By Jim Moore
The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if they beat the Cardinals on Sunday.
Oddsmakers think they will, making them 10-point favorites over a 9-5 team.
Think about that for a second — the Seahawks are so good that Vegas thinks they’re going to win by double digits over an Arizona team that has won six of its last seven games.
Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald is questionable for Sunday’s game vs. the Seahawks after suffering a concussion last week. If Fitzgerald plays, it would increase the focus of Seattle’s vaunted Legion of Boom secondary, Jim Moore writes. (AP)
The Seahawks have won 14 games in a row at Century Link Field and in its six games this year, the average margin of victory has been 18.6 points. They are so good that they make good teams look bad — the Saints were a case in point on Monday Night Football, losing to the Seahawks 34-7.
To have a chance, the Cardinals need huge efforts from Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and their defense.
There are reasons to believe that these things could happen. Palmer’s a quality quarterback — or at least he was in Cincinnati — and he’s thrown for 13 TDs and had four interceptions in the last seven games, the same numbers for Russell Wilson over the same stretch.
Fitzgerald is a future Hall of Famer, and Arizona’s defense is No. 1 in the NFL against the run, and the Seahawks, as you know, have not run the ball particularly well of late.
Plus the Cardinals have more incentive than the Seahawks — Arizona NEEDS to win to have a shot at getting into the playoffs; Seattle’s already in and is playing for home-field advantage.
But every one of these potential Cardinal strengths has a flaw. In the 34-22 loss to the Seahawks in Glendale, Ariz., in October, he looked average at best. He was also sacked seven times and figures to face an even more furious pass rush in this game.
Fitzgerald was held to two catches for 17 yards in the first game, and might not play because of a concussion. He is listed as questionable.
When we talked to Kam Chancellor this week, he said he hopes that Fitzgerald plays. He doesn’t want the Cardinals to have any excuses after they lose.
I’m also hoping that Fitzgerald plays because it would increase the Legion of Boom’s focus. They never want to let an elite receiver beat them.
As for Arizona’s run defense, based on stats and trends, it should shut down Marshawn Lynch, who has averaged only 55 yards a game in his last four games.
But I have a feeling that re-establishing the Seahawks’ running game has been the top priority at the VMAC this week. Even without starting right guard J.R. Sweezy, I think the Seahawks are going to have a strong effort on the ground against the Cardinals.
I’m guessing that Pete Carroll challenged his team to get it done this week. And offensive-line coach Tom Cable will have some wrinkles in his zone-blocking schemes that will give Beast Mode more daylight than he’s seen in a month.
It’s encouraging to note that Lynch rushed for 91 yards against the Cardinals in their first meeting.
I could certainly be wrong, but I’ll predict that Lynch rushes for 125 yards on 25 carries. Even if I’m off and he runs for 55 yards again, I’ll bet that Wilson will compensate with his feet and arm and lead the Seahawks to another dominating win at home.
Prediction: Seahawks 30, Cardinals 13.
Season record against the spread: 9-5.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for his website jimmoorethego2guy.com and kitsaspsun.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.