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Up next: Arizona Cardinals
A look at the Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks’ Week 16 opponent:
When: Sunday, 1:05 p.m., CenturyLink Field
Record: 9-5 and third in the NFC West after Sunday’s 37-34 overtime victory against the Titans in Tennessee, the Cardinals’ sixth win in their past seven games
Playoff implications: The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win; the Cardinals, currently the No. 7 seed in the NFC, need a win to remain in the playoff picture as they try to overtake the 49ers (10-4), Saints (10-4) or Panthers (10-4) for a wild-card spot.
Where they rank: No. 19 on offense (25th rushing, 14th passing); No. 7 on defense (1st rushing, 17th passing)
TV: FOX (Q/13), with Chris Myers, Tim Ryan and Jennifer Hale
Series: Cardinals lead 15-14, but the Seahawks won 34-22 in Arizona in Week 7 and 58-0 at CenturyLink Field in Week 14 last season.
Unsung hero: Justin Bethel. The backup cornerback is having a Pro Bowl season on special teams. He has 17 coverage tackles and two blocked field goal attempts. Not bad for a sixth-round pick in last year’s NFL Draft out of Presbyterian, where he blocked nine kicks.
On the spot: Tony Jefferson. The Cardinals could start their third free safety in as many games, and it would be Jefferson, a rookie from Oklahoma. Rookie starter Tyrann Mathieu was lost for the season two games ago. He was replaced last week by Rashad Johnson, who got a high ankle sprain against the Titans. With the Cardinals’ run defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL, the Seahawks might look to throw more this week. And that would put Jefferson, well, on the spot.
Burning question: How much will Carson Palmer’s low-grade high ankle sprain affect his mobility against a Seahawks’ pass rush that sacked him seven times during a 34-22 victory in Week 7? And the Cardinals can’t target one of the Seahawks’ pass-rushers, because those seven sacks came from eight players – linemen Michael Bennett, Tony McDaniel, Clinton McDonald, Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril and Red Bryant and linebackers Malcolm Smith and K.J. Wright. Palmer has been sacked 38 times, with only four other QBs going down more often; while the Seahawks have 40 sacks, which ties for the ninth most in the league.
Familiar faces: Right guard Paul Fanaika (2010-11) backup center Mike Gibson (2009-11) played for the Seahawks, as did pro scout Josh Scobey (2005-06). Backup nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu played at the University of Washington. Running backs coach Stump Mitchell held the same position with the Seahawks (1999-2007), as did area scout Chris Culmer.
The last word: “Playing at Seattle, it’s extremely tough because of the noise and the fact they play extremely well there. So yeah, it’s a great barometer to see how far you’ve come in our division.” – Cardinals first-year coach Bruce Arians