Cardinals vs Seahawks – Separating Pretenders From Contenders

Cardinals vs Seahawks

The Arizona Cardinals have the best record in the NFL, and might be delivering the final blow to any kind of resistance as they visit the Seattle Seahawks in week 12 of the 2014 NFL season. However, with the kind of finish that’s lined up for them, it’s still a bit early to call the NFC West and home field advantage a done deal.

At 9-1, the Cardinals are the only one loss team in the league. They’ve been doing it despite their starting quarterback getting injured early in the season, his backup quarterback getting injured as well and Palmer coming back and again getting injured, this time ending the season. Their only loss has come in Denver against the Broncos, when their inability to generate a whopping amount of yards and offense was too much for them to overcome. That was the only time.

But that 9-1 record doesn’t mean a lot about the future. They have quite a gauntlet of games to go through before clinching a playoff spot, their first since 2009. They went 10-6 last season, but in the loaded NFC and especially their own division, it wasn’t enough. This year is different.

So what is this gauntlet? At Seattle, who might be a declining team, but are still incredibly difficult to beat anywhere, especially at home, where the fans and often officials become almost like another player on the field for the Seahawks; on the road against the Falcons, who are suddenly realizing they’re not such a bad team; playing the Chiefs, who are the hottest team in the AFC along with the Patriots; at St. Louis, a team no one wants to face; Seahawks again and the 49ers on the road to close the season. Ouch.

The Cardinals are incredibly difficult to run the ball against, which always sets the tone in their favor early in games. But you need offense to succeed in the NFL, and while Drew Stanton has been doing well as a facilitator, he’s completing just 53.6% of his passes and just threw two interceptions against the Lions in a 14-6 win for Arizona. He’s not the dream quarterback for a team coming out of nowhere to look like Super Bowl contenders all of a sudden.

And the Seahawks? They wish it was last year again. When luck was on their side. When Richard Sherman backed up his words with shut out performances. When Russell Wilson had better weapons to throw to, a better offensive line protecting him, and generally an easier time, not needing to scramble at every possible moment.

Winning in Seattle means something. Losing there might be the beginning of a dangerous snowball, of negative momentum. The Seahawks have to win this game because the wild card spot is hard to get. The second place in the division is hard to get. For the Cardinals? It’s not a must-win, but it’s not that far from it.

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