Cardinals Prepare for Regular Season Finale

Ken Whisenhunt (Getty)

The Arizona Cardinals enter Week 17 with a record of 10-5 and a chance to move up in the playoff seedings. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt discusses the game plan for Sunday's matchup against the Green Bay Packers, which players will be back in action and much more inside.

INSIDE SLANT

With the possibility the Cardinals will play the Packers in the opening round of the playoffs, one week after the teams meet to end the regular season, Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt will face a decision about how seriously to take the season finale.

It could be tempting for Whisenhunt to rest his starters and to use a mundane game plan in Sunday's home game.

The Cardinals could wind up with the third or fourth seed in the NFC, but in either scenario they still could play the Packers in the first round.

"Some of it revolves around the health of our team, and if there's anything that pops up," Whisenhunt said. "I will have a better feel for that Wednesday or (Tuesday)."

The Cardinals are in reasonably good health, but as with most teams, they have plenty of players nursing bumps and bruises.

The club hasn't had a bye since the fourth week of the season, so resting some key players, including quarterback Kurt Warner, will be tempting.

But Whisenhunt likes the rhythm his offense displayed last week against the Rams, and he isn't anxious to do anything to disrupt that.

Thus it would be surprising to see him rest Warner and starters such as receiver Anquan Boldin and receiver Larry Fitzgerald for more than a half.

"It's going to be awful hard to keep Kurt or Larry (Fitzgerald) or Anquan off the field," Whisenhunt said. "I'm just telling you that right up front. Those guys want to play, especially when they feel like they are in a little bit of rhythm."


NOTES, QUOTES

--The Cardinals have won 10 games this season for the first time since 1976. In that same period, the Cardinals have lost at least 10 games 18 times.

--The Cardinals have had three consecutive non-losing seasons for the first time since 1982-84. The Cardinals also went through the season without consecutive losses for the first time since 1975.

--Players who had been with the team through the lean years celebrated this season's 10th victory. In Arizona, it was cause to smile.

"The young guys really don't know," defensive end Darnell Dockett said. "For guys who have been around here playing at Sun Devil Stadium with those terrible uniforms, locked up in a little box locker room, it means a lot to us."

--Strong safety Adrian Wilson became the 10th player in NFL history to record 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in his career. After getting a sack on Sunday against the Rams, Wilson was congratulated at his locker by Cardinals great Larry Wilson, a Hall of Fame safety.

"It meant a lot to me," Adrian Wilson said, "to know that he was the guy who invented the safety blitz and revolutionized the game. You have to be appreciative of the people who came before and laid those bricks down."


STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES


--K Neil Rackers is expected to kick in practice this week after missing two games with a torn groin muscle. Rackers might not return until the first round of the playoffs, however.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald suffered a left elbow contusion but is expected to be available for Sunday's game against the Packers.

--CB Greg Toler suffered a left elbow contusion, but X-rays revealed no fracture, and Toler is expected to return to action.

--WR Early Doucet caught the first touchdown pass of his career, an 18-yard pass from QB Kurt Warner.

--S Rashad Johnson played better in his role in the dime packages than the week before. CB Bryant Johnson gave up the Rams' only touchdown.

--LT Jeremy Bridges struggled in pass protection against Rams DE Chris Long. Long beat Bridges to the outside a handful of times and was effective against the run, too.

--OLB Will Davis could play this week after missing five games because of a knee injury. Davis practiced last week but was inactive for the game.


REPORT CARD VS. RAMS

PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Kurt Warner passed for 313 yards and two touchdowns, but he was sacked twice and lost a fumble. The protection has to improve.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The Cardinals gained 110 yards but averaged just 3.4 yards a carry. The run blocking was not up to the standards set the previous few weeks.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- The Cardinals intercepted three passes and sacked QB Keith Null three times. The degree of difficulty wasn't great, but the Cardinals played well.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Rams were without Steven Jackson, so the Cardinals didn't have to do much. The Rams gained 88 yards on 21 carries.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- K Mike Nugent and P Ben Graham had solid days, but the Rams had a punt return of 34 yards, and Nugent's kickoffs were short.

COACHING: A -- Coach Ken Whisenhunt made a risky decision giving his team an extra day off last week, but the Cardinals responded with a solid effort. The team didn't do too many fancy things.

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