Note: I haven’t been commenting much on the Seattle Seahawks so far this season. With the year ending injuries to key defensive stars Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, plus the problems with the offensive line and the running game, I have been, more or less, in “wait and see” mode as regards this […]Read the Rest →
The coaches and players of the Seattle Seahawks are fond of saying that every week and every team they play is a championship opportunity. They have been saying it all year and, to their credit, it seems like they really believe it. That attitude is the result of the influence of the team’s head coach Pete Carroll. If you read Pete’s book on his philosophy of coaching and life you will see that this Seahawks team is a direct manifestation of the wisdom Pete preaches in his writing. His book is called “Win Forever” and that is pretty much what Carroll has been doing since he finally succeeded in coalescing his philosophy immediately prior to taking over the USC football program in 2001. He took the Trojans to the pinnacle of college football and kept them there and now he is doing the same thing in the NFL with the Seahawks.
Of course, if the Seahawks view every game as a championship opportunity, it is still the case that some games represent bigger championship opportunities than others, and the game at “The Clink” this Sunday against their NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals is definitely one of those. That is understood by what is at stake. If the Hawks win this game they not only clinch the NFC West title, they clinch as well a first round playoff bye AND home field advantage through the playoffs. You Hawks fans know what that means—it means that regardless of what else happens the rest of this season, the 49ers, Saints and/or the Carolina Panthers all must travel to Seattle and the decibel den that is CenturyLink Field for the playoffs. “The Clink”, as CenturyLink is called by Hawks fans, isn’t just a home field advantage; it’s a home field nightmare for visiting teams, as Seattle’s 14-0 record there over the last two seasons demonstrates. All of that makes this a HUGE game for Seattle, even if the players persist in spouting Carroll’s maxims.
The game is a big one for the Cardinals as well. Since being defeated by Seattle 34-22 in week 7 of the season Arizona has been on a tear, winning 6 of 7 games while improving their record to 9-5. That record places them squarely in the NFC wild card playoff hunt. Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians has been hard at work changing the culture in Arizona and it is manifesting on the field and in the team’s record. The team Seattle will be playing this Sunday bears little resemblance to the one they destroyed 58-0 at this time last year and Cardinals fans can thank Arians for that. To stay in the playoff hunt their team must keep winning, and so you can see that this Sunday something has to give.
The Cardinals sudden winning ways have been fueled by a couple of things. The first is a dynamic defense that leads the NFL in defending the run giving up only 83 yards a game and which is 7th in overall defense, surrendering an average of only 322 yards. If you recall that game in week 7 you will remember that Russell Wilson had his hands full in fleeing the Cardinals pass rush. The Arizona linebackers came at him from a number of angles and formations and caused the Seattle replacement linemen a lot of trouble. (Hawks starting left guard Russell Okung and starting right tackle Brenno Giacomini both missed that game with injuries.) That Cardinals defense has continued to harass opposing quarterbacks and is currently 7th in the league with 41 sacks.
The other source of the Arizona turnaround has been the improved play of quarterback Carson Palmer. Back in week 7 he had already thrown 11 interceptions and only 7 TDs. Now going into week 16 he has 21 TDs and has thrown only 6 more picks for a total of 17. He has thrown for nearly 3700 yards and completes passes at a 64% clip. His top two receivers are perennial All Pro Larry Fitzgerald (73 catches and 10 TDs) and Michael Floyd (58 catches), who is a bona fide deep threat averaging nearly 16 yards per catch. The Hawks may catch a break with Fitzgerald as he is currently trying to recover from a concussion and there is a chance he will miss this game. Carson, too, has been injured with a sprained ankle and a sore elbow, but still looks to be a go for Sunday.
For all of the Cardinals positives, it is hard for me to believe that they will defeat Seattle at “The Clink” this Sunday. The Hawks go into this game fairly healthy with only Percy Harvin and linebacker KJ Wright definitely out. Everyone else, including their starting linemen (updated Friday AM, it looks as if Hawks right guard JR Sweezy will miss this game with a concussion), should be healthy and ready to go. Seattle has the NFL’s top ranked defense and top ranked passing defense and I think that the Hawks “Legion of Boom” will give Palmer fits on Sunday, as will the rabid throngs of “twelvers” who will definitely be at full throat for this game. Expect Seattle to keep the Cardinals pass rush at bay with liberal doses of Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson’s accurate, short passing game. Should the Cardinals blitz the house, however, we may see a Wilson dagger or two downfield like we saw him do against the Saints. Behind those blitzing defensive people there is usually “one on one” coverage and an awful lot of green field.
So, there you have it Hawks fans! I expect Seattle to take that NFC West title and that playoffs home field advantage with a win over the Cardinals by 10-14 points. This is a Seahawks team destined for greatness and you will get a glimpse of it this Sunday!
Copyright © 2013
By Mark Arnold
All Rights Reserved