The Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals are two of the hottest teams in football, but both were eliminated from playoff contention last week. Much like the Seahawks, the Cardinals are a team looking to the future, and were another team that suffered greatly because of the lockout (not as much preseason time to practice). Sunday’s season-ending matchup should be an entertaining game, but at this stage of the season, a loss would actually benefit both teams more than a win.
A loss would mean a better draft pick and an easier schedule for next year, but fortunately for Seahawks viewers, I don’t think Seattle will be packing it in for the season. They’ve proved during the second half of the season (in my eyes) that they will be a contender next year, and they’ve been ruining their draft position for weeks by winning games. Instead, Pete Carroll and the Hawks will be shooting for an 8-8 record and will be looking to carry their momentum into the off-season.
Arizona has switched into a 3-4 defense this year, and had a difficult adjustment period. During their last eight games though, the Cardinal defense has allowed 23 points or less in every game, holding five opponents under 20 points. With a powerful defensive line and emerging cornerback Patrick Peterson, Arizona will present some problems for the Seahawk offense. As both teams have physical defenses and power-running games, most of the game will be decided in the battle at the line of scrimmage.
Peterson also brings a ton of talent to Arizona’s special teams. He has returned four punts for touchdowns this year, and has lived up the high expectations that come with being a top-5 draft pick.
Marshawn Lynch has now scored a touchdown in eleven consecutive games, a new franchise record. Last week, Lynch scored the first rushing touchdown scored against the 49ers this season. He is the heart and soul of the Seattle offense, and will see a steady dose of the rock again this Sunday. Lynch’s endurance and tenacity running the ball wears defenses down. When this happens, Seattle performs exceedingly well in the second half of games, and Tarvaris Jackson looks like a solid quarterback. When Lynch is slowed down, Jackson has struggled to carry the offense. ”Beast Mode” is a free agent at the end of the year, and retaining him will be a priority for the Seahawks.
On offense, the Cardinals utilize the talents of perennial All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald. What is not clear is who will be throwing him the ball this week. Regular starter Kevin Kolb has suffered a number of injuries and is listed as doubtful for the game. If he’s unable to go, backup John Skelton will get the nod. During the first three quarters of games, Skelton has looked very much like a backup. However, he has lead several fourth quarter-comebacks this year, so the Seahawks will need to maintain their focus defensively until the final whistle blows.
This week, the results of Pro Bowl voting were announced, with several Seahawks getting recognition. Free Safety Earl Thomas will start for the NFC. He is one of the rangiest players in the league, finishing second on the team in tackles despite often patrolling the deep middle of the field in pass coverage. Cornerback Brandon Browner and Strong Safety Kam Chancellor are first alternates for the NFC. Seattle having potentially three Pro-Bowlers in the secondary was not something anyone in their right mind could have predicted at the beginning of the season. The one thing that baffles me is that Marshawn Lynch was selected as the second alternate at running back (essentially 5th overall in the NFC). I find it hard to believe that there are four better running backs than him in the NFC, but maybe it will help keep him hungry to improve.
The Seahawks have played entertaining football during the second half of the season, and that should continue this week. Hopefully they can kick off the new year with a win. Go Hawks!
About the Author
Written by Erik Olsoy
Erik was born in Columbus, Ohio during the only Ohio State football victory over Michigan in the 1980s, but moved to Washington state and grew up there. His loyalty to Ohio State remains strong, but his strongest allegiances developed toward Seattle sports. Though he recently graduated from Boston College, he has not yet been converted to the ways of New England Sportsdom, and only roots for the Red Sox against the Yankees because the Yankees are the root of all evil.