There is a lot riding on Sunday Night Football this weekend as the red-hot Seattle Seahawks head south to Arizona to take on the NFC West leading Cardinals. The Cardinals are 11-3 on the season and 7-0 at home, continuing to lead the NFC and holding onto the #1 seed for the playoffs.
Enter the Seattle Seahawks, winners of their last four games, including one last month against the Cardinals in Seattle. The Seahawks have allowed just 27 points over the past four games, dominating teams with a rejuvenated defense and ball-controlling offense. With the win in Seattle, the Seahawks control their own destiny when it comes to winning the NFC West. With a victory against the Cardinals, it would quickly come down to scoreboard watching during their Week 17 match-up with the St. Louis Rams to see where the team would land in playoff seedings.
Here is a preview of what to expect when each team holds the ball on Sunday night:
When the Seahawks are on offense
The Seahawks offensive line is a mess right now. Max Unger is struggling to get back on the field, Russell Okung is not likely to play, and JR Sweezy missed practice earlier this week with an ankle injury. Whoever winds up in uniform on Sunday along the offensive line must give Russell Wilson some time in the pocket and running room for Marshawn Lynch and the other Running Backs. The Seahawks continue to lead the league in rushing yards per game, 168.8 per, and will need to give their defense enough rest to continue what they have been doing over the past month.
The Cardinals give up a little over 90 rushing yards per game, good for 6th in the NFL, but remain susceptible to an opponent’s passing attack. In last month’s match-up, Wilson was as efficient as ever against the Cardinals, completing 17-22 for 211 yards and one touchdown. While the Cardinals held Marshawn Lynch to only 39 rushing yards, Wilson picked up an additional 73 yards on the ground and willed his team to victory.
Advantage: Seahawks … by very little due to the OL issues
When the Cardinals are on offense
Head Coach Bruce Arians has stated that while Ryan Lindley will get the start at QB for the Cardinals, the team is drawing up plays for rookie QB Logan Thomas as well. With Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton both out, the Cardinals are going into the biggest game of the season with third-string Quarterbacks and that is a recipe for disaster against the Seahawks’ defense.
Seattle is going to try to stuff the run and make one of Arizona’s inexperienced QB’s beat them. Which feels like throwing chum in the ocean for the Legion of Boom. The Seahawks defense completely dominated the Cardinals last month, shutting down both the run and passing attacks. While they won’t have the 12th Man on their side in Arizona, it is hard to imagine such a significant drop-off vs. what was seen then and every weekend since.
The Cardinals are going to need to make a couple of plays on Special Teams. With the Seahawks still struggling in their return game and kicking coverage, the opportunity exists for Seattle to really lose the game or momentum with one or two big plays. The trick plays the Rams ran against the Seahawks earlier in the season are likely being reviewed in the video room this week.
Final Score Prediction: Seahawks 20, Cardinals 9
The Seahawks defense bends but never breaks and Marshawn Lynch scores late in the 3rd Quarter to really put the game away.