By Dave Thomas
Even though this Sunday’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and host Arizona Cardinals will not decide the NFC West crown, there is still much on the line for both teams.
For Seattle (9-6), there is still an opportunity to slide back into the fifth-seed for the upcoming NFC playoffs (beginning the weekend of Jan. 9-10). As of now, Seattle sits in the sixth and final spot, one game behind the Vikings. If the Seahawks can defeat Arizona, and Minnesota (10-5) loses at Green Bay (winner of that game captures the NFC North title), Seattle would finish as the fifth seed. If Minnesota wins the NFC North crown, Green Bay drops down to join Seattle as one of two wild card teams.
In the meantime, high-flying Arizona (13-2) also hopes to have something to play for come Sunday in the desert.
While the odds are long, the Cardinals could still end up as the top seed in the NFC.
In order for that to happen, Carolina (14-1) would have to lose to lowly Tampa Bay, while Arizona would have to sweep the season series from Seattle (Cardinals won the first meeting 39-32).
Seattle Missing Lynch Once Again
Having lost to Arizona earlier in the season at home, Seattle goes into this weekend’s game at a disadvantage, especially when it comes to the running game.
According to head coach Pete Carroll, starting running back Marshawn Lynch will once again be sidelined as he recovers from abdominal surgery several weeks ago. With team-leading back Thomas Rawls done for the season with an ankle injury, Carroll will deploy the old “running back by committee” philosophy once again this Sunday.
Meanwhile, quarterback Russell Wilson, who has managed to stay healthy this season, must approach the game with a winning mentality, yet avoiding any notable injury or injuries so that he is fresh and ready to go the following weekend when the Seahawks open the playoffs on the road with a to-be-determined opponent.
Wilson, who has thrown for 31 touchdowns and accounted for another one on the ground during the season, is even more important to this franchise given the questions surrounding Lynch and his ability to be at or close to 100 percent when the playoffs kick off in just another week.
On the defensive side of the ball, Seattle is nursing strong safety Kam Chancellor (74 total tackles on the season) with a pelvis injury and defensive end Michael Bennett (50 total tackles, 9.5 sacks) with a toe issue. Both were listed at midweek as questionable for this Sunday’s game in Glendale.
For the Seahawks, winning this regular season finale would be great, but getting out of Sunday’s game relatively healthy is even more critical given the already walking wounded list.
Cliff Avril, defensive end (back)
Michael Bennett, defensive end (toe)
Kam Chancellor, strong safety (pelvis)
Jordan Hill, defensive tackle (toe)
Russell Okung, tackle (calf)
J.R. Sweezy, guard (concussion)
Luke Willson, tight end (concussion)
Marshawn Lynch, running back (abdominal surgery)
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.