Seattle faces a must-win game against the Cardinals, who have won three of the past four games at CenturyLink Field
2017 record: 7-8, third in NFC West.
Coach: Bruce Arians (48-30-1 in five years in Arizona and overall. His 9-3 record with the Colts in 2012 is officially credited to Chuck Pagano.)
Series record: The all-time series is tied 18-18-1. But Arizona has ominously won three of the past four at CenturyLink Field, all since Arians became coach in 2013.
Early line: Seahawks by 7.
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Quarterback Drew Stanton: The 33-year-old, whose most famous moment against Seattle in four years with the Cardinals may be his sideline celebration of an Arizona touchdown that clinched a win at CenturyLink in 2015, has emerged as the Cardinals’ starter in the wake of an injury to Carson Palmer and the decision of Arians that for now he serves as the team’s best shot to win instead of Blaine Gabbert. Stanton has three starts this season, including Seattle’s 22-16 win in Arizona in November in which Stanton suffered a knee injury that led to going with Gabbert for a while. Stanton is 10-6 in his career as a starter and he did just enough Sunday to get the win for the Cardinals with two touchdown passes helping cancel out two interceptions.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald: The 34-year-old has yet to fully commit to playing next season —a one-year contract extension he signed in November assured only that he will play for Arizona next year if he plays at all. So there’s a chance this is the last game in Seattle for a certain Hall of Famer who has been as productive against the Seahawks as anyone through the years. Fitzgerald has 155 receptions against Seattle since 2004 for 1,903 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had 10 for 113 yards against Seattle last month and is having a typically stellar season with 101 receptions — already the fourth most of his career.
Running back Kerwynn Williams: A teammate of Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner at Utah State, Williams has become Arizona’s starting tailback after injuries shelved David Johnson and Adrian Peterson for the season. The 5-8, 196-pounder isn’t going to wow anyone with his numbers — he has 185 yards on 53 carries in the past three games. But stopping him will be vital for Seattle to win Sunday.
Strong safety Budda Baker: The former Bellevue High and Washington standout has become a starter in the second half of the season for the Cardinals, with six starts overall. He has 39 of his 43 tackles in the past seven games, which included six against Seattle in November. Baker also was named to the Pro Bowl last week as a special teamer — he has a whopping 16 tackles on special teams for Arizona this season. Baker had a team-high 12 tackles in Arizona’s 23-0 win over the Giants on Sunday.
Things rarely seem to come easy for the Seahawks against Arizona, especially in Seattle, where the Cardinals have won three of the past four, including a 34-31 win last season on Christmas Eve that knocked Seattle out of the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Now Arizona has a chance to knock Seattle out of the playoffs entirely and the Seahawks know that the Cardinals and Arians would like nothing better to head into the offseason. And while Arizona has been heavily hit by injuries, the Seahawks are hardly catching Arizona at a good time. Arizona has won three of its past five to crawl within finishing the year at .500, doing so behind what has been a suddenly dominant run defense. The Cardinals have held each of their past five opponents to 91 yards or less on the ground, including Jacksonville (91) and the Rams (90). The past three Arizona opponents — Tennessee, Washington and the New York Giants —combined for just 139 yards rushing. Arizona also has held each of its past five opponents to 303 yards or fewer and has allowed just 27 points in its past three games. In other words, Seattle’s offense is going to have to work for this one. Or maybe Seattle’s defense can force a few turnovers — Arizona is tied for fifth in the NFL in giveaways with 24 and has had two in each of its past five games. Arizona, though, has also forced 12 turnovers in its past six games. Arizona also had been running it pretty well for a while even despite the loss of Peterson but had just 74 yards against the Giants. Seattle’s strategy in this one will be obvious — stop Arizona’s running attack and put the game in the hands of Stanton, and take care of the ball on offense and don’t get beat on special teams.