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Prepping For Playoffs -- and Packers?

Cards can still be second seed after Vikings' loss, but odds remain two straight versus Green Bay

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Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals already hosted the Packers in the preseason, and there is a good chance, after a regular-season visit, Green Bay will be back for the playoffs.
 
 
With one week left in the regular season – a home game against the Packers – the Cardinals know they are in the playoffs.

They know that, unless the Vikings lose next week at home against the Giants, they will play the Packers at home the first playoff weekend.

Facing the Packers two weeks in a row leaves many questions about the extent of the play-calling and how much starters will play for both sides. Trying to earn a No. 3 seed instead of No. 4 may not be worth it to coach Ken Whisenhunt to expose his team to Green Bay in any way.

"I don't know if there's going to be any clear cut indication of what's going to happen until possibly right before the game," Whisenhunt said Monday.

Or even during the game, thanks to the Dallas-Philadelphia game – which is the linchpin of every Cardinal scenario – having its kickoff moved later, to 2:15 p.m. Arizona time, and running concurrently with Cardinals-Packers.

"We'll go ahead and plan and prepare like we're playing Green Bay (this weekend) for a game of significance," Whisenhunt said. "If that changes, at least we've gotten a good week of preparation in because there is chance we could play a Saturday game (in the first round)."

The Cardinals' scenarios are relatively simple. With the Vikings' dramatic overtime loss in Chicago Monday night, the Cards can still be No. 2 if the Vikings lose again to New York and the Cowboys defeat the Eagles – assuming a Cardinals' win against Green Bay.

There is one possibility left for the Cards to not be the second seed and not play the Packers. If the Cards win, the Eagles win and the Vikings lose, the Eagles would soar to No. 2 and the Cards and Vikings would be tied with an 11-5 record. The Cards, having beaten Minnesota, would be No. 3 and the Vikings No. 4. The Packers, in that scenario, would be No. 5 and Dallas would be No. 6.

In that case, the Cowboys would visit the Cards.

But every other what-if has the Packers coming to Arizona, whether it is as a 3-6 matchup or as a 4-5.

"Right now," Whisenhunt said, "I can't tell you (achieving the No. 3 seed) would make a difference."

At least the Cards have some higher seeding to play for, while the Packers go into this game knowing they are probably going to have to play every playoff game on the road regardless of the first outcome against the Cards.

Not surprisingly, Packers coach Mike McCarthy heard the same questions Monday himself.

"I think, frankly, a lot of this gets overhyped, game-planning and so forth," McCarthy told reporters. "Football is about fundamentals and the people that do that win games. Putting this individual against that individual, yeah, you try and do that but also the opponent has the ability to grab the chalk and get on the board too and take that away. That component never changes.

"If we do play them in two weeks, great, we'll be ready. If we don't, we're going to make sure we are ready to play them this week."

McCarthy also said he was leaning against staying the week in Arizona even if the Packers played here twice, because it was better to stay in a regular routine of flying home and practicing in Green Bay.

There is a chance Sunday's game will end up a version of a glorified exhibition, with backup quarterbacks Matt Leinart (who threw for 360 yards in the preseason against Green Bay) and Matt Flynn handling most of the duties instead of Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers.

Keeping players sharp is important, Whisenhunt acknowledged, although he noted the passing game came together nicely a week after being out of sync in Detroit.

"But it's going to be awfully hard to keep Kurt (Warner) or Larry (Fitzgerald) or Anquan (Boldin) off the field," Whisenhunt said. "I'm just telling you that right now up front. We tried to get Larry off the field (Sunday) when he dinged his elbow and he wouldn't come out.

"Even though we weren't as efficient last week against Detroit, I feel like we moved that way (Sunday). That's going to be a big factor for these guys wanting to play this week, just to keep that rolling."

EXTRA POINTS

The Cardinals came out of the Rams' game fairly healthy. Whisenhunt had no new updates on Fitzgerald or cornerback Greg Toler, but both didn't expect their elbow injuries to be serious. …

Whisenhunt said after further review, he had overstated protection problems after the game. "I'm not disappointed at all with the way those guys (on the offensive line) played," he said. …

Whisenhunt is optimistic tight end Ben Patrick (concussion) and kicker Neil Rackers (groin) can return this week.

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