Double Coverage: Cardinals at Seahawks, Week 16

Dec 22, 2016, 3:36 PM
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) blocks against Arizona Cardinals strong safety Tony...
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) blocks against Arizona Cardinals strong safety Tony Jefferson (22) during the first half of a football game, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

It’s that time again.

The Cardinals are preparing to play the Seattle Seahawks, and when the schedule came out this game was viewed as one that could possibly decide the NFC West. And if not that, it would at least mean a lot for the NFC playoff picture.

Yeah, about that…

At 5-8-1, the Cardinals are out of playoff contention, while the 9-4-1 Seahawks are division champs and aiming for the NFC’s second seed and a first-round bye.

As is the case whenever these teams play, we checked in with 710AM Seattle’s Brady Henderson, who covers the Seahawks for, to get an better idea of the Cardinals’ division rival.

*Up in Seattle, Brady asked me to break down the Cardinals, and those answers can be found here.

Green Bay Packers' Dean Lowry sacks Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Adam Green: Well Brady, here we are. This game is not nearly as meaningful as it probably should have been, but it is still going to happen. When the Cardinals last played the Seahawks, Seattle’s offense was a disaster with an immobile QB and bad offensive line. They’ve improved since then – most games – but have produced some real eggs over the last month. How good (or not) is that offense?

Brady Henderson: It depends on the week, really. The Seahawks have gone out and laid some dinosaur-sized eggs on offense this season, like the tie with Arizona and a loss in Tampa Bay in Week 12 when Seattle managed only five points, two of them coming on a safety. So of course the next week the Seahawks hung 40 points on Carolina. Some of the issues: a young offensive line that has shuffled pieces and has at times been overmatched (surprise!), the knee and ankle sprains that limited Russell Wilson’s mobility, and a running game that took more than half the season to get going. Wilson’s mobility has improved quite a bit, but his accuracy and decision making have been more recent issues. Seattle’s offense as a whole actually wasn’t bad in that Green Bay game a couple weeks ago, but his five interceptions — some of which weren’t his fault, to be fair — killed them. He was much better last week against the Rams, as was Seattle’s offense as a whole, but he still made a couple of careless throws, which has been a bit of an odd trend for a quarterback who has been so careful with the ball throughout his career.

Richard ShermanAG: I feel like the last time we did this I asked you about a Richard Sherman blow up, and here we are again, and I’m asking you about a Richard Sherman blow up. Is all well in Hawks land or are there some underlying issues that are glossed over because the team is winning, but could boil to the surface in the near future?

BH: It’s been an interesting season for Sherman and a particularly interesting week. To review: He flipped out on the sideline during Seattle’s win over the Rams on Thursday night, yelling at coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell after Seattle threw the ball on first down from the 1-yard. After the game, he referred to the disastrous ending to the Super Bowl two years ago as the reason for his disapproval of the play call. Carroll had a meeting with Sherman Friday morning and said afterward that Sherman knew he was out of line, yet Sherman didn’t express a bit of regret or remorse over the incident when he met with the media on Tuesday. At one point, he took issue with an entirely fair question from one of my now famous co-workers, Jim Moore, and then told him, “I’ll ruin your career” on the way out. Sherman later tweeted that he regretted how he handled himself in that exchange. My sense, based on what I’ve heard and seen, is that Sherman’s frustration with Seattle’s offense had been building for a few weeks and that it wasn’t just about one or even two throws from the 1-yard line. I don’t know if other defensive players share his frustration. Certainly none have expressed it the way he has or even subtly. I suppose what he did could rub some offensive players the wrong way given that he veered way out of his lane onto that side of the ball and how his objection to the passing play was essentially a lack of faith in those involved. But I think these types of issues — at least this one — is a much bigger story outside of Seattle’s locker room than it is inside of it. It’s clear, though, that Carroll and Bevell don’t approve of what Sherman did. And if Sherman truly thinks he has a right to do that, and if he’s already done it twice, then I don’t think anyone should be shocked if it happens again.

Earl ThomasAG: Sherman’s antics aside, the Seahawks defense looks as good as ever so long as they’re not playing the Packers. How much will the Earl Thomas injury hurt them if not Saturday, then going forward?

BH: Thomas was always considered maybe the most irreplaceable player on Seattle’s defense. His speed and experience allowed him to cover a ton of ground, preventing big passing plays and also allowing Kam Chancellor to play closer to the line of scrimmage. And he had never missed a game before this season, so Seattle has been in some unchartered territory in recent weeks without him. Steven Terrell has played alright, to my untrained eye. He actually wasn’t the problem at all in that Green Bay game as the Packers didn’t really throw at him. He got beat last week but got a break when a Rams receiver dropped a would-be touchdown. He’s not the deterrent to deep throws that Thomas is, and I would guess that if any offense will test him a few times, it’s one like Arizona’s that likes to push the ball down field. That could lead to some big gains and it could also create some opportunities for interceptions. It’s something I’ll be paying particular attention to Saturday.

Seahawks Cardinals FootballAG: With the NFC West hardly even being a battle this year, has the mood regarding the Cardinals changed at all? In fairness, was Arizona really ever seen as a true rival?

BH: I don’t think they considered the Cardinals to be a rival of the same class as the 49ers — there was a lot of personal history there along with some epic games — but I don’t know how the Seahawks could see what Arizona did the past three years and not have as much respect for them as another contending team. Earlier Wednesday, Luke Willson was on our station talking about how good the Cardinals are. It sounded genuine as opposed to the obligatory better-than-their-record-indicates talk. The Seahawks still have the No. 2 seed to play for, so they certainly aren’t in position to coast for the final two games even though they’ve clinched the division. And I don’t think Carroll’s messaging would ever allow them to do that anyways.

Michael BennettAG: The Cardinals are having a down year and are likely to have a different look next season. Better? Who knows. In terms of the Seahawks, how are they set-up for the future? Do they have any key roster decisions to make that will impact their status as the division favorites?

BH: The Seahawks won’t have many major decisions with their own unrestricted free agents. Their 2013 draft was so fruitless that only one player remains from that class — Willson, a backup tight end — so they won’t have any starters finishing their four-year rookie deals. The interesting situations will be with a few big-name veteran players who will still be under contract. Michael Bennett will only have one season left on his deal, which means he’ll be in better position for the new contract he’s been seeking for the last two years. Chancellor’s cap number will spike to above $8 million, which, as great as he’s been, is a big number for a player who has missed quite a few games the last two seasons. Jimmy Graham’s cap number will be $10 million, another big number but one that seems more manageable with how he’s produced this season.

AG: Side note, has anyone gotten around to burning those Color Rush jerseys? Are they even flammable?

BH: That shade of green is what I think of when I see the words “nuclear” and “radioactive,” so I’m not sure if it would be a good idea to set fire to them.

Tyler LockettAG: Finally, what do you think happens Saturday at CenturyLink Field?

BH: Seattle’s offense has been too inconsistent and prone to occasional clunkers to feel too confident about the team’s chances of winning in a given week, but this is a game the Seahawks should win. Maybe the biggest reason: They’re at home, where they’re undefeated this season and where their offense has played much better. Seahawks 25, Cardinals 18

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