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Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks Preview and Prediction

Richard Sherman

Richard Sherman

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The soap opera that is the Seattle Seahawks continues to be the gift that keeps gives on giving during this holiday season. On the field, Seattle took care of business against the Los Angeles Rams last Thursday night at CenturyLink Field, as they won going away 24-3. Russell Wilson got back on track a little bit against the Rams as he completed 19 of 26 passes for 229 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and the rest of the Seahawks’ defensive line had their way with Jared Goff and the Los Angeles offense, as the Rams could not get much going all game long. But off the field, cornerback Richard Sherman popped off about the play calling at the 1-yard line against and yesterday went after local 710 ESPN Seattle host Jim Moore during his weekly press conference.

Arizona showed plenty of fight last week against the New Orleans Saints before falling 48-41 at home in a high-scoring affair that was one of the more entertaining games this season in the NFL. Carson Palmer took care of the football and made plenty of big plays in the passing game, while David Johnson continued to prove why he has emerged as one of the top playmakers in the game.

Defensively, head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim have to be concerned as Drew Brees torched the Cardinals for 389 yards and four touchdowns. So while the effort appeared to be there for Arizona, there still is a need for players to make plays, something that has not happened the past two weeks against Miami and New Orleans, especially in key moments.

Arizona at Seattle

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 24 at 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Seahawks -8

Three Things to Watch

1. Richard Sherman vs. Carson Palmer
This week Sherman has added the latest chapter to the non-stop Seahawks soap opera that should be titled “As the Seahawks Turn,” with his going off on local media members and the play-calling. It is becoming clear that the fame and Stanford education has given Sherman a sense of entitlement that he is the smartest person in the room and frankly, it is becoming a very tired act. If Sherman is truly the leader that he likes to portray himself to be, his sole focus in press conferences should be on the opponent at hand. Which this week is the veteran Palmer, who is more than capable of shredding the Seattle secondary like Aaron Rodgers did two weeks ago at Lambeau Field.

Consequently, it will be fascinating to see which version of Sherman shows up this week, as his teammates need his big-time play on the field instead of his big-time mouth in the press, which detracts from the great work that the All-Pro does off the field through his foundation, Blanket Coverage.

2. The battle in the trenches
If the Cardinals are going to get out of CenturyLink Field with a win on Saturday, they are going to have to protect Palmer at a high level. You can rest assured that the Seahawks will be in attack mode from the opening snap to try to take away big plays in the passing game. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett earned Pro Bowl invitations this week and they are going to have to continue to play at that level in order for Seattle to get the victory and get one step closer to the No. 2 seed (which comes with a first-round bye) for the NFC playoffs. It also will be very crucial for Arizona to create holes in the running game for David Johnson, who is the first player in NFL history to have 100 or more yards from scrimmage in each of the first 14 games of a season.

3. Seahawks’ running game
When these two teams met in Glendale, Arizona, back on Oct. 23, Seattle simply could not run the ball, finishing the overtime tie with just 52 yards on 19 carries. Thomas Rawls didn’t play in that game, so it’s going to be important to get him going with a goal of about 20 carries and hopefully at least 80 yards on the ground. Any sort of contribution from Rawls will keep the Cardinals honest on defense, which should make things easier for Russell Wilson. He also will likely have to pick up a couple of first downs with his legs, which should be easier considering he’s healthier than he was the first the faced Arizona’s aggressive defense. Do not be surprised to see some jet sweeps or other running plays for wide receiver Tyler Lockett either, as offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will look to mix things up and keep the Cardinals off balance.

Final Analysis

For the Seahawks, it is going to be vital that they start strong and try to throw a knockout punch at Arizona right away. The Cardinals have already been eliminated from playoff contention so if Seattle can jump ahead early you may Arizona pack it in. However, look for a closer-than-expected contest, barring a rash of turnovers, as the Seahawks get one step closer to the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a one-score victory over the Cardinals. It also means the 12s (and football fans in general) don’t have to worry about unwrapping another tie on Christmas Eve.

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks

Prediction: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 17

— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and also writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottWhittum.