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O’Neil: Seahawks must avoid what would be a telling skid in Arizona

Thursday's game is a crucial crossroads for Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. (AP)

PHOENIX – The Seahawks are capable of a clunker.

They’ve demonstrated that pretty clearly over the first half of a season in which they have yet to put together a full four quarters of above-average play on both sides of the ball.

Now we’re going to find out if this team’s susceptible to a skid, which is exactly what Seattle would be mired in should the Seahawks lose to the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night.

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Losing to an undermanned Washington team is one thing. Losing four days later to an Arizona team that’s down to its backup quarterback and last week handed the ball 37 times to a 32-year-old running back it picked up midseason would be something else entirely.

It would be a warning sign that this Seahawks season might very well wind up in the ditch.

The Cardinals aren’t going anywhere this season. Not with Carson Palmer out with a broken arm, Larry Fitzgerald in the midst of what might be his last year and an offense prone to going inert for quarters at a time.

Beating Arizona won’t erase the effects of last week’s loss, but it would show some resilience for Seattle. A sign that this team still has the steel-toed toughness it will need if it’s going to wade much farther than the first week of January.

But if Seattle were to lose to Arizona, earning so much as a playoff berth will seem ambitious. It’s one thing to play down to the level of competition. It’s another thing entirely to do it twice in the span of five days.

A victory over Arizona won’t tell us much about how far Seattle will go this season. A loss, on the other hand, would tell us plenty about how far the Seahawks have actually fallen.

The Seahawks win if … they rush for 100 yards as a team, excluding Russell Wilson’s total. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It shouldn’t. That was pretty standard stuff for the Seahawks just three years ago. Wilson is Seattle’s leading rusher, but finding a credible ground game will be the key to this Seahawks season. And for anyone who thinks Seattle is better off just committing to being a passing offense, look at where that has gotten the Seahawks so far this season. They rank second in the league in yards per game yet still have barren stretches of scoring that span quarters at a time. Seattle is better off trying to find some alternatives to relying on Wilson on offense rather than hoping he plays better than he already is.

The Cardinals win if … they have more takeaways than turnovers. You could say that in almost any game, but this one is very specifically true. The ONLY way that Arizona is going to win is to avoid turning the ball over while hoping that the Seahawks light themselves on fire and run around, thereby self-immolating, as opposed to the stop-drop-and-roll to extinguish the blaze.

Prediction: Seahawks 26, Cardinals 6