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An Important Date Against Atlanta

As Cardinals reach season's midway point, it's never too early to start thinking about positioning


The Cardinals, who play at home Sunday against Atlanta, have a chance to be .500 at the bye.

The midway point of the NFL season approaches and the Cardinals go into Sunday's game against the Falcons with a chance to have a .500 record after eight games.

It's not a mark that will secure any playoff home field or make the Cards a Super Bowl favorite. But in the morass of teams populating the midsection of the NFC, it would – even with whatever issues the Cards have had this season – put the Cardinals in the middle of hope.

And right now, that's enough.

"You've got a chance and that's all you want," linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "You just want a chance to put your name in that hat, and get closer to what you want which is get in the playoffs.

"In the playoffs anything can happen. We've seen that. We've seen that. We went into that situation the worst team ever to go into the

playoffs. We have opportunity and we have to take advantage."

With half a season left, there are still too many variables to know exactly what this game could mean. But after back-to-back conference losses to NFC west foes, the Cardinals (3-4) can't afford to drop games inside the conference, especially one at home to the Falcons (2-4). Atlanta is trying to salvage playoff thoughts this year itself, and Sunday's loser will be damaged with that result.

The Falcons won't have their star receivers Julio Jones (out for the season with a broken foot) and Roddy White (sitting with hamstring and ankle injuries), but they do get back veteran running back Steven Jackson, who hasn't played since early in the year because of a hamstring injury.

"We're not where we want to be at this point in the season, but there's still a long way to go," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. "With whoever is in there, with whoever has been playing, we just go out there and execute the best we can.

"We know that with 10 games to go in our season everything is still there in front of us."

Of the five teams ahead of the Cardinals for the NFC's sixth and final playoff spot at the moment, the Cardinals have beaten two – Carolina and Detroit – and play two others – Philadelphia and St. Louis – later in the season. (The other team is Chicago, which just lost starting quarterback Jay Cutler for about a month with a groin injury.)

It'll all be moot if the Cards can't get untracked offensively. Quarterback Carson Palmer has thrown two interceptions in each of the past six games. Atlanta hasn't been exactly dominate defensively, but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald waved off the idea that the Falcons provide a panacea.

"It wouldn't matter if we were playing against Atlanta or ASU or Brophy," Fitzgerald said. "We need to get it going and going at a good clip."

Coach Bruce Arians wasn't going to call it a must-win game, but Dansby did. They all matter to have that chance Dansby was speaking about.

"Where you are at now is not where you are going to be Week 16, Week 17," safety Yeremiah Bell said. "Our main focus is trying to put together some 60-minute performances, get some wins, and at the end of this thing see where we are at."

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