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Cardinals Visit Titans Chasing NFC Wild-Card Spot

Posted Dec 14, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Arizona Cardinals need no advanced calculus for their playoff hopes. Their basic math is simply beat the Titans first, then worry about what's next.

Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer says doing anything else is just a waste of time.

"You can't worry about what this team does, what that team does, what these two division teams do," Palmer said. "You can't. You get caught up. You need to focus on one game at a time. Because at the end of the day, if you don't focus and take care of the game at hand or the game that's on the schedule that week, that other stuff doesn't matter."

The Cardinals (8-5) visit Tennessee on Sunday only one game behind Carolina and San Francisco, both 9-4, for one of the NFC's two wild-card berths. Consider this a must win with Arizona wrapping up at Seattle before hosting the 49ers in the season finale.

"You look ahead, you're going to be sitting at home losing," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.

The Titans (5-8) have their own issues, having lost two straight and seven of the last nine. Their last home win was Sept. 29, and coach Mike Munchak may need to win out to keep his job after three seasons and a 20-25 record overall. His job and the future have been the biggest topics this week after their ugliest loss of the season, 51-28 at Denver.

Munchak said he understands people are impatient, but the Titans have yet to be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

"There's still a couple percent chance, two or three I hear, so we're going to play the odds on that still (until) we're told we're not," Munchak said. "So I think you're going to see us at our best against a good football team. Let's let the season finish and decide what is best for this team."

The Titans are catching an Arizona team that has won five of six, including a 30-10 rout of St. Louis last week. Palmer's right elbow was no issue in that game as he completed a career-best 84.4 percent of his passes.

Five things to watch Sunday as the Cardinals try to clinch a winning season and the Titans try to match last season's win total:

AFC SOUTH: These teams haven't played each other since 2009, but Arians is very familiar with both Tennessee and the AFC South, having been interim coach with the Colts last season. Now the Cardinals have a chance to go 4-0 against that division. Arizona hasn't swept an interconference series since realignment in 2002. Arians said there's no doubt his familiarity with the division helps and now hopes to tap his experience against Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and senior defensive assistant Gregg Williams one more time.

STINGY D: The Cardinals have one of the NFL's best defenses since the midpoint of the season. They currently rank fifth overall, giving up 311.7 yards, and third against the run, but their numbers are even better since the eighth week, when they have allowed the fewest yards per game (267.3) and the least yards rushing (70) in the league. Arizona has held opponents to 15 or fewer points in six games this season, second only to Carolina (8).

WALKER'S BACK: The Titans lost at Indianapolis and at Denver with tight end Delanie Walker out with a concussion. He's expected back this week, giving a big boost to the offense. Walker is having his best year with 45 catches, and Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick called him a crucial target in the red zone, where the tight end has five touchdown catches.

MISSING ABRAHAM: The Titans talked repeatedly with John Abraham this offseason before the Cardinals signed the veteran as a pass-rush specialist on third down. Then Arizona lost three linebackers in a defeat at New Orleans in September. Now Abraham has 11 sacks and four forced fumbles in his past seven games.

HOME AGAIN: The Titans haven't played in Nashville in a month thanks to a three-game road trip, and haven't won at home since Sept. 29, when quarterback Jake Locker was hurt for the first time this season in a rout of the Jets. Locker will miss a total of nine games this season.

"If you're going to win in this league, you need to have a quarterback that played every weekend," Munchak said.

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