The Arizona Cardinals controlled their playoff destiny for a big chunk of last week. Then they didn't for about 24 hours after an inexplicably ugly loss to the 49ers on Saturday.
After Sunday's results, they do once again.
The Cardinals will make the playoffs for the first time since 2015 if they can beat the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. LA is a tough matchup for Arizona despite its recent struggles: The Rams have won seven straight in the series.
Second-year Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury paid attention to the playoff scenarios throughout the weekend, but said he didn't get too emotional about the results.
“You really don’t have the luxury of riding that roller coaster,” Kingsbury said.
It's Kingsbury's job to make sure the Cardinals play much better than they did during Saturday's 20-12 loss to the 49ers, which might have been the most disappointing game of the coach's tenure.
Quarterback Kyler Murray was hurt near the end of the game. Kingsbury — a man of few words when it comes to the injury report — would only say on Monday that it was a “lower leg” issue.
“We’ll see how he feels this week," Kingsbury said. “Hopeful he can be in position to play and do what he does.”
Murray has proven to be a solid passer, but he's at his best when he occasionally pulls the ball down and makes plays with his feet. He's run for 816 yards and 11 touchdowns this season and is averaging more than 6 yards per carry.
If Murray can't play, his backup is 25-year-old Chris Streveler, who has never thrown a pass in an NFL game. He's played in four games this season and ran for a 3-yard touchdown in one of them.
The Rams have their own quarterback issues. Jared Goff had surgery on the thumb of his throwing hand and will miss Sunday's game, coach Sean McVay said.
The Rams' backup is John Wolford, who, like Streveler, hasn't thrown an NFL pass. Kingsbury wasn't particularly concerned about the Rams' quarterback situation.
“The focus is about us improving dramatically,” Kingsbury said.
The Cardinals keep shrugging off injuries to defensive players and are still able to get pressure on the opposing quarterback. Linebacker Haason Reddick has a career-high 12 1/2 sacks after another good game against the 49ers. Now Arizona needs to patch up the run defense, which gave up 227 yards on Saturday.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Kenyan Drake has a career-high 919 yards rushing this season but hasn't had much success over the past few weeks. He's averaging less than 3 yards per carry over the past three games and had 45 yards on 18 carries against the 49ers.
WR Christian Kirk. He was targeted a season-high 10 times on Saturday and caught seven passes for 76 yards. It was his most productive game in nearly two months, though he hasn't found the end zone since Nov. 8.
TE Dan Arnold. At times he's looked like a future star, but Arnold had a rough game on Saturday. He dropped a pass that would have been a 40-plus yard gain and was called for a false start on third down.
RB Chase Edmonds is day to day with a hip injury. He's been a big part of the offense catching passes out of the backfield. The third-year player has a career-high 51 catches for 374 yards and four touchdowns.
111.5 — The Cardinals' rushing yardage per game over the past six weeks. Arizona is 2-4 in those games. The Cardinals averaged 169 yards rushing over the season's first nine games and had a 6-3 record.
The Cardinals have shown flashes of being one of the better teams in the NFL but have also been one of the league's most inconsistent. They have one week to put it together or they'll miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season.