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With nothing to lose, Cardinals head to Seattle for ‘physical altercation’

Dec 23, 2016, 1:00 PM
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) squares up against Ari...
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) squares up against Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

TEMPE, Ariz. — When the NFL schedule was first released, it was hard not to look at Week 16 and think of how the Cardinals’ trip to Seattle could carry great significance.

It doesn’t, at least, not the kind many thought it would.

At 9-4-1, the Seahawks have clinched the NFC West and have an eye on the conference’s second seed; at 5-8-1, the Cardinals are out of the playoff race but would like to finish their season on a positive note.

That, and they wouldn’t mind ruining things for the Seahawks.

“We’ve got nothing to lose; why not go out there and just lay it on the line and make it miserable for them on Christmas,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “I mean, honestly, we’ve got nothing to lose.”

That mindset, according to head coach Bruce Arians, means the team should not head to CenturyLink Field tight.

“Just go out and play as hard as you can, and add the score up at the end,” he added.

Arians, who guided the Cardinals to the playoffs in two of his first three seasons with the team, but fell short this season, said any time a team is out of the running the goal is to play spoiler, but no matter when in the season this game came there would have been excitement for it.

“This is a game that we always look forward to, is playing them,” he said.

It takes both sides to really make a rivalry, but for the Cardinals, at least, Seattle is one of theirs. Since the Seahawks beat the Cardinals 58-0 late in the 2012 season, under Arians, the Cardinals have won two of their seven matchups (with one tie). While that may not seem like a great mark, it’s worth noting both of those wins came in Seattle, where visitors rarely come out on top. And with Carson Palmer under center, the Cardinals are 2-2-1 against the Seahawks.

“Yeah, it’s a special place to play,” Palmer said of CenturyLink Field. “It’s so much fun to compete in that environment and you only get to do it once a year.

“We’ve been thinking about this game for a long time, since we played them last. It’s on Christmas (Eve), it’s a special day. It’s a big game for them. They need to win it. It’s a big game for us. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Fun to compete in Seattle? Really?

This season, so far, the Seahawks are a perfect 7-0 at home. Last season they were a pedestrian 5-3, but in 2014 and 2013 they were 7-1, and in 2012 they went 8-0.

It’s going to be cold and wet Saturday, with a high of 38 degrees in Seattle and a roughly 90 percent chance of rain. It’s also going to be loud. Very, very loud.

“Seattle’s hands down my favorite place to play, any place I’ve ever played in the National Football League, this is my favorite,” Fitzgerald said. “The energy in that building, how good they are defensively; it’s just a great place to go play and if you play well, you can play well anywhere.

“You can’t hear yourself, you can’t hear Carson in the huddle on third downs. Their personnel is unbelievable. It’s just a great atmosphere, and as a competitive player, there’s no better place to play.”

How about to coach?

“It’s fun,” Arians said. “It’s really fun when you win. The many times I’ve been there it wasn’t a lot of fun, but the last couple of years have been pretty good. But it’s a great crowd, it’s non-stop, and it’s a heck of a venue.”

For players like Fitzgerald and Palmer, the pressure that comes with facing the Seahawks on the road is something they have dealt with and pushed through. For others, like left tackle John Wetzel, Saturday will be their first time playing in such conditions.

“All you hear is it’s a big, crazy environment, it gets really loud,” Wetzel said. “The fans are pretty crazy up there and it’s hard to hear, so the silent count, getting it off in there, will be pivotal.”

Arians, noting the challenge, said despite the intensity in the stadium his younger players will have to stay focused — especially on offense. Wetzel believes the atmosphere can work in their favor, too.

“Even with that loud noise, it kind of gets you going too, makes you feel like you’re in a special environment,” he said. “So it gets you going. It’s a big game.”

Not as big a game as it could have been, but to the Cardinals, there is still something to play for.

With a win, the Cardinals would put a dent in the Seahawks’ hopes of earning a first-round bye. With a win, they would produce a signature victory in a season that has lacked much to get excited over. But if ever there was a game where playing for pride could be enough motivation, this is it.

“Oh this is definitely — the next two games,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “For sure. You have an opportunity to go up against divisional opponents; you always want to come out on top, no matter what the circumstances may be.”

Just, few expect them to do so.

The Cardinals enter the game roughly a touchdown underdog, which is as large a spread as they have seen in recent seasons. Injuries and inconsistency have led to their disappointing season, and though they have gone to Seattle and won in the past, little has happened this year to inspire confidence that it will now.

Kickoff is slated for 2:25 p.m. Saturday.

“Playing against Seattle, there’s only two options: you going to either be the hammer or you’re going to be the nail, and you’ve got to decide early what it’s going to be,” Fitzgerald said, noting he will be facing off with the hard-hitting Kam Chancellor throughout the afternoon. “From the time you step on that field you’ve got to understand what it’s going to be, it’s going to be a physical altercation for 60 minutes.

“And if you don’t have that kind of mentality it’s going to be a long day.”

Stories for pre-game reading

Safety Tony Jefferson feels like he got snubbed by the Pro Bowl voters

Sports Illustrated thinks the Cardinals surrounded Palmer with a pretty good situation

David Johnson’s idol, Emmitt Smith, reached out to the Cardinals’ young Pro Bowl back

Larry Fitzgerald really does not know what he plans on doing as it pertains to the 2017 season

For the Cardinals, the Wildcat formation has ‘been a blessing in disguise’

Michael Floyd spoke out about his DUI, the Cardinals and his new team

710 Sports’ Brady Henderson helped give some insight into the Seahawks as they prepare for the Cardinals

Rookie Harlan Miller is set to make his NFL debut for the Cardinals in Seattle

Miscellany

– With a win, the Cardinals would improve to 3-1 at CenturyLink Field under Arians, and would have as many wins in Seattle as the rest of the NFL combined since 2013.

– A victory would give Arians his 40th win as the Cardinals’ coach, putting him alone at third on the franchise’s all-time list.

– Fitzgerald needs one catch to have a reception in 194 consecutive games. With 31 receiving yards, he would pass Reggie Wayne for 9th place on the NFL’s all-time receiving yardage list. With two catches, he would become one of seven players in league history with at least 100 receptions in four different seasons, and with 51 yards he would reach 1,000 for the season, giving him eight such campaigns in his career.

– With 62 yards from scrimmage, David Johnson would be the first player in franchise history to reach 2,000 scrimmage yards in a season. With 100 total yards, he would extend his NFL-record streak of games to open a season with 100 yards from scrimmage to 15, and tie Barry Sanders for the most consecutive such games in a single season.

– Johnson needs one touchdown to have 18 total this season, which would be a franchise record. With a rushing score, he would tie John David Crow (1962) for the most rushing touchdowns in team history.

– If Carson Palmer passes for at least 300 yards, he would establish a franchise record with 23 total 300-yard performances.

– Both Chandler Jones and Markus Golden enter the game with eight sacks; if they can each record two more over the final two games, they would become the 10th and 11th players in franchise history to post a double-digit sack season.

– Receiver J.J. Nelson has scored a touchdown in three straight games.

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With nothing to lose, Cardinals head to Seattle for ‘physical altercation’