Running back Robert Hughes and the Cardinals still must play four NFC West games in their final six.
Bruce Arians mentioned after Sunday's win over the Lions that "nothing's won, nothing's lost" despite his Cardinals owning an NFL-best 9-1 record.
The reasoning for that is simple, which Arians made clear Monday when asked to evaluate the balance of the Cardinals' schedule.
"Hard as hell," Arians said.
The Cardinals can't complain about the spot they are in after 10 games, not with a three-game lead in the NFC West, a two-game lead over everybody in the NFC and a perfect record in conference play. But there is a reason they would want to focus on a game at
a time. Of the six games left, four are on the road. Four are against NFC West opponents, none of which provide an easy game. One of the home games is against streaking Kansas City, which has been playing a lot like a physical NFC West team.
Splitting what is left might not be enough to win the NFC – not with the Packers playing like they are – but it might be enough to earn a bye. Then again, the Cardinals have higher aspirations at this point.
Just don't ask them to get too deep into such talk.
"We have a long road ahead of us, but methodically every single week we're taking care of business, and that's what we set out to do," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.
The NFL intentionally skews the schedule so that many division games across the league are played later in the season, in order to help division titles go down to the wire. With two games against the Seahawks alone – including this weekend in Seattle – the Cardinals know things can change without wins.
But that also means the Cards can be helped by such scheduling. The Seahawks and 49ers must still play twice, meaning one of
those teams will have to lose those games and lose some sort of ground in their chase of the Cards.
"You knew that December was going to be huge," Arians said.
The Cardinals' current six-game winning streak is the team's longest since a seven-game streak in 1974. The defense is playing as well as it has not only this season, but dating back to last season when the Cards hadn't suffered any personnel losses.
"We've been doing a pretty good job just taking it week by week," tackle Jared Veldheer said. "You have to. We know there are big games coming up, and really, each game gets bigger and bigger as you keep winning. No one is looking ahead."
That means the Seahawks this week, before a trip to NFC South-leading Atlanta (despite a 4-6 record) the following week. Only St. Louis – which gets to host the Cards on what promises to be a brutal Thursday night trip against the physical Rams – isn't in playoff contention of the final five opponents.
Nevertheless, the Cardinals are in the best position of all of them, because they are 9-1.
Linebacker Larry Foote said the players should use the 9-1 record as motivation. He also said they should enjoy it, because it is an impressive feat, as unlikely as it was. Safety Deone Bucannon was asked if he saw such a record coming when the team was in training camp.
"I'm just a rookie," Bucannon said. "I didn't see anything."