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Breeland's Days Are Numbered, And Saturday Before The Wild Card Playoff

It was early in the week when the Rams brought back 37-year-old-and-long-retired safety Eric Weddle to play in the playoffs against the Cardinals. So The Ringer's Steven Ruiz tweeted that it would only be right if the Cardinals activated their own former safety, Adrian Wilson for the game.

The tweet made me smile. (No word on how A-Dub took it, but then again, he was busy going through an initial interview with the New York Giants for their vacant GM job.) Wilson is long past playing, much further beyond his career than Weddle.

But that doesn't mean a little piece of Wilson might still be on the field against the Rams Monday night.

Bashaud Breeland, the veteran cornerback who is expected to be elevated from the practice squad for the game, wears No. 24. If that sounds familiar, it's because it was Wilson's number – and the number hasn't been worn in a game for the Cardinals since Wilson last played in 2012.

(We'll see; Vance Joseph sounded confident about Breeland playing on Friday, Kliff Kingsbury less so on Saturday.)

The number was never retired, but it's safe to say the Cardinals have stayed away from using it as much as possible. In this day of expanded practice squads and Covid extras, however, it was inevitably going to be used. It almost happened earlier this year – except practice squad cornerback Rasul Douglas, who had it at the time, wasn't needed before he left for the Packers.

Breeland isn't a Pro Bowl safety like Wilson. But he did play in the last two Super Bowls with the Chiefs. The Cardinals won't be at full cornerback strength – I'm not expecting to see Robert Alford again – but otherwise, it's tracking that Marco Wilson and Antonio Hamilton and Kevin Peterson should be available, and with Breeland filling in for Alford, it's as solid of a lineup as the Cardinals could expect at this point.

It'll be crucial in a game like this of course, with the triple-crown wide receiver Cooper Kupp out there and Odell Beckham Jr. and Van Jefferson and tight end Tyler Higbee all able to do damage. Pressure on Matthew Stafford is important, and making sure there are no communication breakdowns in the secondary too.

Maybe having a No. 24 will mean a little something.

-- Yes, I do expect J.J. Watt to be active. Yes, I do expect James Conner to be active. It's hard to know how much they would be able to play, but I tend to agree with Chase Edmonds when he was talking about Conner – it's hard to believe he won't give it a go. This is the postseason. Some guys are just too hurt to go, but knowing Conner, knowing Watt, it's hard to believe they won't try. If they aren't out there, it'll really speak to the level of their health.

-- Playing in the first "Monday Night Football" playoff game is an honor, I suppose. It is interesting that the winner could very well get a short week while playing the Packers – who of course got a bye. But you still have to win the game first. And as we have seen with Thursday night football, once the league makes a decision that games will be played on a certain day/date, that toothpaste isn't going back in the tube. There's little question the game is going to draw big ratings.

-- This is only the second time since 1936 the Cardinals have played a team three times in one season. The only other time? It was 1998, when the Cardinals played their NFC East rival the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas in the Wild Card round. The Cards, of course, won that game, 20-7.

-- Markus Golden has been to the playoffs before – yes, he was the one that came oh so close to getting to Aaron Rodgers in 2015 before Rodgers unleashed the Hail Mary TD pass that sent the game to overtime – so he does feel there is some advice to give to the 31 Cardinals who have yet to play in a postseason game.

"I've come to practice with some good energy, letting them know this is a big opportunity," the linebacker said. "I'm not going to sit here and act like it's a regular game. It's a big game and you have to embrace that you get to play in an NFL playoff game on a Monday night.

"That's a blessing, man. I don't want to make guys feel like it's the biggest game ever, but you don't want (them) to sit back and act like it's a normal game because this is one of those games you live for."

-- When you play a team three times, what's left in the playbook?

"I think everybody is continuing to evolve and figure out how you can get better," Kingsbury said. "Whether it's offensively, defensively, or special teams, you're always looking for new things around the league – different plays people run, different schemes people run. I think there's always ways to be innovative when you get to this point."

-- The Cardinals have forced 21 turnovers on the road this season and given it away only three times. That's a direct parallel to going 8-1 away from home. Turnovers are usually the difference-maker in the postseason, where games tend to end up naturally closer.

-- Zach Ertz has turned into Murray's top option in the passing game. You can debate if that is because Murray's other options have been well covered, but Ertz is always open, Murray said with a impressed look, and I found Ertz's explanation of how he goes about his business fascinating and one every young receiver should consider.

"When I was younger, I came up with this mantra – I'm just going to put wins on tape," Ertz said. "It doesn't matter if I get the ball or not, I'm just going to put wins on tape, and if the ball finds me, great. If it doesn't, I'm just going to do the best of my abilities to get open. That's the mantra that allows me to stay in the moment and not focus on whether I'm getting the ball or not."

-- Good stat from ESPN and Louis Riddick: Murray has completed 81 percent of his passes inside the numbers this season. That's the best such percentage of any QB over the last 15 years. Ertz helps.

-- Ertz, not surprisingly, said he isn't thinking about his future – he is a free agent-to-be – but did acknowledge he's enjoyed his time here and, of course, this is where his wife is from. His contract situation will be one of many that will be interesting to watch this offseason (whenever the offseason begins.)

-- If the Cardinals win, their next game could be in Green Bay. It could be in Tampa. And yes, it could be at State Farm Stadium. If the 49ers upset the Cowboys and the Eagles upset the Bucs, the Packers would host the Eagles and the 49ers would travel to the winner of Cardinals/Rams.

If one upset happens and the Cards win, the Cardinals would travel to either the Cowboys or the Bucs, depending on who won. If the seeds all stay chalk before Monday, the winner of Rams-Cardinals goes to play the Packers.

-- The final word goes to Murray, who will be playing in his first playoff game in the NFL.

"I eat, breathe and sleep football, so to be in this situation, I'm excited."

See you Monday night.

Cornerback Bashaud Breeland (24) and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
Cornerback Bashaud Breeland (24) and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.

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