Calais Campbell (93) and the Cardinals will win the NFC West and clinch the NFC's No. 1 seed if they beat Seattle Sunday.
The work-life balance has been massively askew for Jared Veldheer this week.
Even after logging several hours at the Cardinals' training facility each day, the star left tackle finds it impossible to relax after retreating to his home. Whenever he has some free time, Veldheer will jump on his black iPad and ingest more of the playbook he already knows so well.
While Veldheer spent the first four years of his career establishing himself as a top-shelf offensive lineman with the Raiders, the team success never approached his individual accolades. Now in his first season in Arizona, the Cardinals have already clinched a playoff berth, and Veldheer can't wait for Sunday night's titanic showdown against the Seahawks.
"It's hard to take your mind off the football side," Veldheer said. "It's mammoth."
With a victory, the Cardinals would clinch the NFC West title, a first-round playoff bye and home-field advantage throughout the
postseason. They would also become the first team in franchise history to reach 12 wins.
"There's definitely a sense of excitement in the air," Veldheer said. "You can feel it in the facility. Even just being at home, it feels different. It's everything we've worked for to this point, and it's in front of us. That's what's so exciting. It's there."
Veldheer's palpable energy has been echoed by several teammates throughout the week. It's an exhilarating time for the Cardinals, and from the top down, they're not interested in minimizing the game's importance.
While coach Bruce Arians is adamant that his players fulfill their expectations each day, he also understands the reality of what's coming on the horizon. The Cardinals will have a national audience on Sunday night, playing in what most believe is the biggest regular season game in the franchise's Arizona history. He wants the players to embrace that.
"They don't come around very often," Arians said. "You better enjoy them. That's why we're playing, to get this feeling so you have it for a very long time."
Interestingly, the Seattle perspective is different. The defending Super Bowl champions have participated in plenty of big games in the past two seasons, but try not to differentiate one from the next. Coach Pete Carroll called it "a championship opportunity this weekend, as always" in a conference call with Arizona media on Wednesday, and then explained his rationale for this approach.
"We want to focus us on the things we can control, which is right exactly in front of us, and try to find the discipline it takes to do that so you can maintain consistent performance," Carroll said. "We've been working at this for years. The language and the focus and the mentality that it takes to capture that – all teams in all sports go up and down all the time. We're trying to be better than that, be above that, if possible."
Even cornerback Richard Sherman, never shy to speak directly, didn't add any significance to this matchup.
"The game is always the same," Sherman said. "(Unless) we win on the moon. Then the gravity might change."
However they approach it, there's plenty on the line for both teams. The Cardinals have the potential to clinch the top perch in the NFC with a week remaining, but a loss would drop them behind the Seahawks in the NFC West race and position them as a likely wild card entrant to the postseason. Seattle hasn't yet clinched a playoff berth but would be in the running for the No.1 seed with a win.
"You go through everything we went through to get right here where we're at," safety Rashad Johnson said. "The opportunity to win the division at home. Big stage. It's time to just go out and make plays and have a lot of fun. It's nothing to over-stress about, over-think about. We've put ourselves in this position for a reason, because we're a good team. We can overcome adversity because we're resilient, and that's exactly what we'll have to be on Sunday."
It won't be an easy task to beat Seattle, especially leaning on third-string quarterback against the league's best defense. But the Cardinals will have a chance to secure the top seed in the NFC from the comfort of their own stadium with a game to spare. Arians couldn't ask for much more.
"Obviously, we're very excited about the position that we put ourselves in," Arians said. "Back in April, if they said we could play this game for the NFC West championship, I think everybody would have been real happy to do that."
A collection of recent Instagram posts by Cardinals players