GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — On a Sunday night seven weeks ago, the Arizona Cardinals pulled off a 39-32 victory over the Seahawks in the din that is CenturyLink Field.
They haven’t lost since.
It was a turning point for the Seahawks as well. After the loss, they reeled off five straight victories to clinch a playoff berth before stumbling last week at home against St. Louis.
Possible playoff seeding is all that’s at stake when the teams meet in their regular-season finale Sunday.
Arizona (13-2) has won nine in a row and, with its 38-8 blowout of Green Bay last Sunday, has clinched a first-round playoff bye. The Cardinals can get the No. 1 seed, and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, with a win on Sunday and a Carolina loss to Tampa Bay.
The Seahawks (9-6), two-time defending NFC champs, are the No. 6 seed as of today, but would move up to No. 5 with a win over Arizona and a Minnesota loss at Green Bay.
In that Nov. 15 win at Seattle, Arizona bolted to a 19-0 lead, then fell behind 29-25 before scoring two late touchdowns, the winner coming on Andre Ellington’s 48-yard run with 4:04 to play.
“To have a lead, give up a lead, and then just score 14 points in the (fourth) quarter there against that crew, just shows that we’ve got a very resilient group,” Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said, “and we believe in ourselves, and we believe in each other.”
Neither Arizona coach Bruce Arians nor Seattle coach Pete Carroll entertained any thought of resting players for the playoffs.
“It’s not a finished product, and then you go and play in the playoffs,” Carroll said. “We keep working to improve every week, and that’s what we’re trying to do this week. It’s such a good opponent and they’re so loaded up in so many areas that they make us have to play well.”
Arians said the Seahawks have changed since that mid-November meeting.
“A bunch more empty backfield sets. Throwing the ball a lot more,” he said.
Arians has never beaten the Seahawks in Arizona.
Here are things to look for when the Seahawks face the Cardinals:
STAT LEADERS: The Cardinals and Seahawks are the only teams that rank in the top five in offense and defense.
Arizona has the No. 1 offense at 422.9 yards per game; Seattle is No. 5 (380.3). The Seahawks have the No. 2 defense, giving up 295.5 yards per game; the Cardinals are No. 5 (319.5).
The Cardinals lead the league in scoring (32.2 points per game) and touchdowns (57). Seattle is third in fewest points allowed (18.1) and third in opponent TDs (27). Arizona is tied for third with 30 touchdowns allowed.
Wilson (109.3) and Palmer (106.8) are 1-2 in quarterback rating through 15 games.
RUNNING COMMITTEE: The Cardinals won’t have to see Marshawn Lynch because the Seahawks running back will miss his seventh straight game due to an abdominal injury that required surgery. Seattle was initially hopeful Lynch might return this week, but he was not ready.
That leaves Christine Michael and Bryce Brown to handle the running load for the third straight week. The first week of the committee approach went great for Seattle with 182 yards rushing against Cleveland. But last week against St. Louis, it fell apart. The Seahawks had just 59 yards rushing and Wilson led the way with 38 of those. That snapped a streak of 25 straight games with Seattle rushing for at least 100 yards as a team.
APPROACHING RECORDS: Palmer, who turned 36 this week, needs 73 yards passing to break the franchise record set by Neil Lomax 31 years ago. Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald needs one catch to break his franchise mark of 103 receptions in a season set a decade ago.
PROTECTING RUSSELL: For most of its five-game win streak, Seattle did an exceptional job of keeping Wilson adequately protected and with enough time in the pocket to find wide receivers downfield. He faced increased pressure against Cleveland two weeks ago and was completely under siege last week against the Rams. Wilson was sacked four times and hit a season-high 13 times by St. Louis as the Seahawks struggled with protections.
SACK FEST: The Cardinals, meanwhile, are hoping their pass rush picks up where it left off against Green Bay. Arizona sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times and his backup Scott Tolzien once. Rodgers fumbled twice, and both were returned for Arizona touchdowns.
Dwight Freeney tied his career best with three sacks and was chosen NFC defensive player of the week. He earned $100,000 per sack under incentives in the contract he signed when he joined the team in early October.
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