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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Octavio from Los Angeles writes: Hi Sando! I had a dream that the Arizona Cardinals lost the remaining games of the season and the San Francisco 49ers won every one of them, thus getting into the playoffs with a 7-9 record. Is it possible or can I still dream?
Mike Sando: The 49ers would be 8-8 if they won the remainder of their games. If that happened and the Cardinals lost out, San Francisco would indeed win the division.
Of course, the Cardinals would have to lose three times at home, including twice against division teams. Not likely.
The 49ers could not win the division with a 7-9 record. Arizona's sweep against the 49ers, met with skepticism when predicted here, severely diminished the odds for San Francisco.
Mike Sando: My initial thought was that the Cardinals might have been protecting Adrian Wilson's injured shoulder on a short week. But it's also clear the Cardinals were concerned about their cornerback situation without Rod Hood, and for good reason. Eric Green and Ralph Brown can be vulnerable. We covered this pretty thoroughly in an item Friday, with an assist from tespy321.
Mike Sando: Before this season, I thought Seattle would hold it together for 2008, then possibly watch Arizona win the division in 2009. The Seahawks' injuries and Kurt Warner's strong play changed the dynamics this season. Also, Seattle has not handled adversity well and I think the impending coaching transition did not help.
The Cardinals' quarterback situation will determine whether Arizona can rule the division for the next few years. It's tough to know what the future holds for Warner or Matt Leinart. I give the Cardinals as good a chance as anyone, but fortunes turn quickly -- particularly for teams with long-term questions at quarterback.
Mike Sando: Leroy Hill has been one of the two or three best players on that defense this season, in my view. Brandon Mebane has also played well, and Marcus Trufant is a good player. I see the Seahawks finding a way to keep Hill next season, even if it means naming him the franchise player. Hill suffered a stinger injury against the Cowboys. The extended period between games should give him a decent chance of playing in Week 14, although we won't know more until Mike Holmgren addresses reporters Monday.
As for Atkins, we've certainly seen more from him than Lawrence Jackson. Atkins has done more than expected from a guy considered a potential bubble player coming out of camp. I would play him extensively down the stretch to see if he projects as a starter next season. Seattle needs one of its ends to step up and Atkins has come closer than the others recently.
Mike Sando: The AFC West isn't exactly hot right now, but no question, the NFC West is brutally bad. The Cardinals could have clinched at 8-3. Since 1998, no team with fewer than 10 victories has clinched a division that early. We touched on this recently.
Mike Sando: Thanks, James. I could see adopting a safeguard that allows a non-division champion with a great record to earn a playoff spot against any division winner with a record worse than 8-8. Let's be honest here. I'm going to favor the current setup because it allows for eight ESPN.com divisional bloggers.