Behind Enemy Lines: Cardinals face playoff-bound Seahawks in finale
Dec 29, 2018, 8:40 PM | Updated: 8:42 pm
The Arizona Cardinals have pride to play for. They also have a first overall draft pick to lose.
Meanwhile, their opponent in the 2018 regular season finale has nothing to prove and little to play for. The Seattle Seahawks (9-6) clinched an NFC Wild Card berth with a 38-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday but can retain some rhythm by preparing against Arizona (3-12) like any other regular season game.
Heading into the NFC West showdown in Seattle this Sunday, here’s a look at the key storylines coming out of the Pacific Northwest.
Saturday, December 29
Oh, yes, Pete Carroll believes momentum for the playoffs is real. And vital.
Maintaining momentum is why the 67-year-old coach has spent the past week vowing to treat the Seahawks’ relatively meaningless regular-season finale Sunday against Arizona (3-12) at CenturyLink Field as he has every other “championship opportunity”—what Carroll loves to call every game.
“Not changing anything,” he said.
The Seahawks have a playoff bid sewn up. But there is still plenty to play for Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals — getting to 10 wins for the sixth time in the past seven years, beating Arizona at home for the first time since 2014 and most important, assuring the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs and a game at Dallas in the wild-card round.
Here’s a look at some keys for the Seahawks on Sunday.
• Seahawks will undergo changing of the guard on Sunday (Seahawks Wire)
The Seattle Seahawks have utilized a prolific running attack this season, thanks in part to the play of their offensive line. Unfortunately, Seattle could be without both their starting guards, J.R Sweezy and D.J. Fluker, on Sunday when they close out the regular season against the Arizona Cardinals.
Coach Pete Carroll already indicated that Sweezy won’t suit up on Sunday, while saying that Fluker will be a gametime decision. With a playoff spot already locked up, Seattle could look to give Fluker extra rest – although Carroll is not a fan of resting his players.
Friday, December 28
• O’Neil: Seahawks chasing something meaningful Sunday vs Cardinals — consistency (MyNorthwest.com)
No one is wondering what direction Seattle is going anymore. The only question is how quickly they can get back to being a viable Super Bowl threat, and while a victory over the 3-12 Arizona Cardinals isn’t going to convince anyone that the Seahawks have arrived, Seattle’s going to post the kind of victory that will make you at least wonder how deep into January they may go.
• Clayton: What to watch for in Seahawks’ regular season finale vs Cardinals (MyNorthwest.com)
After an 0-2 start, the Seahawks have won nine of their last 13 games. If they have a good offseason of acquisitions, they can start thinking of getting back to the 11- and 12-win level, which puts them back in the Super Bowl mix. The key is trying to catch the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West.
Here is what’s ahead in the regular season finale against the Arizona Cardinals.
• Pete Carroll previews Seahawks-Cardinals (MyNorthwest.com)
The Seahawks are 13.5 point favorites over the three-win Cardinals, but they could also be entering another game short a couple starters on their offensive line. Head coach Pete Carroll joined KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Friday morning to preview the game and offer a few injury updates.
Starting left guard J.R. Sweezy won’t play Sunday when the Seahawks close out the regular season against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday due to a foot/ankle injury suffered last week against the Chiefs.
Seattle also listed five other players as questionable, including starting right guard D.J. Fluker (hamstring), running back Rashaad Penny (knee) and free safety Tedric Thompson (ankle). Seattle coach Pete Carroll said will all be re-evaluated following workouts before the game Sunday.
“We’ll have an Olympics going on out there on the field if you want to come out early,’’ Carroll said to reporters following Friday’s practice.
Carroll, though, insisted that any decisions on whether players will play will be made solely on whether the player in question is healthy enough to go.
Thursday, December 27
• How Are Russell Wilson And The Seahawks Doing This? (Deadspin)
With Sunday night’s win against the Chiefs, the Seahawks improved to 9-6 and locked up a playoff spot for the seventh time in Pete Carroll’s nine seasons as head coach.
This was not exactly an easy-to-predict development.
Injuries and age had taken their toll, so the defensive core of the roster—Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman—was blown up, while Earl Thomas landed on IR soon after an extended holdout.
• Seahawks-Cardinals preview: Jim Moore is done underestimating Hawks (MyNorthwest.com)
The Seahawks have been underestimated all year, but is a matchup with the Cardinals finally the time to have real expectations about the playoff-bound team?
Seeing Sebastian Janikowski hobble off the field in their latest game has the Seahawks preparing a rarely seen alternative for field goals and points after touchdowns.
Their rookie Pro Bowl punter drop-kicking them.
That’s what Michael Dickson was doing Wednesday at the start of the team’s indoor practice open to the media.
Of all the records the Seattle Seahawks have accomplished during Pete Carroll’s tenure, he may not be more proud than what they can accomplish this week.
The Seahawks enter Week 17 having committed just 10 turnovers all season, with five of those coming in the first two weeks in losses to Denver and Chicago.
If Seattle can make it through the regular-season finale against Arizona without committing a turnover, it would join the 2010 New England Patriots and 2011 San Francisco 49ers as having the fewest turnovers in a 16-game season.
Wednesday, December 26
• Seahawks sign Pete Carroll to multi-year contract extension (MyNorthwest.com)
The Seahawks announced Monday the team signed head coach Pete Carroll to a multi-year contract extension.
“I am excited to announce that we have extended Head Coach Pete Carroll through the 2021 season,” Seahawks chair Jody Allen said in a statement. “This will continue the championship culture that we have created in Seattle.”
• Pete Carroll’s Seahawks ‘right where we want to be’ (MyNorthwest.com)
“I think we’re right where we want to be. We’ve seen a style before in the past with 24 (running back Marshawn Lynch), he had it. We got it again. And wait until you really feel the impact of the whole (running back) group. We didn’t get to have Rashaad (Penny) last night; he and Mike (Davis) are pounding away. It’s got some substance to it.”
• Clayton: Turnaround from 0-2 start complete for playoffs-bound Seahawks (MyNorthwest.com)
As it stands, the Seahawks should be able to be the No. 5 seed in the NFC, setting up a trip to Dallas to take on the Cowboys in the first round. After an 0-2 start to the season, the Seahawks went on a 9-4 run in which they pounded the ball on the ground to become the league’s best running team.
Considering how bad they were for two years with the running game, that’s an amazing accomplishment. To a certain degree, they have re-established their home-field advantage. The Seahawks have a 5-2 record at CenturyLink Field with one game remaining against Arizona.
“(Rashaad’s older brother) Eli Penny was a running back here with me, and he told me that his brother was coming out of college and he was going to be a high draft pick,” explained Johnson, the starting running back for the Arizona Cardinals, in a phone interview with The Times last week. “He wanted me to just talk to him about being in the league and how to transfer over to being a professional and having responsibilities now — paying bills and how to manage money and how to control people that are suddenly trying to be involved (in your life).
“I ended up messaging Rashaad and just letting him know that I’m here for him.”
Since then, Penny and Johnson have talked multiple times every week. Johnson’s red and white Cardinals jersey hangs neatly in Penny’s locker, an outlier in an ocean of Seahawks gear.
Sunday, the Seahawks played what might have been their best game since beating the Patriots in Foxboro two years ago. They had their way with Kansas City on offense, contained MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes on defense, and made an array of SportsCenter-worthy plays.
This wasn’t a case of the Chiefs own-goaling themselves or getting robbed by the officials. This was a case of Seattle manhandling its foe in front of the whole nation.