By Cedric Williams
Fresh off clinching their third NFC West Division crown in the last four years, the Seattle Seahawks will head into the final two weeks of the 2016 NFL regular season with a couple of different goals in sight, specifically securing the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. This would not only land the Seahawks at least one home game this postseason, but would also earn the club a bye during Wild Card Weekend.
Having that one less game could be a huge factor for Seattle as the team chases another possible trip to the Super Bowl. Injuries have been a problem for the club all season, so having one less game to play could work wonders for getting players much-needed rest, and maybe even help with getting some injured players back.
But before the Seahawks can worry about those issues, they must first take care of the business at hand. This week, that means the 2016 home finale at CenturyLink Field against the NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals.
Kickoff for Saturday’s game at the ‘Link is scheduled for 1:25 p.m.
Arizona Cardinals Season Record: 5-8-1, 2nd place in NFC West
At the midpoint of its season and coming off a win in their first game following their bye week, the Arizona Cardinals were 4-4-1 and looked like a team that might still have a shot at making the playoffs this year.
Since then though, the Cardinals have lost four of five games, including last week’s 48-41 slugfest to the New Orleans Saints, to fall completely out of the playoff picture. In fact, last week’s loss ensures that Arizona will finish the year with a losing record for the first time since 2012. That is particularly disappointing for Cardinals fans, who watched their team go 13-3 last year and advance all the way to the NFC Championship Game.
Arizona Cardinals on Offense:
Arizona is led on offense by running back David Johnson, a premier dual threat player for the Cardinals, who leads the team with 1,138 rushing yards and ranks second on the team with 73 receptions and 800 receiving yards. Johnson has also scored 17 touchdowns this season, which leads the entire NFL.
Veteran players Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald are also key members of the Cardinal offense. Palmer has passed for 3,694 yards and 22 TDs this year, while the future Hall of Famer Fitzgerald leads Arizona with 98 catches for 949 yards and five receiving touchdowns.
Arizona Cardinals on Defense:
Despite their overall record and recent subpar play, the Arizona defense has been pretty good this season. The Cardinals will come to town this weekend with a unit that’s ranked fourth overall in fewest yards allowed per game this year (312.1).
Arizona has been particularly good against the pass, even though Drew Brees and the Saints lit them up pretty good last weekend. The Cardinals are ranked fifth in pass defense (212.9 pass yards allowed) and are tied for sixth-most in sacks (35).
The problem for Arizona’s defense this year hasn’t been the yards they give up; the issue has been that they haven’t been able to stop people from putting up points against them.
The Cardinals are 19th in points allowed this year (23.2 per game), and that number has been even worse during the second half of the season, when Arizona has given up 30.7 points per game over its last seven games.
Arizona Cardinals Players to Watch:
The key figure in Arizona’s offense is running back David Johnson. The Cardinals love to get him the ball in all kinds of different ways.
Johnson had 33 carries (for 113 yards) and 41 total touches (for 171 total yards) when these two clubs met earlier this season. The key for Seattle was it was able to keep Johnson out of the end zone. And the Legion of Boom will need to match that kind of effort if it’s going to prevent Arizona’s No. 1 back from having another big day.
Even though Seattle’s offense has been on an up-and-down slide for what seems like all season, having the Arizona defense come to town seems like just what the doctor ordered for the Seahawks.
Arizona hasn’t been good at stopping anyone over the last two months of the season—not since these teams played back before Halloween. And that’s why we like Seattle’s chances to win—and win big—this weekend.
The Legion of Boom is not going to let Arizona put up many points, and the Cardinals don’t seem like they’re capable of stopping anyone right now. So we’ll take the ‘Hawks. Prediction: Seattle 34, Arizona 17.