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Cardinals Can't Let Seahawks Get Away

"Sunday Night Football" showdown will have ramifications on NFC West race


Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson defends Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse in last year's home game.

Pete Carroll nearly lurched through the phone to stop the question dead in its tracks.

The Seahawks coach doesn't believe a win over the Cardinals on "Sunday Night Football" would lock up the NFC West, not with more than half the season remaining.

"That's crazy to think that," Carroll said in a conference call with Arizona reporters on Wednesday. "That's not how it is. It's just one game, one week, and then there's a bunch of other games after that. I'm not even going to answer that one."

For evidence to back up Carroll's incredulity, just look back two seasons. The Cardinals had a three-game lead on the Seahawks with six to play in 2014 but lost their two best quarterbacks and eventually their hold on the division.

So, yes, a key injury or two can always swing a season, and a Cardinals loss wouldn't necessarily be a death blow. But it would put one foot in the grave.

If the Cardinals beat the Seahawks, they will be just a half-game off the pace with plenty of time to make it up. A defeat, though, drops them three games back in the loss column with a down-the-road rematch against the Seahawks on the road.

"That's a deep hole," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "Although there is a lot of football left, at the end of the day, we don't want to put ourselves in that type of predicament."

The Cardinals should have their quarterback for this showdown after some concern earlier in the week. Carson Palmer injured his hamstring near the end of Monday's win over the Jets and did negligible work during the first two practices. He is listed as questionable after practicing in a limited capacity on Friday, but coach Bruce Arians said he doesn't foresee any restrictions during the game.

Even if Palmer is fully capable, the Cardinals hope to establish the ground game like they have done most of the season. Running back David Johnson is third in the NFL with 568 rushing yards and first with eight touchdowns.

He has rushed 49 times for 268 yards and five touchdowns the past two games, and moving the ball effectively against a stout Seattle front would be a boon.

"I think that's what everybody wants to do," Palmer said. "You run the ball and you go play-action and you take your shots."

The Seahawks' defense continues to be great. It has finished first in scoring defense the past four seasons and is tied for third this year, allowing 15.6 points per game. It's the usual characters, led by stars like cornerback Richard Sherman, linebacker Bobby Wagner, safety Earl Thomas and defensive end Michael Bennett.

"It doesn't come down to so much the schematics," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "It comes down to more just being able to win your one-on-one individual matchups. That's what you have to do. Defensively, I wouldn't say they are simple, but they don't do a whole lot. They just have better personnel than everybody else."

The Seahawks' offense has more weakness than in past years, as a running game normally driven by Marshawn Lynch has been less effective with "Beast Mode" off to retirement. While the receiving weapons have improved, the offensive line is subpar, and Seattle is No. 20 in scoring this season after finishing in the top-10 the past four seasons.

The key will be stopping quarterback Russell Wilson. He has only rushed for 35 yards this season while battling knee and ankle injuries, but may be regaining his headache-inducing mobility.

"He's not keeping it, but obviously he was injured," Arians said. "I wouldn't be surprised for him to pull it down and go with it in this game."

The Cardinals are winless in three tries at home against Seattle with Arians at the helm, and have been outscored 105-34 in those contests. That must change to keep the Seahawks in their sights.

The Cardinals' midseason win in Seattle last season helped clinch the NFC West title before the rematch in Week 17. These two teams will play in Seattle this year in Week 16, and this time it is the Cardinals who hope it means something.

"It doesn't matter if it's on the road or at home, we've got to beat them," Arians said. "If we're going to win the division, we've got to beat them."

Images of key players for this week's opponent, the Seattle Seahawks

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