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Moore Predicts: Seahawks’ injured defense will cause shootout loss to Cardinals

The Seahawks defense is injured, which will cause them to lose to Arizona, Jim Moore says. (Getty)

Before you think I’m trolling for clicks again, keep in mind that I’m more interested in correctly predicting the outcomes of Seahawks’ games than collecting page views. When I pick the Seahawks to win or their opponent to win, it’s because I truly think that’s what’s going to happen.

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And if you’ve ever tried to predict outcomes in games by putting your own money on your beliefs, you’ve found that it’s frequently painful and next to impossible to be consistently accurate over the course of time.

So this is a weekly digital exercise that is set up for failure, but I’m perfect for the job because I’m used to being wrong, just ask my wife, who’s always right.

OK, that was my three-paragraph windup, and here’s the pitch – I think the Cardinals are going to beat the Seahawks on Sunday. What makes me think that a 9 1/2-point underdog with a 4-9-1 record can beat the 11-3 Seahawks at home? Why would a team with the 32nd-ranked defense in a 32-team league have a chance against the top-seeded team in the NFC? And hey, Jim, didn’t the Seahawks beat the Cardinals by 17 points in Arizona two months ago? What makes you think it will be different this time around?

I’ve got tangible and intangible explanations. The tangible ones you know about. Because of injuries, the Seahawks could be missing as many as five starters on defense. And let’s face it, this defense, even at full strength, is not very good. Without five starters, it figures to be worse. And you could argue that the five starters who might not play are the five BEST starters on defense.

Rank them however you want, but here’s how I’d rank the five players who could be sidelined this week:

1) Jadeveon Clowney

2) Quandre Diggs

3) Mychal Kendricks

4) Bobby Wagner

5) Shaquill Griffin

I think we might all agree on Clowney, who’s made a huge difference with the defensive line. What concerns me more than the pass rush without Clowney is the run defense without Clowney. Kenyan Drake rushed for 137 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-24 win over the Browns last Sunday. Acquired in a midseason trade from the Dolphins, Drake has replaced David Johnson as the Cardinals’ No. 1 running back. He could cause problems for a Seahawks’ defense that has allowed more than 100 rushing yards in three of its last four games.

Diggs has shored up the back end of the Seahawks’ defense and allowed Bradley McDougald to perform at a higher level. With Diggs, the Seahawks have also dramatically increased their take-away rate, the biggest change in the defense. Statistically they’re still giving up too many yards, ranking 29th in pass defense. But they’ve collected plenty of interceptions and fumbles since Diggs arrived, helping the Seahawks rank No. 3 in the league with a +13 turnover differential.

You might argue that Kendricks should not be ranked No. 3, especially since Cody Barton is a capable backup, but Barton is still a rookie who’s prone to mistakes.

Even though Wagner was selected to the Pro Bowl earlier this week, he has not had a good season by his standards and certainly not worth the $18 million he’s making this year after signing a contract extension in the offseason. If he were making $8 million, I’d say that Bobby’s having a good season, but not $18 million.

And for all of the fanfare about Griffin having one of his best years, he hasn’t had an interception since the second week of the 2018 season. I’m not positive of this, but I’m fairly certain that elite left cornerbacks in the league have picked off at least one pass in their last 28 games.

The heck of it is, if these players have a chance of playing, I’d rather they don’t. Next week’s game against San Francisco is more important. Let’s face it, the Seahawks don’t really need to beat the Cardinals. If they win, they still won’t clinch the NFC West even if the 49ers lose to the Rams Saturday night.

I’d rather see Clowney, Diggs, Kendricks, Wagner and Griffin get closer to being fully healthy next week than to trot them out there this week and risk them getting worse or slowing down their recovery.

And I’m not sure how you feel about history, but that’s another factor in Arizona’s favor – the Cardinals have won three of the last four games against the Seahawks in Seattle.

As far as not really needing to win this week, no one in the Seahawks’ locker room would acknowledge as much, particularly when it’s very important for seeding purposes. We all know the Seahawks have gone to the Super Bowl three times, and each time they did it by being the No. 1 seed, benefiting from a bye and two home games.

But I don’t think seeding is as big a deal, subconsciously anyway, as winning a division title. You’re never supposed to look ahead in sports, but it’s fair to think the Seahawks will anyway this week. Besides, as far as seeding goes, I’m thinking three of the four 11-3 NFC teams are going to lose this week. So the Seahawks might still be in position to earn the No. 1 seed even if they lose to the Cardinals.

San Francisco could lose to the Rams Saturday night since the Rams are still fighting for a flickering playoff spot. Plus the 49ers are in the same Human Nature position as the Seahawks, not needing to win since next week’s game will determine the NFC West champion.

New Orleans could lose at Tennessee since the Titans are also still fighting for a playoff spot. Green Bay is a 5 1/2-point underdog at Minnesota Monday night, suggesting they probably will lose if the oddsmakers are right.

And the Seahawks could lose too, which is what I’m predicting, falling a little short in a high-scoring shocker at Century Link Field.

Prediction: Cardinals 38, Seahawks 34

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jim Moore on Twitter.

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