Seahawks can secure No. 5 seed vs. Cardinals
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The Seattle Seahawks have already secured a playoff berth and can lock up the No. 5 seed in the NFC on their home field by beating the league's worst team on Sunday.
A 38-31 win over visiting Kansas City -- the top team in the AFC -- has the Seahawks in line to claim the top wild card and a first-round playoff matchup at Dallas by beating the reeling Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
However, a loss to the Cardinals (3-12) coupled with a win by Minnesota over Chicago could drop Seattle to the No. 6 seed and send the team to a frigid opening-round matchup in the Windy City. The Seahawks also could wind up with a first-round road game at the Los Angeles Rams, which is why head coach Pete Carroll wants his club to take care of business versus Arizona.
"We certainly want to finish this thing right," Carroll said on Wednesday. "We'd love to finish up this December and do a good job putting together some more good games here and this is an important one, leading into everything that comes up. It's a huge opportunity for us to play good and to work well and continue to force the fundamentals to get better."
On paper, the three-win Cardinals would not appear to present much of an obstacle for Seattle. However, the Seahawks needed a last-second field goal to eke out a 20-17 win at Arizona in Week 4 and their track record against their NFC West rivals has been spotty -- particularly at CenturyLink Field.
The Seahawks have dropped four of the last five matchups at home to Arizona, including a 26-24 loss in the 2017 regular-season finale. Seattle hasn't beaten Arizona at home since 2014, when the Seahawks won a defensive slugfest, 19-3.
"We have not been very successful against the Cardinals here and it's important to us to make sure that we are," said Carroll. "We've got to put together a nice game and it really goes back to the prep to get that done."
Two of Arizona's three victories have come at the expense of lowly San Francisco, but the Cardinals did win at Green Bay 20-17 in Week 13, leading to the firing of Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. Arizona has lost three straight since, including a 31-9 drubbing by the Rams last week to finish 1-7 at State Farm Stadium -- its worst home record since moving to the desert in 1988.
"It's been really difficult and really frustrating," Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "This is a place that we've always played well in historically and to not play well here all season, it's been disturbing."
The Seahawks had more yards rushing (171) than passing (160) in the first matchup against Arizona, getting 101 yards from backup Mike Davis. Seattle will likely follow a similar blueprint Sunday, looking to exploit Arizona's league-worst run defense (153.1 yards per game) with the NFL's No. 1-ranked rushing attack (158.5 average).
Chris Carson ran for 116 yards and two touchdowns as the Seahawks amassed 210 yards on the ground and held the ball for more than 35 minutes in last week's win over high-powered Kansas City. Meanwhile, the Cardinals were gouged for 269 yards by the Rams, including 167 by Todd Gurley II fill-in C.J. Anderson, signed just days earlier.
"It's embarrassing," Arizona defensive tackle Corey Peters said. "It's just a complete failure from a defensive standpoint. I mean, they rushed for way too many yards to think we were going to win the game. We've just got to get this (stuff) fixed."
It marked the 12th time the Cardinals have allowed 100 or more rushing yards to an opponent and it was the eighth time they've been gashed for at least 147, something that continues to get under the skin of embattled first-year head coach Steve Wilks.
"Under the skin?" Wilks asked. "It's like a virus right now."
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is always a threat to run, picking up 57 yards on eight carries last week. However, Wilson also has matched his career high with 34 touchdown passes against only six interceptions and owns a career-best 112.7 passer rating.
Arizona rookie Josh Rosen made his first NFL start against Seattle, finishing 15 of 27 for 180 yards and a touchdown. Since then, the No. 10 overall pick in this year's draft has struggled statistically, throwing 14 interceptions and completing only 55 percent of his pass attempts behind a porous offensive line.
"You learn a lot and you grow a lot throughout the season and I just see a lot of growth," Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said of Rosen. "He understands the ways that teams are attacking him and playing him and he's getting a whole lot better."
Updated December 27, 2018