It’s do or die once again for the Seattle Seahawks (9-6) as they need to beat the Arizona Cardinals (7-8) and get help from Carolina in order to make the playoffs. Seattle stepped up defensively with three key turnovers that were converted into 21 points in a 21-12 win over Dallas in Arlington, Texas, last week. Arizona also is coming off of a win, shutting out the Giants 23-0 last week at home and have another chance to play spoiler at CenturyLink Field.
The win over Dallas epitomized this Seahawks season in a nutshell as they had more penalty yards (142) than total yards (136). It was the first time a NFL team won a game with more penalty yards than total yards of offense since the Philadelphia Eagles did it back in 1966.
Justin Coleman’s pick-six in the third quarter was the highlight of the day for Seattle. It also produced one of the best touchdown celebrations of the year as Coleman trolled Ezekiel Elliott by leaping into the Salvation Army Kettle. Limiting Elliott on the ground also was key for the Seahawks, as the Cowboys’ start running back finished with 97 yards on 24 carries in his return from a six-game suspension.
Next up for Seattle is Arizona, a team that has been the ultimate example of mediocrity in 2017. The Cardinals have hovered around .500 all seaosn as they haven’t been able to put even a modest winning streak together.
Last week, Arizona inserted Drew Stanton (above, right) back into the starting lineup at quarterback and that paid off. Stanton completed 20 of 34 passes for 209 yards and threw two touchdown passes, albeit with two interceptions. Defensively, the Cardinals never let the Giants get comfortable, pitching their first shutout since 1992.
Seattle beat Arizona 22-16 in Glendale back in Week 10, as Russell Wilson threw two touchdown passes despite getting sacked five times.
Arizona at Seattle
Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 31 at 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Seattle -9.0
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks’ defense vs. Arizona offense
When Seattle’s defense has been at its best this season it starts up front. In the first meeting between these teams back on Nov. 9, the Seahawks shut down the Cardinals’ running game, holding them to just 34 yards on 24 carries. It will be up to Michael Bennett, Dion Jordan, Sheldon Richardson and Frank Clark to set the tone up front once again and force Arizona to take to the air. Look for a riverboat gambler approach by Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians (right) in the play-calling since he and his team has nothing to lose and are in position to ruin their division rivals’ playoff hopes.
2. Attack Russell Wilson
This is pretty straightforward and certainly no secret. Yet it’s something that also must be mentioned considering Wilson has burned the Cardinals on more than one occasion, including in their last meeting. Back in Week 10, Wilson set up Seattle’s final touchdown on a 54-yard completion to Doug Baldwin that was preceded by the quarterback scrambling and avoiding multiple Arizona defenders in the pocket. Even though it’s easier said than done, the Cardinals must bring pressure considering the issues the Seahawks’ offensive line have had. Even if you don’t bring Wilson down, the effect of the consistent pressure should eventually benefit the defense, whether it be in the form of a turnover or merely results in a Seattle punt. Arizona did sack Wilson five times in the first game. But the Cardinals also saw what could happen when you pressure him and don’t bring him down.
3. Seattle’s patience running the football
At this point in the season, it’s beyond clear that the Seahawks are not very good at running the football consistently. Seattle managed just 75 yards on 23 carries in the first game against Arizona. Those numbers are a good benchmark for this game on Sunday as the Seahawks have to at least be able to show a tiny threat of a running game. Mike Davis will need to get about 15 carries on Sunday as he has proven to be the most reliable back. Also, screen passes can serve as long handoffs in an attempt to slow down what will be a very aggressive blitzing approach by the Cardinals in this game. So even if the running game does not rack up a ton of yards it’s still important for the Seahawks to not get impatient on offense.
If you are looking for a high-scoring affair, you are going to have to find another game, as the defenses should be able to keep the offenses in check. Turnovers are going to be vital for both teams in hopes of creating of short field opportunities or even better, a defensive touchdown. With Arizona head coach Bruce Arians’ job security potentially at stake, it will be interesting to see how hard the Cardinals play if they fall behind early. In the end, this won’t be a football masterpiece but the Seahawks will sew up another 10-win season and hope the Panthers can knock off the Falcons so they can sneak into the playoffs as a wild card.
Prediction: Seahawks 20, Cardinals 14
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottWhittum.