Up next: Arizona Cardinals

When: Sunday, 1:15 p.m. PST, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

Record: 7-8 after Sunday’s 23-16 loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati

Where they rank: No. 23 on offense (25th rushing, 17th passing); No. 19 on defense (18th rushing, 18th passing)

Series: Cardinals lead 13-12, but the Seahawks won the Week 3 meeting in Seattle this season 13-10

Star power: Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals’ Pro Bowl wide receiver isn’t just productive, he’s consistently productive. In 15 games this season, Fitzgerald has 71 receptions for 1,262 yards and eight touchdowns. In 15 career games against the Seahawks, he has 93 receptions for 1,222 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has six 1,000-yard receiving seasons, including a streak of five in a row. And this season, the Cardinals have emphasized the big play aspect of their big-play receiver’s game, as Fitzgerald has seven catches of 40-plus yards and 15 of 25-plus – second in the league to the Dolphins’ Brandon Marshall (16).

Unsung hero: Calais Campbell. The Seahawks know all about this guy, as the Cardinals defensive end had a career-high 2½ sacks, 10 tackles and four QB hits at CenturyLink Field in September. Campbell leads the team with eight sacks, has a career-high 72 tackles and also has an interception. If he keeps this up, he’ll not only have a new contract for next season, but a lot more respect for just how good a player he is.

On the spot: John Skelton. He is playing quarterback because Kevin Kolb can’t. The Cardinals’ big free-agent addition has a head injury, so Skelton has stepped in – again – and is 5-2 as a starter. But with Skelton, his performances have ended better than they’ve started. Like Sunday, when he was 8 of 19 for 93 yards with three interceptions and five sacks in the first three quarters and then 15 of 25 for 204 yards and two TDs in the fourth quarter. In an upset of the 49ers three weeks ago, Skelton was 6 of 6 for 89 yards and a TD in the fourth quarter. In between, he led a game-winning drive in overtime against the Browns.

Burning question: Which team will be able to bounce back best? The Seahawks and Cardinals entered Week 16 on rolls, and looking at a possible winner-to-the-postseason game this week. But the Seahawks, who had won five of six, lost at home to the 49ers on Christmas Eve; while the Cardinals, who had won six of seven, came up short against the Bengals. So there will be no playoffs for either team, just a chance to finish 8-8 after 2-6 (Seahawks) and 1-6 (Cardinals) starts.

Number to know: 4. That’s how many punts rookie Patrick Peterson has returned for touchdowns, equaling the NFL single-season record that was set by the Lion’s Jack Christiansen in 1951 and tied by the Broncos’ Rick Upchurch (1976) and Bears’ Devin Hester (2007). And Peterson’s scoring returns have been long ones – 99, 89, 82 and 80 yards. But Peterson has an injured Achilles, so his status for Sunday is in question.

Familiar faces: Safety Hamza Abdullah played at Washington State (2001-04). Defensive coordinator Roy Horton played at the University of Washington and Mount Tahoma High School. Scout Chris Culmer worked for the Seahawks (2000-08).

The last word: “We’re not approaching this like the last week. That’s not the way we approach it with our team or how we play. We want to win this game, I think it’s a pretty significant achievement for this team to reach 8-8 after starting 1-6. I think it means a lot.” – Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, sounding very much like Seahawks coach Pete Carroll

Comments Off on Up next: Arizona Cardinals

%d bloggers like this: