2016 record: 5-8-1, second, NFC West.
Coach: Bruce Arians (39-22-1, fourth year in Arizona).
Series record: The series is tied 17-17-1, with the one tie coming earlier this year, 6-6 in Arizona. The Cardinals have won two of the last three in Seattle, however, including 39-32 at CenturyLink on Nov. 15, 2015.
Early line: Seahawks by 8 points.
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QB Carson Palmer: Is this the end of the road for the 36-year-old who helped revive Pete Carroll’s coaching career when he won the Heisman at USC in 2002? Probably not as he indicated after Sunday’s 48-41 loss to the Saints — the last home game of the year for Arizona — that he’d like to return in 2017. And he’s played well in stretches this season, including having thrown 11 touchdown passes in the last five games. Still, all of Palmer’s numbers are down significantly from a year ago —TDs from 35 to 22 and yards per attempt from 8.7 to 6.9 —symbolic of the team’s offensive struggles and shifting personality.
WR Larry Fitzgerald: While Palmer sounds likely to come back, maybe more uncertain is if this could be the last time Seattle fans will see Fitzgerald in a Cardinals’ uniform — or any uniform at all? Fitzgerald has sounded noncommittal about next season and there’s a chance the 33-year-old hangs it up or moves on. He may be more of a possession receiver than ever at this point, averaging a career-low 9.7 yards per reception (his career average is 12.8). But he can still catch them, leading the NFL with 98 receptions on 139 targets. Fitzgerald has caught 141 passes for 1,759 yards and 11 touchdowns in 24 career games against the Seahawks.
RB David Johnson: The second-year running back from Northern Iowa has been one of the few bright spots this year for the Cardinals, emerging as one of the best in the NFL, standing fourth in rushing with 1,138 yards along with 73 receptions for 800 more yards. Johnson on Sunday became the first player in NFL history to start a season with 100 or more yards from scrimmage in each of his team’s first 14 games, and also now has 13 rushing touchdowns, one off the team’s season record.
THE CARDINALS’ KEYS TO
There really haven’t been all that many keys to success for the Cardinals this season as they wrap up what has been a surprisingly disastrous year. After Sunday’s loss and the reality that they have been eliminated from the playoffs, Arizona Republic columnist Dan Bickley wrote that “the Cardinals are the most disappointing team in Valley history.” Indeed, Arizona was a favorite to win the Super Bowl when the year began after taking the NFC West with a 13-3 record last year and advancing to the conference title game. But little has gone right for Arizona from the first game of the season when Chandler Catanzaro missed a 47-yard field goal with 41 seconds left to blow a possible win over the Patriots. The Cardinals have lost four other games by six points or less and also tied a contest against Seattle in which they had multiple chances to win. Statistically, the big difference is an offense that has had to rely more on the run this year and has been far less explosive, averaging 5.4 yards per play this season compared to 6.3 a year ago. But the defense, while similar statistically in some ways, has had issues, susceptible throughout to big plays and unable to create as many turnovers. After having 33 takeaways and a plus-9 turnover margin in 2015, the Cardinals have forced just 24 turnovers and have a minus-one margin this year. Special teams have also been a disaster throughout —Catanzaro’s misses against the Patriots and Seahawks cost Arizona two possible wins by themselves while the coverage units have also been subpar with the Cardinals ranking among the bottom eight in both kickoff return and punt return average allowed.