In Week 4 of this season, Sebastian Janikowski kicked a field goal as time expired to give the Seahawks a 20-17 win over the Cardinals in quarterback Josh Rosen’s first start. The Cardinals are probably the worst team in football, and this was not a great game from the Seahawks, but it happened just as Seattle was starting to discover its identity. Mike Davis started in place of the injured Chris Carson and rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns as Seattle piled up 171 yards on the ground. The Seahawks struggled to get to Rosen, racking up just a single sack in the game. Seattle is a much better team now, but Arizona always seems to give the Seahawks a tough game no matter the circumstances.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Duane Brown vs. Chandler Jones
Brown has quietly had a terrific season for the Seahawks, one that should probably have been recognized with a Pro Bowl nod. That snub aside, Brown grades as the eighth-best tackle in the league this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Jones may not put up the 17 sacks he had last season, but he is still a disruptive player worthy of extra attention. Jones leads the Cardinals with 12 sacks, and has 8.5 sacks in six career regular-season games against the Seahawks.
Shaquill Griffin vs. Larry Fitzgerald
Could this be the final game of Fitzgerald’s Hall-of-Fame career? Fitzgerald has yet to announce his future plans, but the 35-year-old wide receiver is in the midst of the worst season of his career on a team that’s not likely to contend for a few seasons. Even though he’s tortured the Seahawks over the years to the tune of 1,986 yards and 11 touchdowns in 28 games, the NFL won’t be nearly as fun without the standout’s steady presence. Griffin played perhaps his best game of the season this past week against the Chiefs, helping limit Tyreek Hill to just 74 yards on four catches.
Five seed vs. Six seed
The Seahawks have clinched a wild-card berth in the NFC, so the only thing to be settled on Sunday is whether they are the five seed or the six seed. The Cowboys are locked into the four seed with the Bears as the likely candidate for the third seed (Chicago could technically still wind up as a top-two seed, but that scenario would require the Rams losing to the 49ers combined with the Bears beating the Vikings). In the wild-card round, the three seed will face the six seed and the four and five seeds will meet up. If the Seahawks win, they will be the five seed. If they lose and the Bears beat the Vikings, they will still be the five seed. If they lose and the Vikings beats the Bears, the Seahawks will he the six seed. So, no matter how it plays out, Seattle will travel to either Dallas or Chicago in the wild-card round.
32 — The rank out of 32 NFL teams of Arizona’s offense in yards per game, yards per play, rushing yards per game, rushing yards per play, passing yards per game, passing yards per play, first downs per game, third-down percentage, fourth-down percentage, field goals made, average time of possession and points per game. Whew. No wonder the Cardinals fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy after Week 7 and promoted Byron Leftwich. And word has it that Arizona won’t retain head coach Steve Wilks after only a single season with the team. So, things could be better in Arizona.
DID YOU KNOW?
Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett needs just 101 yards receiving to reach 1,000 yards in a season for the first time in his career. Lockett would join Doug Baldwin, Steve Largent, Joey Galloway, Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram and Koren Robinson as the only receivers in Seahawks history to reach the 1,000-yard mark. According to Football Outsiders, Lockett continues to have an extremely efficient season, ranking first in the NFL among wide receivers with a DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average; represent value per play over an average wide receiver in the same game situations) of 59.7-percent. The Chargers’ Mike Williams is deep in Lockett’s rearview mirror with a DVOA of 35.5-percent. Not shockingly if you’ve watched a bunch of Seahawks games, Lockett’s catch rate (percentage of passes to the receiver caught) of 80-percent is second in the NFL behind the Saints’ Michael Thomas.
One of the most fascinating things to watch on any given game day is defensive line “stunts.” Sometimes called a “twist,” these are some of the more effective ways to put pressure on a quarterback using just three or four rushers, something the Seahawks love to do so that the remaining defenders can focus on their zone coverage. Stunts are basically the act of looping defensive lineman around one another in order to confuse the offensive linemen and generate pressure. For example, Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark may start on the end of the line, but upon the snap he will take a step forward then loop around, say, Jarran Reed, and come at the quarterback from the center of the line. Reed may then leave his tackle position and loop around the end of the line. In the chaos of a given play, this forces the offensive linemen to have to react to something unexpected. Sometimes offensive linemen pick up the play just fine, but other times they don’t. It’s a game within the game and another small detail that makes football a beautiful, and difficult, game.
It’s the last game of the regular season and just a day before your New Year’s Eve bash, so it’s not likely you want to put a ton of effort into your gameday grub. Therefore, it’s probably best to focus on finger foods, the best of which are roasted jalapeno poppers. Pick up 12 jalapeno peppers, cut them open and scoop out the seeds. Mash four ounces of cream cheese with shredded pepper jack cheese and some grated onion. Load up each pepper with the filling and roast for 15 to 18 minutes. So delicious. For your drinking pleasure with the Bird Gang in town, enjoy a Red Rocket Ale from Bear Republic. Red Rocket is a Scottish-style red ale with caramel malt flavors, perfect for a cold December afternoon — and cooling off your mouth from the poppers.
Seahawks 28, Cardinals 13
Seattle does not have a lot to play for, except playoff seeding, and the Cardinals also have incentive to lose as they are in line for the top pick in the NFL draft. Pete Carroll says he won’t sit his players, but you have to think guys like Chris Carson, Doug Baldwin and Lockett will not see the field as much as in a game with meaning. Likewise, Arizona may choose to sit any veterans that are a little banged up. So perhaps the game won’t be a work of art, but it’s a game that Seattle should win with relative ease.