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Cardinals Hope To Turn Colts Game Into Merry Christmas

Playoff spot available to be clinched for third time

Chandler Jones and the Cardinals are looking to clinch a playoff spot.
Chandler Jones and the Cardinals are looking to clinch a playoff spot.

Chandler Jones has not reached the postseason since arriving in Arizona via trade from New England in 2016.

If the Cardinals had beaten the Los Angeles Rams or Detroit in recent weeks, the drought would officially be over.

Ahead of the Christmas Day showdown against Indianapolis (8-6) Saturday, Jones has another opportunity to bury the fact. Through 15 weeks, the Cardinals (10-4) are tied with Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Los Angeles Rams for the second-best record in the conference. With a victory, Jones would return to the playoffs for the first time in years.

"Unfortunately, the past two weeks, we didn't capitalize on those chances," Jones said. "But the beauty of this is, we have the opportunity to go out there and do it again. That's what I'm excited about."

Week 16 marks the Cardinals' third attempt to clinch the 11th playoff berth in franchise history, and third chance to capture a primetime victory.

The first occurred Week 8 against Green Bay, and second happened Week 14 against Los Angeles. Both were at State Farm Stadium, where the Cardinals have struggled this season. The Cards are 3-3 at home in 2021.

Even if the Cardinals falter, with the loss of the 49ers on Thursday night, the Cards clinch a playoff spot with a loss by any one of three teams: the Vikings, Eagles, or Saints.

Safety Budda Baker has also never reached the playoffs since becoming a Cardinal five seasons ago. Baker remembers watching football games as a kid on Christmas and is excited about being on the opposite end for the first time in his career.

But Baker wants to finally gift the "Red Sea" a playoff appearance alongside ending their home struggles on national television. The four-time Pro Bowler hopes to accomplish that all Saturday.

"We always understand what's at stake; it's not like we're trying to lose," Baker said. "We're trying our best, you know; it just hasn't fallen for us the past couple of weeks. But we're past our two losses. We're focused on the Colts."

To get the job done against AFC South troops, Colts' running back Jonathan Taylor must be contained, which has not happened in 2021. Through 14 games and on 270 carries, Taylor leads the NFL in rushing yards (1,518) and touchdowns (17). He also is fresh off a 170-rushing performance last week against New England, who have the third-ranked defense in fewest yards allowed.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury understands the assignment of what the Cardinals' defense will face on Saturday, along the fact their performance against Taylor will significantly decide if the Cardinals can get over the hump.

"He's been tremendous," Kingsbury said. "However, they utilize him, whatever style of run, he just seems to make things happen. He's definitely got to be up there in the top two, three, candidates for MVP for what I've seen."