TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - The term ``must win'' is tossed around liberally, and often meaninglessly, in sports.
It's a reality now for the beaten, banged-up Arizona Cardinals.
In the mediocre NFC, Arizona's 6-7 record is good enough to keep the Cardinals in contention for the conference's second wild-card berth, but they know that not only do they have to win at New Orleans on Sunday, but also beat Atlanta and St. Louis to wrap up the regular season.
``I don't think there's any other way for us to get to where we want to go unless we win our last three,'' quarterback Kurt Warner said after Wednesday's practice. ``It starts this week. We definitely have to win this game.''
Minnesota, at 7-6, is the leader for that final playoff spot, with Arizona, New Orleans, Detroit and Washington all a game back.
The depleted Cardinals are trying to shake off the team's most one-sided loss of the season, 41-21 at Seattle last Sunday.
Arizona lost another starter in the game, tight end Leonard Pope, who dislocated his right ankle. He is the Cardinals' seventh starter out for the season because of injury. Rookie Ben Patrick takes Pope's place, with Troy Bienemann his backup. Arizona also re-signed tight end Tim Euhus.
The 6-foot-8 Pope, in his second NFL season, caught 23 passes for 238 yards and five touchdowns.
``I'm disappointed for Leonard because he made a lot of strides for us this year,'' coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ``He did some good things, and he was improving as a football player, and that was a position we had questions about all the way back to camp.''
Then there is the wounded receiving duo of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.
Boldin sat out Sunday's game with a dislocated toe on his left foot. He did some running before the game but said team doctors held him out. He was back in a protective boot on Wednesday.
Fitzgerald played on Sunday but was noticeably bothered by a strained left groin and was limited in practice.
``I feel all right,'' said Fitzgerald, who still leads the NFC with receptions, one more than Torry Holt of St. Louis and Jason Witten of Dallas. ``I feel better than I felt last week. I wouldn't say I'm at 100 percent but I'm getting better every day.''
Limping noticeably between plays, Fitzgerald caught six passes for 79 yards against Seattle.
``That's my job. That's why they hired me here a couple of years ago, to go out there and perform every week,'' Fitzgerald said. ``If I feel I can go out there and be of some use, I'm going to go ahead and try to line up and play.''
Refusing to use injuries as an excuse, Whisenhunt instead sees the situation as an opportunity for Bryant Johnson, Jerheme Urban, Sean Morey and Steve Briesten - all receivers.
``It was never an issue that I made an excuse for. I don't believe in that,'' he said of the injuries. ``We've had guys step up when they've been asked to.
``Bryant Johnson is a perfect example of that. He's been productive for us, and that's how we proceed. We expect these guys have been working hard. This is their chance.''
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