The margin for error for the Cardinals is thinner than it's been in years. A loss to Atlanta puts the Cardinals at 4-6-1. Even a five-game win streak to finish the season wouldn't guarantee the Cards anything with regard to the postseason.
But entering Sunday's game with the Falcons, there is still hope for a playoff run. Here are three ways the Cardinals can fix their season:
1. Improve pass protection -- This is a big ask, given the number of injuries the Cardinals have on the offensive line. Carson
Palmer had very little time to throw against Minnesota, and when he did have time, he wasn't very accurate. Palmer has been sacked 18 times the last four games and he's thrown five interceptions during that span. Palmer hasn't had a great season and his receivers -- other than Larry Fitzgerald -- have been inconsistent. But poor offensive line play breaks down the engine before it can even get started. Rhythm and timing is off. The Cardinals' offensive line also must improve in pass protection or their offense is one-dimensional. Granted, it's not a bad dimension, as David Johnson averaged almost five yards per carry last weekend rushing for over 100 yards.
2. Special Teams -- I don't think I've ever witnessed a Cardinals team play this poorly on special teams. Whether it is kick and punt returns, kick and punt coverage, or the kicks themselves, the Cardinals have simply lost games this year because of their bad transition play. The Cardinals need to make a big kick, or get a big return to spark the rest of the team Sunday against Atlanta.
3. A healthy Tyrann Mathieu -- This is probably not fair to the Badger given how he's battled back from several devastating injuries, but the Cards need his presence and leadership more than anything. Injuries have ruined his season so far. They derailed the Cardinals' Super Bowl hopes last year. Mathieu is the heart and soul of the defense, and perhaps the entire team. Mathieu is one of the best defensive players in football when healthy, because he creates turnovers. Hopefully, he plays this Sunday and makes an impact.
The Cardinals still have hope, but the window is rapidly closing. If the Cardinals can put a checkmark next to the three boxes listed above, they can beat Atlanta and keep that playoff window open.