Cardinals playoff picture: Breaking down Arizona’s seeding scenarios in 2022 NFL bracket



The Cardinals were once considered the team to beat in the NFC. However, a late three-game losing streak sent them tumbling down the standings. They have clinched a playoff berth, but their potential seeding is volatile.

The Packers have clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC, so the Cardinals are going to play on Wild Card weekend. The question is whether it will be at home or on the road as a Wild Card.

Currently, the Cardinals are the No. 5 seed in the NFC. Most likely, they will remain in that spot, but they still have a chance to climb the ladder and win the NFC West.

Below is a breakdown of each seeding option for the Cardinals and which teams they might end up playing in the postseason.

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How the Cardinals can clinch the No. 2 seed

The Cardinals need many things to break in their direction to earn the No. 2 seed. They are as follows:

  • Arizona must beat Seattle AND
  • San Francisco must beat the Los Angeles Rams AND
  • Carolina must beat Tampa Bay.

If those outcomes occur, the Cardinals would be in either a two- or three-way tie for second place in the NFC with the Buccaneers and/or Cowboys. Arizona has a better divisional record than the Bucs and would have a better conference record if the Bucs lose in Week 18 as well, so they would own the tiebreaker over them. The same can be said of the Cowboys.

That said, the 49ers and Panthers opened the week as underdogs, so this is the most unlikely scenario for the team.

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How the Cardinals can earn the No. 3 seed

The path to the No. 3 seed is a bit easier for the Cardinals, as it would only require one significant upset in a divisional rivalry game.

  • Arizona must beat Seattle AND
  • San Francisco must beat the Los Angeles Rams AND
  • Tampa Bay must beat Carolina

The one difference in this scenario is that the Buccaneers would have to win for the Cardinals to be the No. 3 seed. That would make the Bucs 13-4 compared to the 12-5 Cardinals, so the Cardinals wouldn’t be able to leapfrog them via tiebreakers.

Instead, Arizona would be the No. 3 seed, regardless of the result in the Cowboys vs. Eagles game. The Cardinals beat the Cowboys head-to-head, so they own the tiebreaker over Dallas.

Can the Cardinals be the No. 4 seed?

The Cardinals can’t be the No. 4 seed. If they win and the Rams lose, the Cardinals are guaranteed to have either the Nos. 2 or 3 seeds. Why? Because they would win the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys and would come out on top in a three-way tie if the Buccaneers lose to the Panthers. That prevents them from dropping to the No. 4 seed.

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How the Cardinals can earn the No. 5 seed

The No. 5 seed remains the most likely outcome for the Cardinals. That’s where they are penciled in right now. They need only one of two outcomes to occur:

  • Arizona loses or ties against Seattle OR
  • Los Angeles loses or ties against San Francisco

If any of these outcomes occur, the Rams will have a better record than the Cardinals and will win the NFC West. That said, the Cardinals, with 11 wins, cannot be caught in the Wild Card race, so if they don’t win the NFC West, they will be the No. 5 seed.

Potential playoff opponents for the Cardinals

The Cardinals could face five potential opponents in the NFC playoffs. They are as follows:

  • If the Cardinals are the No. 2 seed, they will host the Eagles.
  • If the Cardinals are the No. 3 seed, they will host the 49ers.
  • If the Cardinals are the No. 5 seed, they will play on the road against either the Buccaneers, Rams or Cowboys.

The Cowboys remain the most likely opponent for the Cardinals, as Dallas has the most combinations of results that keeps it in the No. 4 seed. And the Cardinals have a 77 percent chance to be the No. 5 seed, per FiveThirtyEight, so a Cardinals-Cowboys rematch seems to be the most likely outcome.


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