NFC West: Brian Robinson
|Chris Morrison/US Presswire|
|Quarterback Kurt Warner and the rest of the Cardinals came out flat in a 35-14 home loss to the Vikings.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Appearing content with their recently won NFC West title, the Arizona Cardinals invited all manner of ridicule about their playoff worthiness during a 35-14 home defeat to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
The playoff seeding they potentially squandered will not matter much if they lose in the first round.
Given that the Cardinals won't be facing another NFC West team in the playoffs, their postseason shelf life appears unlikely to extend past one week. Arizona is 5-0 against division opponents and 3-6 against varsity teams this season.
"There are no excuses," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We are a good football team. We won our division. We know we are going to the playoffs. But we have to play better over these next two games in order to get prepared for that."
The Vikings had more at stake in this Week 15 game and it showed. The New England Patriots, still fighting for their AFC East lives, will have more at stake when the Cardinals visit Gillette Stadium in Week 16.
Winning the NFC West with three games to spare has put the Cardinals at additional risk. The team hasn't had much practice handling success. It's tough to pretend the stakes are high when the other team has much more to lose.
"Today we didn't approach that game like we had something to win and something to reach for, and it showed on the field," Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "We played lackadaisical today, then in the second half we came out swinging like we had something to fight for. We showed spurts, but we can't start that flat ever again."
The Cardinals are not a particularly mature team. They have continued to rank among the most penalized teams in the league. They have not consistently risen to the level of their opposition. They do not finish plays or games consistently. And they are one-dimensional on offense to a fault.
They are also division champions for the first time in 33 years, which makes this season a success no matter what happens next.
"The thing we have to understand is this is a growing process," Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner said. "We're not a great football team and we have to get better to be one of those teams that can go in and dominate teams week in and week out. It's a process."
Ten more observations focusing mostly on the Cardinals: