The NFC West is up for grabs when two elite teams this season clash, as the Arizona Cardinals host the defending champions Seattle Seahawks meet in a game with huge ramifications. The Cardinals currently hold the number one seed in the NFC, and are the only team in the Conference to have already clinched a playoff berth. Yet, many expect them to fall to the Seahawks, which would give Seattle the inside track on both the NFC West division title, as well as home field advantage. Obviously, a lot is riding on this game.
One week after winning a huge showdown against the 49ers that completed the season sweep for Seattle and eliminated San Francisco from the playoffs, the Seahawks now find themselves going on the road to face the team that has stood atop the NFC West all season long in Arizona. It is yet another big NFC West showdown for the defending champs with a lot up for grabs on Sunday.
The Cardinals surprised many people by racing off to a 9-1 start, and looked like they were one of the most complete teams in the league. But many experts were not sold on the terrific play by the Cardinals earlier this season, and those doubts seemed to grow quite a bit when Arizona lost two straight games on the road after the red-hot start. Suddenly, what had once been a comfortable three-game lead in the NFC West division for them was trimmed to a tight one-game lead, and they now found themselves looking over their shoulders to see the defending champion Seahawks nipping at their heels. They did manage to win their last two games against Kansas City and at St. Louis, which sets up this big NFC West showdown this Sunday.
While the Cardinals surprised many earlier this season with their surprising dominance, the Seahawks, by contrast, seemed to be surprisingly disappointing early on, as they suffered through numerous problems that threatened to derail their title defense before it even began. There was friction both on and off the field, and some problem players were let go. There was controversy with star running back Marshawn Lynch, and quarterback Russell Wilson was not playing as well as some had expected him to. Most importantly, Seattle was not winning with anywhere near the same level of dominance that they had shown last year, when they took the season by storm and proved to be clearly the best team in the league with a convincing run through the postseason.
However, they have turned things around, and with four consecutive victories that echoed last season’s dominance, the Seahawks now have become the favorites of many experts to repeat as champions this season. Last year, Seattle was the youngest team in the league, and they won the Super Bowl convincingly. But it took them a long time to show that better form this year. The recent slate of victories seems to suggest that the Seahawks are now ready to follow up on the tremendous promise of last season, and make another title run this season. They won last year’s Super Bowl by fielding the best defense that the NFL had seen in many years, and that defense is beginning to look nearly as dominant once again late this season.
Seattle enters this game having won four straight games, and their defense in particular has stood out, allowing an average of merely 6.8 points per game during this current streak. After falling to 6-4 earlier this season and having some people question whether they could even qualify for the playoffs, Seattle started their recent dominance by winning the first meeting between against the Cardinals, 19-3, which was the first win in a streak that has now reached four straight now for the Seahawks, and has reinvigorated the team. Now, Seattle hopes to take advantage of Arizona’s quarterback woes once again, as the Cardinals will try to win with their third string quarterback against a Seahawk defense that looks ever more elite with each passing week. The reversal in fortunes for both teams have many believing that the Seahawks are destined to win the showdown, taking the NFC West title and, possibly, home field advantage throughout the playoffs in the NFC, when the two teams clash with so much up for grabs on Sunday.
By Charles Bordeau
Photo by Matt McGee – Flickr