New Year’s Eve on a Thursday kicked off an extended celebration weekend for most of America, but the Cardinals have been partying for more than two months.
The last thing they want is for that to end on Sunday.
While many believe Bruce Arians would be best served sitting key starters against the Seahawks, the Cardinals coach has been consistent in that everyone will play. The team has won nine consecutive games – including consecutive blowouts of the Eagles and Packers – and wants to head into the postseason full steam ahead.
“When momentum is on your side, you don’t want to lose it,” quarterback
The Cardinals beat Seattle, 39-32, on that day in mid-November, as the offense tore apart the vaunted Legion of Boom secondary and rallied late after blowing a big lead.
The Cards (13-2) have already secured a first-round bye, but can move up to the NFC’s top seed with a win and a Panthers loss at home against the Buccaneers. The Seahawks (9-6) are in the playoffs as a wild card and will finish as either the No. 5 or No. 6 seed depending on how the games play out.
Seattle has its share of injuries and a precious star quarterback much like the Cardinals, but coach Pete Carroll said no one will be held out with the playoffs in mind. While this game doesn’t have the same type of stakes some thought it would before the season began, both sides are intent on emerging victorious.
“Seattle’s a team that’s done it before; they know what playoff football is about,” linebacker
“If they come in here, do what they do and win, that’s confidence for them. It doesn’t help us that we beat them back in (November). It’s all about what you’ve done now in this league, and I think when we go out here Sunday we’ve got to give it all we’ve got. We’re not worried about going out there and playing cautious and all that. We’re just trying to go get a win.”
The Seahawks are nearly touchdown underdogs in this one, the widest spread against them since 2012. It’s a nod to the dominance of the Cardinals this season, who are the highest-scoring team in the league and allow the fifth-fewest points.
Palmer threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting, and the running game kicked up a notch over the past month after
The Cardinals will be intent on keeping Palmer upright, not just for success in this game but to keep him healthy for the playoff run. If they do, even the talented Seahawks secondary could have trouble slowing him down. Palmer is 73 yards away from setting a new franchise record for passing yards in a season.
“It’s an incredible year,” said Carroll, Palmer’s coach in college at USC. “This is the year that he’s been waiting for, I think. He’s had plenty of good years, but to play on a really good team that’s winning in all areas, I think it’s a great culmination for a lot of years when he’s had to battle and hasn’t been able to get over the hump on it. I’m thrilled for him.”
The Seahawks offense has lost tight end Jimmy Graham and running back Thomas Rawls for the year and will be without Marshawn Lynch (abdomen) for a seventh straight game. However, since the loss to the Cardinals, Wilson has been incredible.
He has thrown for 1,709 yards and completed 71 percent of his passes with 21 touchdowns and only one interception. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin has 1,023 receiving yards on the season and has 12 touchdown catches in his past seven games. Baldwin had seven catches for 134 yards and a score in the first matchup against the Cardinals.
The Cardinals-Seahawks rivalry is at full tilt, and this figures to be another heavyweight battle, provided both teams give it 100 percent. Publicly, at least, that’s the expectation.
“I don’t know any (players) that wanted to sit out,” Arians said. “As a matter of fact, all of them came to me and said, ‘Look, we want to win this.’ I said, ‘Of course we do.’”