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Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Cardinals' division title a sure bet, right?

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Seahawks, Rams and Lions are the only NFC teams with no chance at earning a playoff berth. A quick look at which NFC teams can clinch in Week 14:

Giants: They can clinch the NFC East title with a victory, or with a tie accompanied by a Cowboys loss, or with a Cowboys loss. They can clinch a first-round playoff bye with a victory, or a tie accompanied by a Cowboys loss, or a Cowboys loss accompanied by a Vikings loss/tie and a Cardinals loss/tie.

Cardinals: They can clinch the NFC West title with a victory, or a tie with a 49ers loss/tie, or with a 49ers loss.

The Cardinals control their divisional destiny, in other words. A home loss to the Rams in Week 14 would do more than keep the 49ers at least mathematically alive in the NFC West race. We would also have grounds to explore the all-time stretch-run collapses.

Can anyone make a reasonable case for the Rams pulling the upset Sunday? I cannot, but if you've followed the Cardinals long enough, perhaps the accumulated cynicism can make such a scenario seem remotely plausible.