The goal of every NFL team is to be in playoff contention as the season hits the stretch run. But a secondary, and in some ways more important, goal is to be playing at peak performance levels headed into those final crucial contests.
One team that fits the description outlined above is the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals' 6-4 record places them on the precipice of landing one of the wild-card spots in the NFC, and they have reached that mark in part because of their current three-game winning streak (tied for third longest in the league).
Those victories are indicative of their performance level, as many metric and game tape scouting notes point toward this team hitting on playoff-caliber cylinders.
Let's examine why the Cardinals have become intriguing to watch down the stretch and why they can make the playoffs.
The Palmer effect
It starts with Carson Palmer. Through the first seven weeks of the season, Palmer could hardly make a claim to be playing even at a mediocre pace, as his 32.2 Total QBR mark ranked 32nd out of 36 qualifying quarterbacks.
Since then, Palmer has seen a complete statistical turnaround, as his 74.4 Total QBR in that time frame ranks fourth out of 32 qualifying quarterbacks.