Should is a dangerous word to use in the NFL.
It denotes not just an assumption, but an expectation of a specific result and that is a difficult thing to do in a league that doesn’t have FCS-sub-divisions and non-BCS conferences. Sure, there are good teams in the NFL and there are bad teams, but the differences between those two are liable to vanish at a moment’s notice. Any given Sunday, right?
And after saying all that, the Seahawks really should beat the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. In fact, they’ll have to in order to keep me convinced that this is a team capable of a Super Bowl run in January.
Over the past month I’ve made the conscious to decision to look past some of the obvious flaws on its team. To stop raising an eyebrow skeptically about the unimpressive point differential. To stop scrutinizing a defense that has allowed more fourth-quarter points than all but one other team in the league and to quit complaining about the total inability to put away an inferior opponent.
I have looked past all that to believe that this team has an ability to win more close games than you would expect, a faith that is based largely on the play of this quarterback and the camaraderie that can be found in this defense. As opposed to a team like Dallas with a talented roster and a middling record, I believe this Seahawks team is greater than the sum of its parts and if that’s the case it really should beat the Arizona Cardinals.
That’s not a knock on Arizona. The Cardinals are better than I thought they’d be this season, starting a rookie quarterback for the second consecutive season. Kyler Murray is the second-best dual-threat quarterback in the league, but more importantly, he’s demonstrated an ability to avoid turnovers while he’s working as a playmaker. I think that Kliff Kingsbury is in over his head when it comes to game management, but I like what his offense has been able to do, especially with regard to running the ball with Kenyan Drake.
But the Cardinals are 4-9-1 and the Seahawks are 11-3 and playing at CenturyLink Field and if that is going to mean anything come playoff time, well, this is the kind of game a team wins. Even a team that is likely to be missing safety Quandre Diggs and could be without linebacker Mychal Kendricks and cornerback Shaquill Griffin and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who was ill last week and did not practice on Wednesday nor on Thursday because of a core-muscle injury.
Rookie quarterbacks are 2-12 starting at CenturyLink Field going all the way back to 2005. Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Deshaun Watson all lost here as rookies. And as dangerous as Murray is running the ball, but if he’s enough to knock the Seahawks on their ear at home in December, well all of those warts that I’ve told myself to stop scrutinizing are going to come into a lot clearer focus as Seattle builds up to the regular-season finale.
From a logistical perspective, the Seahawks would still win the NFC West by beating San Francisco regardless of what happens on Sunday against the Cardinals. That fact doesn’t dilute the importance of this game, though, because it would be hard to question the validity of Seattle’s record if the Seahawks can’t beat the last-place team in the division in December at home.
Prediction: Seahawks 27, Cardinals 19