After closing the home portion of the schedule with a very sloppy, uninspired performance in a 23-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams. The Seattle Seahawks (9-6) will look to somehow play themselves back into the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs by shocking the Arizona Cardinals, who have plenty to play for with the top seed still up for grabs. As of right now the Seahawks are the No. 6 seed looking at a matchup against either Green Bay or Minnesota on the road in the NFC Wild Card round.
Arizona (13-2) would love nothing better than finish the regular season on a high note by completing the season sweep over the Seahawks and putting the pressure squarely on Carolina to hold serve, as both teams battle for home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. The Cardinals took Green Bay to the woodshed last Sunday in a 38-8 win. Carson Palmer completed 18-of-27 passes for 265 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception to pace a very efficient offensive performance. Defensively, the pass rush was brilliant all day long as Arizona had eight sacks of Aaron Rodgers along with a pair of defensive touchdowns. Thus, it is a stone cold lock that you will see the Cardinals pressure Russell Wilson this afternoon.
Seattle at Arizona
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: Arizona -6.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks' sense of urgency
It will be very interesting to see how this Seattle team responds to being such a significant underdog on Sunday. Will the nation see a team that is willing to fight to put the pressure on the Vikings to have to win on Sunday night and give the Seahawks a chance to slide into the fifth seed or will they coast and stay content as the No. 6 seed. This will be a strong test of the Seahawks' competitive mindset to see if Pete Carroll’s message of “Always Compete” still is getting through to this year’s team.
2. Arizona’s aggressiveness in the passing game
Expect a heavy dose of Carson Palmer attacking the Seahawks' secondary right from the start. It was a strategy that worked brilliantly in the first matchup this season back in Week 11 when the Cardinals beat Seattle 39-32, as Palmer threw for 363 yards and three touchdown passes. Larry Fitzgerald should be very busy once again against the Legion of Boom, as he caught 10 passes for 130 yards in the first meeting. There is a question about fellow wideout Michael Floyd’s health as he is listed as questionable, but head coach Bruce Arians is still optimistic that Floyd will play this week. Floyd will more than likely be a game-time decision on Sunday.
3. Can the Seahawks' offense clean up its act?
In order for Seattle to even think of winning a playoff game let alone go on any type of a deep run in the postseason, the Seahawks will have to clean up their attention to detail offensively. The Seahawks fumbled the ball five times, losing two of them, in the disappointing loss to the Rams last week. Center Patrick Lewis had multiple bad snaps that cost the offense some critical losses of yardage at the worst possible time. The offensive line as a whole did not protect Russell Wilson very well all game long. Also, Wilson did not help his own cause with an interception and a key fumble late in the fourth quarter when the Seattle was driving and trying to get back into the game by trying to do a little too much.
This game should be fiercely contested as both teams have a ton of pride and have plenty of motivation to win because of the potential playoff seeding implications for both teams. Arizona is playing better football and is the better football team than the Seahawks are right now, especially with the injury concerns that Seattle has on both sides of the ball. If the Cardinals get sloppy with turnovers, then this game will be a battle late in the game. Win or lose, Seattle they simply needs to play better football just for its own peace of mind heading into the playoffs. If the Seahawks can clean up their issues offensively the defense should have enough pride to play well enough to keep them in the game into the fourth quarter. However, Carson Palmer is going to find a way to make enough plays in the passing game to give the Cardinals their 14th win of the season in a close, hard-fought battle.
Prediction: Cardinals 27, Seahawks 23
— 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.