Greetings from CenturyLink Field where, rumor has it, the Seahawks play their home games. We need to be reminded of that because it’s been almost a month since the Seahawks played at home, and this afternoon’s long-awaited matchup is a long-awaited rematch with the NFC West rival Cardinals, who won the season opener between these teams in Arizona.
If you’re looking for a theme for today’s game on this chilly, raining afternoon, cue Ms. Franklin, because this game is all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And, sorry Aretha, it’s more than just a little bit.
Pete Carroll has been singing the praises of the Cardinals all week, and for good reason – despite their eight-game losing streak that has reduced their 4-0 start to shambles.
“We take them as very, very dangerous,” the Seahawks’ coach said after Friday’s practice. “Think about how hungry that football team is to get a win. They’ll do whatever it takes and they have a lot of big-time players that can change games for them. So we respect the heck out of this team.”
That’s more than a fearful coach trying to keep his team that is 5-0 at home this season on the right track against a 4-8 opponent that has been finding ways to lose.
The Cardinals have won the past two games in this series. OK, so both were played in Arizona. But the Seahawks’ most-recent victory against the Cardinals was by three points (last season in Seattle).
With a win today, the Seahawks would be 8-5 heading into their last road game of the season – next Sunday in Toronto against the Buffalo Bills. They also would continue to hold at least the No. 2 wild-card spot in the NFC playoff picture – and, depending on how the 8-4 Packers and Bears do against the Lions and Vikings, could move into the No. 1 wild-card spot because they hold the tiebreaker against both teams. A win in this game also would allow the Seahawks to remain in a situation where they still could steal the NFC West title from the 49ers, who lead the division by a game and half at 8-3-1. The 49ers, who beat the Seahawks in San Francisco in Week 7, will play the Patriots (9-3) in New England next week before coming to CenturyLink Field on Dec. 23. So, dare to dream the dream that would be the Seahawks hosting a playoff game.
The NFL world also is starting to take notice of Russell Wilson, the rookie QB who is not playing like one – and hasn’t been for the past month. Wilson’s first regular-season start came in the season-opening loss to the Cardinals. And while most of the talk afterwards, and since, has been about the five incompletions he threw in the red zone with the game on the line in the final moments of the fourth quarter, don’t forget that it was Wilson who completed 6 of 8 in leading the drive from the Seahawks’ 20 to the Cardinals’ 13 that put them in position to have a chance in what turned out to be a four-point loss.
Since then, Wilson has beaten the Packers and Patriots with fourth-quarter TD passes, the Bears with one in overtime last week and did his part to give the Seahawks fourth-quarter leads in losses to the Lions and Dolphins.
Then there’s the road ahead, after next week’s trip to Canada, and it leads back to CenturyLink Field. After hosting the 49ers on the 23rd, the Rams come to town on the 30th. And the Rams also beat the Seahawks earlier this season, also on the road.
A win today would give the Seahawks one more victory than they had in either of Carroll’s first two seasons. One more win in their final three games would give them their first winning record since 2007. Winning three of the four remaining games, or all four, would put the Seahawks back in the postseason – where anything can happen, as they proved in 2010 by knocking off the defending Super Bowl champion Saints in a wild-card game in Seattle.
But right now, it’s all about a Cardinals team that the Seahawks do – and should – respect. Stub their toe in this winnable game and, well, like Carroll said, it knocks some of the luster off last week’s upset of the Bears.
Good teams win games like this one, especially when it’s at a place where they’re unbeaten and against an opponent that has gone oh-for-October, oh-for-November and 0-1 in December.
Enjoy the game. Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m. PT, with televised coverage on FOX (KCPQ/13 in the greater Seattle area) and the radio broadcast on 710 ESPN and KIRO Radio 97.3.