Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Well here we sit, one game, one goal. The Seahawks have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this season and the culmination of their goal, for the regular season at least, lies at their doorstep. One win against Arizona and we secure a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. And they get to do this in front of their home crowd, the rowdies, the crazies…the 12th man. How appropriate.
We open up our stadium to the Arizona Cardinals, a schizophrenic team that has seemingly found out who it is as of late. This is the same team that after starting the season 3-4 has rattled off 6 wins in the last 7 games. Granted the teams they have beaten are all lower rung teams except for Indianapolis, who are just about as unpredictable as the recent Power ball numbers (congratulations to whomever won, I know that you are reading this post). Because of this I have reservations to anoint them the next great team in the NFL, but they have beaten the teams they were supposed to and along the way garnered the best run defense in the league. Arizona played Seattle tough at home and rolled over in Seattle last year. This will be a different game as Arizona comes in with their playoff hopes alive and need this game in a desperate way. I submit to the court, my opinion, that this is a team that we can’t overlook or take lightly.
We played the Giants recently with their stout run defense, who had played 8 of the 10 best running backs in the league recently and fared very well against all of them. So what was our game against the Giants? We played to our strength. We didn’t force the run game against a defense that didn’t give up much on the turf to the run, instead we let Wilson play his game. What will we do against the Cardinals? I suspect much of the same, we’ll play to our strength and not theirs. We don’t need to turn this into a contest of egos; you do what you do best and we’ll beat you at the rest (see what I did there) and we’ll see who wins.
As mentioned Arizona comes in with a very good defensive scheme against the run but very average against the pass. The Cardinals boast a front line that features John Abraham and I mean ‘features‘ (I suspect Atlanta is re-thinking letting him go). He has 11.5 sacks, but after him there is a huge drop-off to the next player. This means that if we can neutralize Abraham we have a good chance of having enough time for Wilson to sit in the pocket and pick apart a very mediocre Cardinal secondary. Even if Abraham does have his way with our front line my bet is still on Wilson. I have watched him for two seasons now and am amazed by his ability to make things happen.
Our receivers are relenting in their ability to find the ball. I have confidence in every one except Ricardo Lockette who hasn’t proven himself yet. Could this be his breakout game against a suspect secondary? One can hope. But even if it isn’t our gauntlet of receivers gives Wilson ample opportunity to spread the ball around. As a defense how do you defend a team that you have no idea who to cover? Case in point, last week Marshawn Lynch was our leading receiver…yes, our star running back was our leading receiver. Simply Amazing.
Offensively the best description of the Cardinals this week is…’questionable’. Going to their injury report as of 18 Dec, Carson, Ellington, Fitzgerald, Floyd and Housler are all questionable. What does this mean? It means they will all most likely play but they aren’t saying it for sure. How could they hold any of these players out with their season on the line?
The Seahawks rushing defense has been good but a bit suspect at times giving up the occasional large gain. It isn’t that we give up 4 or 5 yards per carry on a normal basis, we just like to give up a long run here and there which makes our average look higher than it is on a per rushing basis. We need to contain Mendenhall and Ellington, both nice runners but not elite, by avoiding any large gains.
This then sets up nicely for our predatory secondary to ‘hawk’ to the ball (I think I just coined a new phrase…pass it along). Carson Palmer, in his last five games, has thrown 9 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, a stark contrast to his first nine games. He has done this against three inferior teams and two playoff teams, one of which he lost to. But all that aside, he looks much better now than he did when the Seahawks faced him last October. Now we will see what he is made of as he goes against the best pass defense in the league…at the CLink. The last time Palmer played Seattle he picked himself off of the turf seven times. I would anticipate 4 sacks this time around, but with a lot of pressure all around him. This scenario will make him a bit jittery and force him to throw a few balls that he will want back.
Therefore is there a more perfect recipe for our secondary? I don’t care that we have Lane and Maxwell filling in, heck we saw what they can do when they get a chance. With our big aggressive, athletic corners matching Fitzgerald and Floyd stride for stride, Arizona will have a long day indeed. I am sure Sherman is pouring over game notes even as I write this…
Our injury report is nothing surprising; K.J. Wright is out (along with his 80 tackles), Harvin didn’t practice (what else is new) and Browner is out indefinitely (thanks for your time as a Seahawk). We absolutely miss not having each one of these guys, but it doesn’t change the nature of this team. Each back-up on the depth chart has been groomed and indoctrinated to take over when their opportunity is called…next up.
I understand that much of the country will be rooting against our Seahawks; e.g. San Francisco, Arizona, New Orleans, Carolina. Those sort of naysayers just make us more devoted to our team, a team that to this point in their existence haven’t given the Seattle faithful much to cheer about. But cheer we have this year because things are a bit different, we find ourselves as the Super Bowl favorites (even Las Vegas agrees). Come February you might find those same people betting on Seattle to win the Lombardi trophy. Go Hawks!