite clinching a division title already.
 
 
The West was won.

Now the Cardinals and coach Ken Whisenhunt have to figure out what’s next.

Sunday’s confluence of events – the Cards’ win in Detroit, coupled with the 49ers’ loss in Philadelphia – put Arizona in the playoffs for a second straight season. Two games remain – home games against St. Louis and Green Bay – and Whisenhunt has choices to make.

Does he pull back with some of his veteran players? Will he fight hard against the Packers, especially when there is a possibility the Packers will play the Cards a week later in the first round of the playoffs? What about getting the No. 2 seed? Or the No. 3 seed? What’s the balance between being ready and being rested for the postseason?

“There is so much stuff up in the air,” Whisenhunt said. “I think you have to approach it one week at a time. The only thing I know for sure is a win doesn’t hurt us.”

Whisenhunt said the Cards will be smart with injured players in “the gray area.” But those players seem to be few. Left tackle Mike Gandy is out – probably for the season, although Whisenhunt wasn’t ready to go that far yet – after having surgery Friday to fix a sports hernia. Already the Cards had been dealing with Gandy’s absence, since Jeremy Bridges had stepped in to start two of the past three games.

Kicker Neil Rackers has torn groin, but replacement Mike Nugent kicked well in Detroit.

Otherwise, there isn’t going to be some mass benching.

“We are going to play our players,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s important because we do have something at stake.”

One player Whisenhunt addressed specifically was quarterback Kurt Warner, who didn’t look sharp for parts of the win over the Lions. But Whisenhunt said “I’m not concerned about Kurt” and reiterated the idea of creating consistency going into the playoffs.

Warner isn’t a player who wants to sit much, especially when the offense isn’t in sync. After more than a month on a hot streak, Warner’s performances the past two games haven’t been at that level. Whisenhunt isn’t worried about the passing game because of the experience between quarterback, receivers and offensive line.

“We have to continue to get better and get polished up,” Warner said. “Sometimes it’s not as easy as you want it to be.”

There are also things to play for in terms of seeding, however unlikely some might be.

With two games left, the Cards would host the Packers in the first round and be the No. 4 seed in the NFC. Much could change. If the Vikings lose their final two games (at Chicago, home against the Giants) and the Cards win out, the Cards would actually be the No. 2 seed and get a bye.

But if the Cards end up tied for the No. 2 spot with the Vikings and the Eagles or the Vikings and the Cowboys, things would change. A tiebreaker between the Eagles and Cards would likely end up in Philadelphia’s favor, should the teams tie for the No. 3 and 4 seeds.

Not that it matters to Whisenhunt right now. So much can shift just after this coming penultimate regular-season weekend.

“You go crazy trying to figure out scenarios,” Whisenhunt said.

“In the end we control our own destiny and that’s what is most important,” defensive lineman Darnell Dockett said. “We can’t get caught up with anything else. We want to win ballgames.”

EXTRA POINTS

Whisenhunt said linebacker Will Davis (knee) should return to practice this week and has a chance to play against the Rams Sunday. …

Running back Beanie Wells suffered a minor injury on his final carry Sunday, when a hit on his helmet forced the helmet down near his eye, pinching a nerve and briefly blurring his vision. Whisenhunt said Wells was fine.
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