Double Coverage: Cardinals at Seahawks
December, 20, 2013
AP PhotoAndre Ellington's Cardinals are after a playoff spot; Richard Sherman's Seahawks want the top seed.
Playoff standing is on the line for both the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
The Seahawks (12-2) would clinch the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if they get their 15th consecutive home victory. The Cardinals (9-5) see this as a must-win game to keep their postseason hopes alive.
ESPN.com Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and Seahawks reporter Terry Blount look at how these two division rivals match up:
Blount: Josh, the Cardinals didn’t look good in a 34-22 loss to Seattle in October, but since that time, the team has gone on an amazing roll, winning six of seven. Do you see that October game as having been a bit of a wake-up call for Arizona and motivation to turn things around?
Weinfuss: I think it was a breaking point of sorts. They were a deflated group after going to San Francisco and losing a tough game there, and then four days later, they had to play Seattle, which had put a nice beating on them the last time they played. After that game, the Cardinals had nine days to rest and absorb everything that just happened during the first seven weeks. The result was a clear understanding of the offense, and it’s showed with how well the offense has been playing.
Terry, have teams figured out how to slow down Russell Wilson’s running game like they have with Colin Kaepernick? If so, how has Seattle rewritten the script? If not, why is it so hard to stop?
Blount: That’s a fair question. Teams are trying to keep Wilson in the pocket, using an outside linebacker and/or defensive end to stay home and spy any Wilson attempt to run outside. The 49ers did a great job of that in their 19-17 victory over the Seahawks two weeks ago. But when a defense takes one thing away from Wilson, he burns it somewhere else. One of the things that makes him so successful is his ability to find the weak spot in any defense. Having said that, he did rush for 50 yards Sunday against the Giants.
No doubt the Cardinals remember what happened at Seattle last season in the Seahawks' 58-0 victory. Josh, how different is this Arizona team from that one a season ago?
Weinfuss: It’s like night and day. Everything about them is different, with the exception of the defense, which is still a good unit. Last season in Seattle was Arizona’s worst defensive showing and, as if they timed it perfectly, the Cardinals got this season’s anomaly out of the way last Sunday in Tennessee. Everything about this team is clicking at a better rate than it was in October. The defense is playing faster than it was then, but the secondary will still be finding its rhythm after a new rotation was implemented to replace Tyrann Mathieu. There’s no question that the offense is 180 degrees from where it was last season in Seattle, namely because of the quarterback. By this point last season, Arizona had started three different quarterbacks. This season, that position is thriving under Carson Palmer.
Terry, what’s the latest with Percy Harvin? Will his return help this team, which has been on an incredible roll this season, or will it disrupt the chemistry? Should he come back?
Blount: The entire Harvin saga has become a bit clandestine at this point, and I honestly think the whole situation is more of an annoyance than anything else. Look, Harvin is a once-in-a-generation talent, and his explosiveness could benefit the Seahawks in the playoffs, but you bring up an excellent point. If he does return now, is it more of a disruption than an asset? He certainly could help the team on kickoff returns, but I believe the Seattle receiving corps is the most underrated in the league. This team is 12-2 without Harvin. Waiting until 2014 to unleash him might not be a bad idea.
Josh, no team in the league has a tougher final two games than the Cardinals, with Seattle and San Francisco. Most people would say the odds are against Arizona to win them and make the playoffs, but what is your sense of the confidence level among the players about these last two games?
Weinfuss: Bruce Arians has his men believing they can go to the playoffs, but at the same time, I think they understand it’s a difficult task. A lot has to happen -- namely a combination of San Francisco having to lose one or both of its final two games with the Carolina Panthers doing essentially the same -- but I won’t bore you with all those details. They’ve been treating every game like a playoff game for about a month and a half now, so mentally, they understand what’s at stake, but they’re also realists.
Terry, has Pete Carroll put any thought into resting his starters against Arizona, or since home-field advantage is still in play, will they be on full tilt?
Blount: It’s absolutely all-out for this one, Josh. The Seahawks say over and over that the goal is to go 1-0 each week and each game is a championship opportunity. It might be a cliché, but it’s real this time. Seattle wants to get this over with, clinch home-field advantage and be able to use next week’s season finale against St. Louis as a glorified practice session.