Ken Whisenhunt (Otto Greule Jr./Getty)
In his post-game speech last Sunday, coach Ken Whisenhunt emphasized to his players the need to finish strong in the final two games. He didn't say that because he thinks an 8-8 record is something about which to brag, but because he wants to enter the off-season on a positive note.
"Our record is certainly not where we wanted it to be," he said, "and we feel like we're a better team that our record indicated. Our guys have played hard. Maybe not always smart like we'd like to be, but that's a process that we're growing and learning from, and we're going to get better."
Last Sunday's loss to New Orleans, coupled with the Vikings' victory on Monday night, eliminated the Cardinals from playoff contention. They will look back upon this season and curse the two games they lost to the lowly 49ers.
Still, an 8-8 record would be a decent accomplishment, especially given that it's Whisenhunt's first year. In their previous 19 years in Arizona, the Cardinals have finished at .500 or better only twice: they were 8-8 in 1994 and 9-7 in 1998.
A .500 record is "not something we'd be happy with," Whisenhunt said.
He's encouraged that he detects that same sentiment among his players. "You'd certainly rather see that than apathy from guys who don't care, who are just trying to play it out."
--QB Kurt Warner thinks he has played well enough this year to challenge Matt Leinart for the starting job in 2008. But that's not expected to happen.
--QB Tim Rattay won't play in the final two games unless Kurt Warner gets hurt or plays poorly.
--RB Edgerrin James has 1,052 rushing yards this season. It's the first time a Cardinals runner has had consecutive 1,000-yard seasons since Ottis Anderson in 1983-84.
--RB Marcel Shipp isn't getting much action. He plays some in goal-line and other short-yardage situations.
--RB J.J. Arrington is playing some in passing situations but he won't touch the ball much.
--WR Larry Fitzgerald likely will be limited again in practice because of a sore groin. Fitzgerald was the team's only Pro Bowl selection this year.
--WR Anquan Boldin should be able to play Sunday. He played last week with a sore toe and suffered no ill effects.
--WR Bryant Johnson has been a solid No. 3 receiver but he could leave via free agency after this season.
--TE Ben Patrick, a rookie, is now the starter. He's an excellent receiver who needs to become a better blocker.
--TE Troy Bienemann is raw but he has good hands. He might never be a front-line player but he could develop into a serviceable one.
--K Neil Rackers has missed six of nine kicks from 50 yards and beyond, including a 54-yarder last week.
--SS Aaron Francisco has moved into the starting lineup following his return from knee and calf injuries. He replaced Oliver Celestin, who was starting because of injuries to Adrian Wilson and Francisco.
--DE Darnell Dockett had eight sacks in the first eight games but hasn't had one in the past six.