Is this the end of an era, the end of games for Seattle until next fall--or merely the end of the regular season?
Game day for the Seahawks’ regular-season finale at CenturyLink Field against the Arizona Cardinals dawned sunny, with the need for help.
The Seahawks have never been in this situation during this era of championship football: they need to win, and the Carolina Panthers (11-4) must bet the Falcons (9-6) in Atlanta at the same time for Seattle to make the playoffs for the sixth consecutive January.
"Of course, we know what the case is. We know that we need a little help," outside linebacker K.J. Wright said. "And that’s very unfortunate."
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While coach Pete Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson said they will not be paying attention to the Panthers-Falcons score during their game in Seattle...
...Wright, teammate Doug Baldwin and other Seahawks have acknowledged they will be checking especially at halftime.
An illness has been going through the Seahawks’ locker room since midweek. It’s why the team sent Michael Bennett home on Thursday and Earl Thomas home on Friday, among others.
Bennett on Saturday hinted that Sunday’s game could be the end of his time with the Seahawks. The 32-year-old two-time Pro Bowl defensive end retweeted to references to this perhaps being the end of his time in Seattle.
ARIZONA CARDINALS (7-8) at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9-6)
Sunday, 1:25 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Ch. 13
Line: Seahawks by 8½
TV: Ch. 13 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM
The series: The series is tied at 18 wins apiece, with one tie, last season’s 6-6 epic slog in Arizona. The Cardinals have won two straight at CenturyLink Field and three of their last four in Seattle. That includes their 34-31 win over the Seahawks on Christmas Eve 2016 and 39-32 in Seattle on Nov. 15, 2015. Quarterback Carson Palmer shredded the Seahawks in both those games. He’s out for the season now with a broken arm. The Cardinals’ last loss in Seattle was Nov. 23, 2014, 19-3.
SEATTLE’S KEYS TO VICTORY
Focus: Not just on blocking Arizona’s Chandler Jones, second in the NFL with 15 sacks. On not letting what does and does not happen with Carolina’s game at Atlanta starting at the same time affect how they play. That’s not going to be easy to do. Make no mistake, Seahawks players will know if the Panthers are winning—as Seattle must have to reach the playoffs—or losing to a Falcons’ team that unlike Carolina must win to extend their season. They are professionals and are paid to perform no matter the circumstances, but if desperate Atlanta goes way ahead, the Seahawks will lose urgency, if not their third home game this season.
Keep it short, simple: It’s often been bombs away by Russell Wilson in the Seahawks’ passing game the last two weeks. And all those long passes have resulted in just 131 net yards the last two games. That includes a season-low 93 gross yards passing last weekend at Dallas and a gnarly, 22-yard sack. A good way to get Wilson—and thus the offense—going again would be shorter, surer throws to Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Paul Richardson, Jimmy Graham…and anyone else in home, blue uniforms before the Cardinals’ pass rush inevitably gets to the QB.
Give it to 34: It’s time to give Thomas Rawls a last chance. The mothballed running back ran hard last weekend at Dallas, but just five times on 10 plays for 20 yards. It’s obvious he’s not in the Seahawks’ plans for 2018, not like Mike Davis and Chris Carson (still on injured reserve) are. But for what he’s done for three seasons, including his wondrous 2015 rookie one before injuries derailed him—and for Rawls going Santa Claus and passing out gifts to the homeless in Seattle’s Pioneer Square on Christmas Day—he deserves more than 10 plays to end his season and maybe Seahawks career.
The pick: Seahawks, 16-6. Drew Stanton against a Seahawks team that’s owned him—and absolutely must win? It won’t matter how bad Seattle’s offense is again.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
3 Russell Wilson QB 5-11 215 sixth
If Seattle someone does steal the NFC’s final playoff spot he’ll need to be throwing and playing a whole lot better than he’s been the last two games.
65 Germain Ifedi RT 6-5 325 second
His weekly challenge trying to repel elite outside edge rushers continues. Arizona will move Chandler Jones around—including against Ifedi. Often.
34 Thomas Rawls RB 5-9 215 third
Remember him? This appears it could his final Seahawks game. He deserves a final chance of more than a token play/few plays.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
55 Chandler Jones OLB 6-5 265 sixth
15 sacks, 2nd in NFL. Will move around in 3-4 defense—to find what’s been many holes in Seattle’s line.
5 Drew Stanton QB 6-3 230 10th
If he plays like he always has against Seattle, Seahawks will shut down Arizona. If Carson Palmer’s fill-in rises up…?
36 Budda Baker FS 5-10 195 rookie
Ex-UW, Bellevue HS star now starting on defense, named to Pro Bowl for special teams