Week 16 in the NFL features a big-time NFC West matchup that could send one team packing for good. The Arizona Cardinals continue to fight for their playoff lives Sunday as they take on their divisional rival Seattle Seahawks, who happen to have the number one overall seed in the conference and a record of 12-2.
The Cardinals have gone on a recent run, winning six of their previous seven games overall to put themselves in the position they are currently in: 9-5 and the 7th seed at the moment. For Arizona to get in, they need the San Francisco 49ers or the Carolina Panthers to lose out, while also winning both of their remaining games.
Sunday, the Cardinals’ 1st-ranked rush defense takes on the Seahawks’ 2nd-ranked rushing attack — it makes for an intriguing matchup. Seattle has one heck of a defense of their own, having the 1st-ranked pass defense. Arizona, meanwhile, has been helped out by quarterback Carson Palmer over the course of their last seven games. In that span, Palmer has thrown for 13 touchdowns versus just four picks.
Palmer will have to get the ball to wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, both who have had great seasons with him under center. Richard Sherman, though, will look to be draped all over them throughout the game. If they decide to go over the middle, Earl Thomas will be right there waiting for them — Thomas is most definitely in the conversation for defensive player of the year and Sherman is by far the best shut-down corner in the game.
Seattle may have the edge in their pass defense versus Palmer, but the Cardinals’ up-and-coming running game featuring more and more of Andre Ellington each and every week could take advantage of their middle-of-the-road rush defense. Ellington has averaged a whopping 5.9 yards per carry this season and looks like he’ll be getting more of a workload this Sunday.
For the Seahawks, the game plan stays the same. Pound the rock, even against a tough front four, and let Russell Wilson improvise when he needs to — it’s one of those things he does better than anyone at times. Seattle may not be as motivated to win this game as Arizona is, so they’ll have to be careful not to be caught sleeping for even a second. Arizona will be looking to strike at every moment possible. This game could be for the season, after all.