It looks like the Arizona Cardinals might have found a formula for success.
Carson Palmer played efficient football, going 13 for 18 with 2 touchdowns and just one interception.
The defense picked off Matt Ryan four times, and helped lead the Cards to a 27-13 win over Atlanta on Sunday.
And let's not forget the biggest story of the game.
Andre Ellington, a rookie running back who was thought to simply provide depth, has given Arizona's rushing attack new life.
The former standout from Clemson rushed for 154 yards and a touchdown while averaging over 10 yards per carry. That type of running has not been seen in Arizona for quite some time.
With that victory, Arizona now sits at 4-4 and is 3rd behind Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West. While it's unlikely that they will catch either of those teams, particularly due to their 0-3 divisional record, a wild card slot is certainly in play.
The NFC as a whole is relatively weak this year. Yes, it is top heavy with the likes of Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Green Bay, but after that it's tough to guess as to who will grab that last wild card spot.
The NFC East is the weakest division in football, so only the division winner will be in the postseason. The West will likely have either Seattle or San Francisco winning the division, while the other gets the first wild card. New Orleans is in good shape to win their division, while Detroit and Green Bay will battle for the NFC North crown. Without Cutler, Chicago will have little chance to make the playoffs.
Ultimately, the last wild card slot will come down to three teams: Arizona (4-4), Detroit (5-3), and Carolina (4-3). Keep in mind that Arizona has already beaten both of those teams head-to-head.
Carolina is a dangerous team right now. Cam Newton is finding a rhythm, the ground game is efficient, and the defense is underrated. As I mentioned in a previous article, their status as a wild card contender is certainly valid. Since their loss to the Cardinals, they have looked like a different team.
Detroit is riding its high horse right now, but a superhuman effort from Calvin Johnson barely got them a win against an average Dallas team. They have concerns in the secondary, as well as a legitimate, consistant 3rd option behind Megatron and Reggie Bush.
So the question remains: Will Arizona be the team that grabs that last spot? Although I believe that Arizona has a decent chance to contend for a wild card, the answer is no for two simple reasons. Number one, Carolina is one of the hottest teams right now, riding a three game winning streak, and they simply have a better offense than Arizona and will be tough to beat moving forward. As does Detroit, which leads me to my next and possibly most important point: While the Cardinals and Panthers have moderately tough schedules ahead, Detroit likely has the easiest remaining stretch in the league. They only play two teams with a winning record (Chicago and Green Bay). That's it. The remaining six teams all have losing records.
Ultimately, as much as I would love for Arizona to make the postseason this year, those factors cannot be ignored. Bruce Arians has done a tremendous job with this Arizona team, and they have much to build on going forward. While they will likely miss out this year, look out for Arizona in the seasons to come.