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Top-Seeded Cardinals Aren't Thinking About Playoff Position Yet

Post-bye trip to Chicago is opportunity to go 7-0 on road

The Cardinals wait to come out of the tunnel before their most recent game in Seattle.
The Cardinals wait to come out of the tunnel before their most recent game in Seattle.

The Cardinals have had their share of successful regular-season and postseason runs.

But never in the modern era have they finished with the top seed in the NFC.

Ahead of their matchup Sunday in Chicago (4-7), that is something on pace to change. Through 13 games this season, the Cardinals have the best record in the entire league. Only two of its six upcoming opponents currently reside in the playoffs -- a reason Football Outsiders believe in the Cardinals' ability to maintain the spot.

However, Kliff Kingsbury said the focus is only on the next team ahead on their schedule, instead of the possibility of finishing with the top seed in the conference.

"It's really just a week-to-week focus," the coach said. "Guys understand what's at stake but that's never been our focus."

Their ability to stay atop the NFC standings hinges on the outcome of Sunday's game. Since Green Bay defeated the Cardinals in Week 8, it holds the head-to-head tiebreaker between the teams. The Packers are on a bye this week, but would regain the top spot should the Cardinals lose.

But like Kingsbury, cornerback Marco Wilson said he rather not ponder about big-picture scenarios.

"Honestly, I take it week-by-week," the rookie said. "Focus on the opponent ahead of us and keep doing that until the season is over. I feel like if you think too far ahead, you might get distracted by things not in the present right now. So, we're focused on right now."

Chicago has dropped five of its past six games and starting quarterback Justin Fields will miss his second consecutive game with a rib injury. It leaves Andy Dalton, who has 145 starts in his career, to take the snaps under center. The Cardinals beat up the Cowboys in Dallas, 38-10, last season when Dalton started for Dallas.

Dalton has completed 64 percent of his passes for 788 yards, four touchdowns, and a pair of interceptions this season. Chicago ranks 30th in total offense. Only Seattle and Houston average fewer yards this season.

The Cardinals have been dominant on the road this season. With at least a 10-point victory on Sunday, the Cardinals will become the third team in NFL history to capture seven straight road wins by double digits in one season.

The Cardinals also hope to welcome back its dynamic duo in quarterback Kyler Murray and wideout DeAndre Hopkins after both missed the previous three games due to injuries.

Yet several Super Bowl contenders have lost to under .500 teams this season, so linebacker Isaiah Simmons refuses to view Sunday as a guaranteed win.

"It's even happened to us," Simmons said. "Last year, we lost plenty of games to teams we probably shouldn't have lost. This year we lost one to Carolina (5-7). I don't care what your record is, the way the NFL is; you can lose on any given day. Everybody on that field is a pro. If you don't execute and pay attention to details within the assignment, anybody can lose."