"Must-win" is never a term an athlete takes lightly.
It's thrown around with ease by fans and media, but players and coaches usually try to avoid it – because giving more weight to one game or another isn't ideal.
But Larry Fitzgerald, who has played a lot of football and seen plenty of seasons unfold, didn't hesitate in saying that the Cardinals have a must-win game Sunday in New York against the Jets.
"Seattle is the leader in our division, 4-0 right now, and they are rolling," Fitzgerald said. "We have to be able to find a way to get back on the right track. Another road game, going across three time zones to play, you have to find a way to put together four good quarters in all three phases. It's as simple as that.
"We need to be able to keep pace with the Rams and the other teams playing well in the division. It's definitely a must-win."
The undefeated Seahawks are atop the NFC West. The Rams are 3-1, and the 49ers, like the Cardinals, are 2-2.
The Jets are struggling mightily at 0-4, and are starting backup quarterback Joe Flacco. The next two games for the Cardinals, before getting the bye, are a Monday night game in Dallas and a home game against the Seahawks.
"To me that that's how I view it," quarterback Kyler Murray said. "(But) I view every game as a must-win. Obviously we haven't won them all, but that's my mindset. I can't speak for everybody else."
ISAIAH SIMMONS 'CLOSE' TO MORE PLAYING TIME
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said first-round pick Isaiah Simmons was "close" to playing more on defense, as the rookie continues to have a small role on Sundays.
Simmons officially played 10 snaps in Carolina at linebacker, although there were two snaps in which he backpedaled to be a deep safety – only to have the play aborted when the Panthers false-started both times.
"He's working hard every day," Joseph said. "He's perfecting his role for us, he's covering tight ends well, he's setting edges well as an outside 'backer-type player for us. In his other roles, he's getting better. He just needs more time on the job, more reps at playing NFL football at those spots he's playing.
"It's a different deal than he played at Clemson. He's closer to the ball, he's playing against bigger men, he's covering bigger tight ends. He's getting better every single week he's out there and hopefully he'll continue to get better and get more time."
BANJO RETURNS TO PRACTICE; PHILLIPS SITS OUT
The Cardinals seem to be getting healthier at practice by the day. After Budda Baker returned Wednesday, veteran Chris Banjo (hamstring) came back on a limited basis Thursday. Tight end Darrell Daniels (thigh) and linebacker Devon Kennard (calf) remain sidelined, as was defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who didn't practice because of an illness. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (calf) was limited.
For the Jets, tackle Mekhi Becton (shoulder), quarterback Sam Darnold (shoulder), wide receiver Breshad Perriman (ankle) and running back Frank Gore (not injury-related) didn't practice. Cornerback Bless Austin (calf), linebacker Jordan Jenkins (shoulder/calf), safety Ashtyn Davis (groin), defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers (foot) and wide receiver Chris Hogan (ribs/knee) were all limited.