The second half of the Arizona Cardinals season is here.
For veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson, that means the playoffs, in a sense, have arrived.
"So these next eight games, we have got to play balls-to-the-wall," Peterson said. "Can't hold anything back."
In order to get into the postseason for the first time since 2015, the 5-3 Cardinals will need to pick up some big wins against a tougher schedule that starts on Sunday.
Arizona faces the 7-2 Buffalo Bills in Glendale, then travels to Seattle to battle the 6-2 Seahawks on Thursday Night Football.
"This is the part of the season where you start to separate the contenders from the pretenders," Peterson said. "The schedule get harder in the back half of it. So, every game is a playoff game. For us, every game is very, very important."
Aside from next week's game against Seattle, the Cardinals still have to face division rivals Los Angeles Rams twice and the San Francisco 49ers another time. With so many division games left and three teams within a game of each other (all but the 49ers), the NFC West is there for the taking.
All three teams have looked stellar in certain games during the first half and flawed in others.
The Cardinals were riding a three-game winning streak into the bye, but a crushing 34-31 loss to Miami brought them back down to earth.
Quarterback Kyler Murray said he is done with the pattern of losing and then ramping everyone back up to win again. Before getting drafted, he did not lose many games as a starting quarterback, and he wants to find that consistency again.
"I don’t want to get used to this cycle," Murray said. "Being underdogs, getting hyped and then coming out here against a good team. That's not what I want to get into. I want to win every week. Obviously, in the NFL it's hard to do that. But, I think we just got to be better about locking in and understanding that we can't take any opponent lightly, take any game for granted."
Then, there's wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
He's in his 17th season, played in the Super Bowl and seen heartbreaks with Arizona. His mindset is to stay level-headed and focus on the next day and then the next after that.
"We're not looking forward to anything further than what we have to do tomorrow and as we prepare," Fitzgerald said. "We have got a tough practice tomorrow, Friday, to get ready. You can't worry about the things a few days ahead, all you can do is be punctual with things that you can control. And that's making sure we're tight on our execution and assignments."
Peterson and Murray have both echoed the sentiment of taking every day as its own. But being competitive, Peterson expressed that there is an added intensity in the later games to ensure that Arizona plays more than 16.
He said anything after Jan. 3, Week 17, is undetermined. So, that's what the Cardinals need to fight for.
"We got the mission," Peterson said. "You got division opponents, conference opponents and we have to win those games."