Cardinals defenders (from left) Deone Bucannon, Frostee Rucker and Josh Bynes bury Washington running back Samaje Perine last weekend.
The postseason isn't available, but the Cardinals' defense has got major motivation heading into the final two games of the season – reaching the top five in the defensive rankings for a third straight season.
"We can be the first team (in franchise history) to be top five defensively three years straight," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "So we know what we're playing for now."
The Cardinals are currently seventh in the NFL in total defense, allowing 313.3 yards a game (FootballOutsiders.com has the Cardinals fifth in the NFL in adjusted overall defense.) Above them are Philadelphia (309.2), Carolina (307.9) and Pittsburgh (307.8) – all playoff-bound teams.
More impressively, the Cards have made this run after sitting at No. 24 in the league after Week
9, allowing 349.8 yards a game. Since the Nov. 9 game against Seattle, the Cardinals are No. 1 in the NFL in total defense (264.7), No. 1 in passing yards against and No. 2 in rushing yards against.
"There is no question it's the character in our room defensively," defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. "We have guys who know how to do it and know when it's not going well, the answer is keep with the process, believe in each other.
"It's not what you do (scheme-wise), it's how you do what you do. Anybody in the NFL, that's such an important factor, believing in your process … and that leads to success and leads to you getting through some obstacles. We had opportunities with certain plays early in the season here and there that right now, we're making those plays."
If the Cardinals can finish top five, it would make them a perfect three-for-three since Bettcher took over as defensive coordinator in 2015 and give the Cardinals at least a top-6 finish in four of Bruce Arians' five Arizona seasons.
The Cardinals were No. 6 in 2013 under then-DC Todd Bowles, dropping to No. 24 in 2014. They were No. 5 in 2015 and No. 2 last season. Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, the Cardinals had only had a top-10 defense six times before Arians arrived.
"As a defense I believe we've been playing solid throughout the whole year, minus a couple of mishaps," Peterson said. "Like London, that wasn't us. For the most part, we've played solid, especially after the bye week. That's when the defense started to show the growth."
ARIANS NOT THINKING ABOUT FUTURE
Like Larry Fitzgerald, Arians said the fact this could be his last home game if he decided to retire –
or the fact he could be heading into his last week – won't impact his mindset as he goes into the weekend and then preps for the season finale in Seattle.
"No, not at all," Arians said with a chuckle. "I don't think about those things until the time for them."
If the Cardinals win, it would be the 49th win (including postseasons) of Arians' Arizona tenure, which would tie him with Ken Whisenhunt for most victories by a coach in franchise history.
KERWYNN WILLIAMS, DANSBY QUESTIONABLE
Only three players – tight end Troy Niklas (ankle), guard Earl Watford (ankle) and linebacker Josh Bynes (ankle) – are listed out for Sunday's game. Running back Kerwynn Williams (quad/ribs), linebacker Karlos Dansby (calf), safety Antoine Bethea (knee), wide receiver John Brown (toe), defensive lineman Olsen Pierre (illness) and wide receiver Chad Williams (illness) are all questionable and game-day decisions.
For the Giants, linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle) and wide receiver Tavarres King (concussion) are out. Safety Landon Collins (ankle), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (finger) and safety Nat Berhe (hamstring) are questionable.
AGUDOSI TO PRACTICE SQUAD IR
The Cardinals put another player on injured reserve Friday, although it was the practice squad IR. Wide receiver Carlton Agudosi (hamstring) is done for the season, and the Cardinals signed linebacker Edmond Robinson to fill his practice squad spot.