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Still Something To Play For


Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt addresses his team after they beat the Rams, 34-10, Sunday to clinch the NFC West division championship.

Apparently, little or no sleep is now the norm for Ken Whisenhunt after games.

The last time the Cards played, the head coach was up all night flying back from Philadelphia and mulling his team's terrible performance against the Eagles. Monday, he was working on a lack of slumber again, this time because he was celebrating his team's NFC West championship after beating the Rams, 34-10 Sunday.

"This time, it is a good thing," Whisenhunt said.

The sense of accomplishment was palpable with the Cards after their clinching win, but making it only the first step was a crucial part of Whisenhunt's message.

Playing for seeding is the next step, with the hope – no matter how long of a shot it may be – that the Cards can climb up to the No. 2 spot and earn a first-round bye. Prior to Monday night's game between NFC South co-leaders Tampa Bay and Carolina, the Cards knew one will have a 10-3 record by Tuesday. Catching whichever team wins the South will be difficult with the Cards at 8-5.

"I'm certainly not going to rule that out," Whisenhunt said. "The only thing I don't like about it is we need some help. But it's something we can fight for.

"So much can change in this league in one week."

More importantly, the Cards need to beat the Vikings – also 8-5 – this weekend. Rising to a No. 2 seed will be tough, but a loss to Minnesota would knock the Cards into the fourth seed with the Vikings taking the No. 3 seed.

That would come into play in the second round of the playoffs, because the No. 4 seed would likely have to play in New York against the Giants in the NFC divisional round.

In the aftermath of the historic clinching Sunday, players were insisting they were not satisfied with just a division title.

"Let's try to win the Big One," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "We ain't got nothing to lose. Nothing. We ain't the defending champions, we ain't the ex-Super Bowl champions. I mean, if you look at Vegas, probably one in 27 million picked us to win the division and even get into the playoffs. So when we get in there, let's shock some people."

Whisenhunt reiterated he would hesitate resting any players at the end of the season, fearing that they would lose their edge heading into the playoffs.

Right now, however, the Cards don't have to worry about such things and may be playing for a seeding all the way through the season finale against the Seahawks.

Keeping momentum may be the Cards' most important goal right now.

"We've got to keep the fire burning," fullback Terrelle Smith said. "We've got to keep the fire burning and add fuel to the fire, and bring in some wood and sticks, maybe put some roasted marshmallows on top of it and keep it going."


Whisenhunt said he was not optimistic about the status of linebacker Clark Haggans, who reinjured the same foot against the Rams that had kept him out the previous two games. Losing Haggans long-term would be a blow to the defense, which has used a rotation of Haggans and Chike Okeafor to its advantage this season.

Contact Darren Urban at Posted 12/8/08.

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