The embattled Arizona Cardinals (11-3) currently sit in their nest above the Seattle Seahawks (10-4) in the NFC West standings, though not comfortably. By Week 17, the picture could be an entirely different one. This week’s contest has the Hawks traveling to University of Phoenix Stadium to take on Bruce Arians and the Cardinals in front of a Sunday evening national television audience.
Six weeks ago, the Cardinals had an honest chance at being the first team ever to play and host a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Fast forward to mid-December, and the team is now without starting QB Carson Palmer, backup QB Drew Stanton and starting RB Andre Ellington. The defense is still relatively intact from where it was in Week 1, but the red birds are on the ropes. Only one game separates them from the Seahawks in the division standings.
The losses began to show last week against the St. Louis Rams on TNF, as Arizona failed to find the end zone. However, because of that scheduled game date, the one thing they will have working in their favor heading into Sunday’s evening game is that they have been resting since Dec. 11.
Up in the Pacific Northwest, Pete Carroll has his team playing playoff-caliber football again in the waning weeks of the regular season. The Seahawks dominated the Cards in Week 12, winning 19-3. Over their last four games, they are plus-52 in point differential, having allowed only a single touchdown each to the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers previously.
Arizona will now turn to third-string QB Ryan Lindley. As a Cardinals fan, it’s tough to be optimistic about him. A sixth-round draft pick in 2012, he had a TD:INT ratio of 1.6:1 in four college seasons with the San Diego State Aztecs. In the NFL, Lindley has started only four games in his career, all of which came during the 2012 season. His QBR that year was 46.7, going hand-in-hand with a 1-3 record. He did not have the guidance of Arians that year, nor a top ranked defense to lean on, but Arizona is not playing the Jacksonville Jaguars or Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week. They are facing both the defending Super Bowl champions and an extremely competitive division rival — with that comes intense pressure.
An even worse historical omen for Lindley is he faced the Seahawks in 2012, though not as a starter. He completed 8-of-17 passes for 59 yards, and Seattle ultimately won the game 58-0.
The Cardinals will try to control the game with runs by tailbacks Stepfan Taylor and Kerwynn Williams. When that fails, Lindley will make mistakes in the passing game. Expect the Seahawks’ offense to get plenty of cracks to wear down the normally stout Cardinals defense. They will get worn down. When they do, Marshawn Lynch will take over and the game will get out of reach for the Cardinals, likely towards the end of the third quarter.
Prediction: Seahawks 23, Cardinals 9