Hat Trick Wanted

The task at hand is clear if the Cardinals are to have a chance to make the playoffs: win three consecutive games. Actually accomplishing that is going to be difficult, even though the final three opponents have a .307 winning percent and have won a total of 12 games this season.

The Cardinals' top two receivers -- Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin -- are hobbling with injuries. The quarterback, Kurt Warner, is coming off one of his worst games, when he threw a career-high five interceptions in a loss at Seattle.

Even if the Cardinals win three straight to finish 9-7, they are far from guaranteed a playoff berth. They must hope that Minnesota falters and that Washington doesn't win out, because the Redskins beat the Cards earlier this season.

"We have to win out to have a chance," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "That's where our focus is right now."

To accomplish it, the Cardinals must reduce the number of turnovers they commit. They're 0-6 this year when committing more turnovers than opponents and 4-0 when they have the advantage.

Four times this year, opponents have turned first-quarter interceptions by Warner into touchdowns, and the Cardinals are 1-3 in those games.

"I think it makes it a lot easier -- and we certainly seem to be more competitive -- when we start faster," Whisenhunt said. "But I think, really, what it comes to do for us is if we don't turn the ball over, especially early, we seem to play better. Or if we get a big play early, either offensively or defensively."

It would help if Boldin and Fitzgerald are able to play.

Boldin missed last week's game at Seattle after suffering a dislocated toe the week before against Cleveland. He worked out before the game in Seattle but coaches decided not to risk using him.

Boldin wore a walking boot at practice on Wednesday, because the toe was still sore from the pregame workout in Seattle. That's not much of an indication that he's he will play on Sunday in Seattle, but Whisenhunt said the toe is better than it was last week.

Fitzgerald played despite a strained left groin. He had it numbed beforehand and wore a support contraption recommended by linebacker Monty Beisel, who wore a similar device several years ago.

Fitzgerald wasn't 100 percent, as he had trouble pushing off and cutting with his left foot. He participated in part of practice on Wednesday, which was an improvement over the previous Wednesday.

Without them, the receiving corps is limited in its weapons. Bryant Johnson is reliable, but the Cardinals aren't sure what they are going to get from players such as Jerheme Urban, Steve Breaston and Sean Morey.

SERIES HISTORY: 25th meeting. Cardinals lead series, 13-11. The Saints are just one of four organizations the Cardinals have a winning record against. The teams last met in 2004, with the Cardinals winning 34-10 in Arizona. The teams have met just once since 2000 and have split their last six meetings.

NOTES, QUOTES

--DE Darnell Docket is taking heat for a facemask penalty he received in the fourth quarter Sunday. Dockett, however, was retaliating for a late hit that wasn't called on Seattle OL Sean Locklear. "It's one of those situations where I'm not going to comment about it, because I know the consequences if I really speak my mind," Dockett said.

--The Cardinals have recovered all three of Neil Rackers' onside kicks this year. Rackers recovered one himself at Seattle, a little dribble that he recovered after it rolled 10 yards. "When they (the Seahawks) were in a six-man front, the guy dropped out of there pretty quick, so we though we would test and see if I was an athlete for once," he said.

--RB Edgerrin James left Indianapolis the year before the Colts won the Super Bowl, but coach Tony Dungy made sure James received a ring just like his former teammates. Dungy said James deserved it for his seven years in Indianapolis. James doesn't plan to wear it, but he appreciated the gesture. "I'll cherish that forever," he said. "I'll put it up high, and hopefully someday I'll match it."

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- Starters the Cardinals have on injured reserve now: QB Matt Leinart, TE Leonard Pope, OLBs Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry, CB Eric Green and SS Adrian Wilson.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It seems to me when we don't turn the ball over, we're a pretty good team. When we do turn the ball over, we make it very difficult on ourselves, which is logical." -- Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt.


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