Five games remain, including pair of nationally televised contestsDarren Urban
As the Cardinals take their bye weekend off, they are still staring at the No. 7 - just not the one they had hoped.
The plan had been to find their way into, at worst, the seventh playoff seed and return to the postseason. Instead, with five games left and a 4-8 record, the Cardinals are currently sitting with the seventh draft pick overall, which would be their highest choice since taking Kyler Murray No. 1 in 2019.
There was also a certain resignation after Sunday's loss to the Chargers. The conversation is still about playing their best football going forward and showing what they can be. The motivation, out of necessity, has changed.
"There are a lot of implications on this one," Murray said. "Understanding where we're at, how the season has gone, where we could have gone."
The Cardinals haven't been eliminated from the playoffs yet, and they cannot be regardless of how Week 13 plays out while they rest.
But there are other goals and paths to seek over the balance of the season, among them:
Working further to develop the offense that can maximize both DeAndre Hopkins and Hollywood Brown in the lineup;Developing rookies Trey McBride, Myjai Sanders, Cameron Thomas and now, with the Eno Benjamin situation, probably Keaontay Ingram too;Potentially look into contract extensions with so many free agents expected in the offseason, including defensive lineman Zach Allen and cornerback Byron Murphy (although the Cardinals, according to the NFLPA, have only $2.9 million in salary cap room in part because of all the injuries and subsequent roster moves);Determine to what level cornerback Marco Wilson can play (and to a lesser extent, Trayvon Mullen) to figure out what to do at the position in the offseason (assuming Murphy returns);See if Murray can find his early-2021 groove, particularly with the absent deep ball.
It's an interesting final stretch of games. The 49ers have the best defense in football and a trip to the Bay Area is waiting to end the season. But the rest of the schedule - Patriots on "Monday Night Football," at Broncos, Buccaneers on Christmas night on "Sunday Night Football," at Falcons - isn't teeming with juggernauts, even though all but the Broncos are chasing postseason spots.
Then again, most are in a better position with their record than the Cardinals, who will come back from the bye hoping to show consistency that they haven't yet been able.
"At the end of the day when it's time to work we work," safety Budda Baker said. "We've got five more opportunities. We (have to) take the best of those opportunities because this league stands for not for long. We've got five more opportunities to play some good football and that's the plan that we're going to do."