The Seahawks wrap up their 2021 season with a trip to Arizona to face a Cardinals squad that is fighting for the NFC West title, needing a win as well as a Rams loss to the 49ers to clinch their first division title since 2015. To learn more about the Cardinals ahead of this Week 18 matchups, we reached out to AZCardinals.com senior writer Darren Urban with five questions about this week's opponent:
With a shot at their first NFC West title since 2015, how big is the build up to this game both internally and among fans? Or is it just a treat-it-like-any-other-game situation?
Urban: The Cardinals keep saying they want to win this, and I believe them. But they have to be, and I think they will be, smart. For instance, their top running backs James Conner and Chase Edmonds are banged up and I wouldn't be surprised to see them get extra rest and sit one out. We will see. I think their biggest motivation has been the end of the season; if they had a five-game winning streak or something I think they would worry less about this week. But after a three-game losing streak just ended, I think the Cards would really like to have a couple wins in a row to go into the playoffs.
Conversely, will the Cardinals be keeping an eye on what's happening with the Rams-49ers game, and could a big Rams lead to change in how Arizona approaches this one, or is it just go all-out for the win and see what happens, seeding wise, when the dust settles?
Urban: The claim is that they won't be watching the scoreboard, but for that exact reason you're talking about, I think there is a chance a big Rams lead could change the equation. Given that it is cut and dried – Rams lose, they win – to win the division, to me it's going to be harder to pull back if they have a chance between a home game or not. But they are 8-1 on the road and have had much less success at home, so maybe that division title doesn't matter as much.
Other than the obvious important in terms of standings, how big for the team's confidence was bouncing back with a win over a good Dallas team after losing three in a row prior to Sunday's game?
Urban: I don't think there is any question they needed a win. They are human. They needed to feel like they had earlier in the year. They beat the Cowboys in a fashion a lot like they have with most of their wins: Get a lead, don't turn it over, force at least one turnover. When this team is careful with the ball (like most teams) they are hard to beat. The confidence level has jumped up much higher than you'd think with one win.
The Seahawks didn't see Kyler Murray earlier this season, how has he developed/improved as quarterback in Year 3?
Urban: Kyler has had a fantastic year. No, he's not in the MVP race. His injury and the losing streak took care of that. But his hiccups come when he tries to make up a deficit all with one throw and when he's patient and makes wise decisions, it doesn't really matter who is around him; he's going to move the ball (Sound familiar, Seahawks fans?) His leadership is getting to where it needs to be, and he does throw some awesome deep balls. He's the engine that makes the team go, no doubt, and that's running the ball about half as much as he did in 2020.
What are a couple of the matchups you're looking forward to seeing play out on Sunday?
Urban: I do want to see how the Cardinals handle Lockett and Metcalf, especially since CB Byron Murphy, who in my opinion has played at a Pro Bowl level much of the season, had his worst game of the year last week. And I want to see if Chandler Jones and Markus Golden can again make life tough for Wilson