Many implications surround the Sunday Night Football game of the week between the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. Their prime time battle can weigh heavily into who wins the NFC West by season’s end. Which team can take advantage, the Arizona Cardinals or the Seattle Seahawks? There are five reasons to watch this pivotal showdown of NFC West rivals.
Both Teams Need A Win, But For Different Reasons.
The Cardinals, 6-2, are two games ahead of the 4-2 Seahawks in the standings. Arizona also owns the tiebreaker for their conference record. The Cardinals are 4-1 versus teams in the NFC. A Cardinals victory would create a near insurmountable four-game edge over the defending conference champs. Their three-game head start, coupled with a head-to-head win over the Seahawks, would require a miraculous slide by them and a strong run from another team for them to be caught in the win-loss column.
A Seahawks win would draw them one game closer, making winning the NFC West a realistic possibility.
Seattle at 5-4 looks a lot better than they would if they were to end up 4-5. Even if they do not win the division, the opportunity for a wildcard berth increases with a win. The playoff field begins to thin out as teams get further into the football season. The Seahawks certainly believe that they are worthy of playoff contention. They would be on the outside looking in on the playoffs if the season ended today.
Seattle may be playing for their playoff lives, while the Cardinals will be in a position to place a nail in their rival’s coffin.
The Carson Palmer To Chris Johnson Exchange
One of the most surprising backfield combinations is the Cardinals duo of quarterback Carson Palmer and tailback Chris Johnson. They are two of the primary reasons why the Cardinals are ranked fourth and ninth in passing and rushing respectively. Both Palmer and Johnson are in the top five in passing yards and rushing.
That is not bad for a pair of 30-somethings.
Yes, both have reached the age where any production they have is a plus. Carson Palmer, 35, and Chris Johnson, who turned 30 in September, are enjoying a renaissance in their careers. They both appear to be the answers at two positions which the Cardinals have long sought out to fill. Watching them perform above the level of what their ages suggest that they should be on is a must on this big stage against the Seahawks.
Which Defense will Have The Bigger Impact?
Both the Cardinals and Seahawks are defensive-oriented teams. They feature solid line play up front, a stout linebacking corps, and secondaries that make them the envy of the NFL. Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu headlines the Cardinals back-seven. Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman highlight the Seahawks group. How each team can handle the offense of their rivals will determine the outcome.
Seattle has to get themselves ready for the speed of Chris Johnson. The Seahawks have not had much experience versus him. He rushed for 167 yards, with two scores, in two games against Seattle (courtesy of Pro-Football Reference).
The Cardinals face the smashmouth running style of the Seahawks. Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is preparing for “Beast-Mode” (courtesy of NFL.com), otherwise known as Marshawn Lynch. Arians’ strategy is simply just “keep your head up, wrap up and hold on until the next guy gets there.”
That may work, as long as he plays.
Who Will Have More Rushing Yards: Marshawn Lynch or Russell Wilson?
As far as quarterbacks go, Russell Wilson runs the football fairly well. He is third on the team behind in rushing yards behind running backs Thomas Rawls, who has 376 rush yards and Marshawn Lynch, with one fewer yard than his backup.
Rawls has run strong. He averages a team-high 5.4 yards per carry. While he will get some meaningful carries against the Cardinals, Lynch, if healthy, will play the bulk of the snaps.
As of now, NFL.com is reporting that Marshawn Lynch is suffering from an abdominal problem. It is questionable that he will face the Cardinals. Seattle needs Lynch to play in order for them to keep the Cardinals’ high-octane offense off the field. If he cannot give it a go, Rawls will get the lion’s share of the carries.
Regardless of who the starting running back is, Russell Wilson is always a threat to take off with the football. It is imperative that Wilson does not end up with more rushing yards than Lynch. If that happens, chances are good that they will come out on the losing end.
Jimmy Graham’s End Zone Pursuit
The Seahawks will be in the game if tight end Jimmy Graham can get into the end zone.
Seattle has struggled against teams that can move the football. Versus the Cardinals, they will have to fight fire with fire. That is where Graham comes in.
Not to dismiss how good the Seahawk receiver can be, but they are better when Jimmy Graham can take some of the attention away from them. Graham can stretch the field and get tough yards on underneath routes. He gives the Seahawks an advantage that they have not had in recent years, as they are primarily a running team. Graham legitimizes their passing game. As long as he is involved, it will be interesting how the Cardinals counter.
It helps that second-year wide receiver Paul Richardson has been activated from the PUP list. Richardson had a solid rookie campaign, with 29 receptions for 279 yards.
The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks provide an intriguing Sunday Night Football matchup. There will be plenty of eyes paying attention to see if the Cardinals can put Seattle’s playoff hopes in jeopardy. This will be the latest chapter of two NFC West rivals.
[Photo by Christian Peterson/Getty Images Sport]