Seattle Seahawks: Looming Showdown With Arizona Will Make Or Break Their Season
Friday, November 13, 2015
With eight weeks remaining in the 2015 season, Seattle currently sits two games behind 6-2 Arizona and a half game behind 4-4 St. Louis. If Seattle wins this Sunday coupled with a Rams’ loss, the Seahawks have a chance to go above .500 in their division record, overall record, and potentially leapfrog the Rams into second place in the NFC West, and pull within one game of the division lead with seven weeks to go and a second matchup with all three division rivals to strengthen their lead.
Easier said than done, but that is what they need to accomplish.
If Seattle were to lose this game, the ramifications may be too severe to overcome. Call that statement extreme if you want, but it could be that bad. The Seahawks would be 4-5 overall, 1-2 in division play, and three games behind their division leader with seven games to go. If Seattle loses AND St. Louis takes down 3-5 Chicago, the Rams would be 5-4 and hold a 1-1/2 game lead over Seattle. While it would not be impossible for Seattle to make the postseason, the odds would be stacked against them.
The smart money has Minnesota and St. Louis pegged as wild cards, with Seattle and Atlanta still in the hunt. But it all has to start this Sunday for Seattle, some will say that all games are “must win”, but this one could very well decide the fate of their season.
Such an important matchup couldn’t have come against a tougher opponent either, as Arizona ranks third in total offense, 2nd in scoring offense, and 1st in yards per play. They are 4th in passing yards per game, 9th in rushing yards per game, and have 28 touchdowns to 12 turnovers.
On defense, the Cardinals are 9th in the league in points allowed at 19.1, and rank 3rd in total yards at 312.8 allowed per game. Arizona is the 7th best passing defense at 222.6 per game and allows the 4th fewest rushing yards at 90.1 per game.
That’s a well-balanced team, and they’re coming to CenturyLink Field on Sunday night to try and put an end to Seattle’s postseason chances. How will the Seahawks respond?
Coming into this game, Seattle is 3rd in the league in rushing yards per game at 139.5/gm. The Russell Wilson-led passing offense is 28th in the league, averaging 213.6 yards per game. While they may not be churning out yards at an alarming rate, they are producing consistently, but turnovers have become an issue as the offense has produced just 12 touchdowns to 10 turnovers.
Wilson has been asked to build chemistry with matchup nightmare Jimmy Graham and still leave room for Marshawn Lynch to score in buckets, and the tradeoff has not been what the team brass dreamt up when they traded their Pro Bowl center and a high draft pick to get Graham. Two young linemen struggling to learn the way of the NFL blocking scheme is not going as planned either, and the entire offense is suffering as a result.
On defense, Cary Williams is not filling the void left by Byron Maxwell as desired, and it’s easy to say that the unit is not playing with the same tenacity under Kris Richard that they were the last two seasons under Dan Quinn.
To say that Seattle has struggled to regain their identity is an understatement, and they will have their hands full with Arizona. Seattle hasn’t faced Arizona with Bruce Arians at the helm and Carson Palmer under center, so there really isn’t a matchup to review that might help them get an edge going into Sunday. The only tape that exists that would help Seattle is a 2013 week 5 matchup at Indianapolis where Arians and Andrew Luck dealt them their first loss of the season.
This time, they won’t have to deal with Luck, but rather a rejuvenated Chris Johnson leading the rushing attack, and a healthy Palmer tossing darts to a re-emerging Larry Fitzgerald and second-year wideout John Brown, who is quietly becoming known as one of the best route runners in the league.
Seattle didn’t face Palmer last year, as he tore his ACL prior to their first meeting in week 12, a 19-3 win for Seattle. Arizona’s backup QB’s Ryan Lindley and Drew Stanton showed flashes, but neither was a realistic option compared to the poised veteran that Palmer has been in Arians’ offense. Arizona was 7-1 with a healthy Palmer, and just 4-4 the rest of the way with Stanton and Lindley under center and still made the playoffs as a wild card.
So what can we expect on Sunday? Sparks for sure, as these two teams genuinely do not like each other. Both teams feature creative offenses, great play from their secondary, and top-5 defense that plays with a chip on its shoulder. Neither unit is as good as they were a season ago, but this one should be a great game to take in, so keep your Sunday evening schedule open.
With both teams featuring superstars on either side of the ball, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a low-scoring grudge match that ends on a last second field goal, or a high scoring shootout that goes down to the last possession.
Either way, Seattle needs to come into this game ready to put their whole season on the line. If they win, the door is wide open for a run at the playoffs, the division, and maybe even a third straight year with home field advantage.
If they lose, the season could unravel quickly and some big personalities could come unglued. Everyone is happy when they’re winning, the rest of the league will be hoping to see Seattle’s best break up at the worst possible time.
How they attack their opportunity, and how aggressive they are against Arizona on Sunday will go a long way in deciding their fate this season.
How will they respond in this make or break game?
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Photo via Vernon Adams Facebook page (image cropped)
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Photo via Jimmy Graham Twitter page (image cropped)
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Photo via Joseph Young Twitter page (image cropped)
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Photo via Gary Payton Twitter page (image cropped)
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