Seahawks look to end season on high note in Arizona

Dec 31, 2011, 11:16 AM | Updated: Jan 1, 2012, 7:46 am

(AP) — One week ago, both the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals thought their season-ending matchup might be for an NFC wild-card spot.

Instead, after close losses, the teams are both out of the running.

Second place in the NFC West will be on the line Sunday when Seattle visits Arizona in a matchup of teams that have rallied after poor starts to the season.

The Seahawks (7-8) started 2-6 before turning their season around with five wins in their next six games, but a 19-17 loss to San Francisco last week eliminated them from the playoff race. Seattle blew a fourth-quarter lead at home for the second time in the past month.

Despite the knowledge that a second consecutive playoff berth is no longer possible, coach Pete Carroll said the Seahawks are preparing like any other week.

“I don’t think we’re changing anything in that regard. We’re going to try to win the football game,” said Carroll, who is 4-0 against the Cardinals as a head coach. “To look at something for the future is not on our minds at all. We want to come back and play another good game of football.”

Marshawn Lynch has run for a career-high 1,118 yards this season and has scored a touchdown in a team-record 11 straight games. He has rushed for 100 yards in six of his last eight games, and has amassed 855 of his yards since Week 9 – tops in the NFL over that span.

Arizona (7-8) opened the season in even worse fashion than Seattle, dropping six of its first seven. With backup quarterback John Skelton at the helm, the Cardinals recovered to win six of their next seven – including three overtime victories – and reach the .500 mark. However, they couldn’t overcome a 23-0 deficit at Cincinnati last week, falling 23-16 as their late-game rally fell short.

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is echoing the same sentiments as Carroll.

“We’re not approaching this as the last week,” Whisenhunt said. “We want to win this game. I think it’s a pretty significant achievement for this team, after starting 1-6, to get back to 8-8. I think it means a lot.”

Skelton, who has gone 5-2 while filling in for Kevin Kolb, may start again against Seattle as Kolb continues to recover from a concussion.

“The concern going in was that he’s making progress and feeling better, but you don’t want to put him in that situation with the crowd, the noise, and the sun, and have him not feeling good,” Whisenhunt said of Kolb.

“We’re adhering to what the policies are, which I agree with, and we’re going to make sure that we’re conservative or cautious with him.”

While the Seahawks and Cardinals will sit out the postseason, several of their players were honored with Pro Bowl selections this week.

The Cardinals had three players selected, including receiver Larry Fitzgerald and safety Adrian Wilson, who were selected as starters for the fourth year in a row. Fitzgerald is averaging a career-high 17.8 yards per catch. It’s his sixth straight Pro Bowl. It’s Wilson’s fifth Pro Bowl appearance.

Rookie Patrick Peterson, who’s tied an NFL record with four punt returns for touchdowns this season, beat out Chicago’s Devin Hester to claim the NFC’s return specialist position. Peterson injured his left Achilles’ tendon against the Bengals, but an MRI showed only tendinitis. He’s questionable to play this week.

Safety Earl Thomas is Seattle’s lone Pro Bowl selection and will start alongside Wilson in the defensive backfield.

Seattle has won three in a row over the Cardinals, including a 13-10 victory at home in Week 3. The Seahawks snapped a four-game losing streak in Arizona with a 36-18 win last season.

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