NFL Wire News

Week 16 Preview: Seahawks at Cardinals

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Seattle Seahawks (10-4) at Arizona Cardinals (11-3)

Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, at University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. – TV: NBC

*TV announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya

*Keys to the game: The Seahawks would love to replicate the Week 12 meeting in Seattle, when they held nearly an 11-minute edge in time of possession, methodically chewed away at a stellar defense and forced a backup quarterback to beat a defense on an historic roll.

It’s up to the Cardinals to flip the script with third-string QB Ryan Lindley at the helm. He’s very familiar with the offense, but also has seven career interceptions against no touchdown passes. That’s a daunting prospect against a defense that has allowed a combined 27 points over its past four games – the second fewest in franchise history (20, 1984). Coach Bruce Arians has never shied away from a gamble, but the Cardinals have to at least attempt to establish the ground game after San Francisco had some success penetrating between the tackles last week.

The Seahawks managed 124 rushing yards in the first meeting, but their leading rusher was QB Russell Wilson with 73 yards. No surprise there, but Seattle’s ability to run the ball will come down to assignment recognition by the Cardinals. If Arizona keeps tabs on Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks receivers can be negated – the wideouts accounted for five catches for 83 yards in the first meeting. Protection is a huge issue for Seattle and if Arizona can back Wilson into third-and-longs, the turnovers that are critical might be there for the taking.

*Matchup to watch – Seahawks LT Alvin Bailey vs. Cardinals DT Frostee Rucker: Rucker was highly disruptive against St. Louis in Week 15 and will also work against LG James Carpenter. Bailey is starting in place of Russell Okung (lung) and while he performed admirably in relief last week, Seattle can’t offer him much protection with rookie RT Justin Britt outmatched against Calais Campbell on the other side.

*Player spotlight – Cardinals FS Tyrann Mathieu: After missing two games with a broken left thumb, Mathieu vows to play Sunday. He might be one-handed in any interception opportunities, but the versatile playmaker gives Wilson another dynamic defender to be cognizant of.

*Fast facts: The Seahawks’ best four-game point total allowed during its Super Bowl run last season was 43. … Lindley’s four completions last week were his first in a regular-season game since 2012.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

All the ingredients are in place for a field position slugfest for what likely will anoint the winner of the NFC West and potentially home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs. The Cardinals will wage a fierce fight, but Lindley is a massive underdog against the league’s top defense.

*Our pick: Seahawks 16-15


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