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Seattle Seahawks

What to watch for when the Seahawks play the Cardinals in Week 18, plus prediction

Seattle’s Bobby Wagner, left, and Jamal Adams tackle Arizona’s Joshua Dobbs earlier this season in Seattle.  (Getty Images)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

RENTON, Wash. – The Seahawks said there was little time this week to wallow in their predicament.

Last Sunday’s 30-23 home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers coupled with events elsewhere meant that Seattle suddenly is up against it when it comes to qualifying for the NFL playoffs.

Specifically, the Seahawks must win Sunday at Arizona and hope the Chicago Bears can go into Lambeau Field and beat the Green Bay Packers. If only one, or none, of those things happens, Seattle’s season would be done.

“That’s just the bed we laid for ourselves,” receiver DK Metcalf said this week.

Now to see if they can navigate their way out of it and into the postseason. If not, it would be just the third postseason since 2011 without the Seahawks.

On to our weekly keys to the game.

Matchup to watch

Seahawks defense versus Cardinals running game: Many statistical matchups in this one are pretty even. But one that is not is glaring – Arizona’s rushing offense against Seattle’s rushing defense. The Cardinals rank sixth in total rushing yards and second in yards per attempt at 5.0. The Cardinals have been strong on the ground in recent weeks, rushing for 150 or more in three of their past four games including 221 yards on 40 carries in a 35-31 win over Philadelphia last week led by 128 by burly running back James Conner. Conner and Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray – also a dangerous runner – were out because of injuries when the Seahawks beat Arizona 20-10 in October. The Seahawks, meanwhile, have seen their run defense fall off markedly in recent weeks, allowing 136 or more yards in each of the past six games, including 202 against the Steelers. That game included 19 missed tackles, most coming against the run. Seattle must cut that number in at least half.

Player to watch

Cornerback Devon Witherspoon: It was easy to assume Witherspoon was drafted mostly to shore up the pass defense. But the Seahawks also envisioned him as a key against the run and able to avoid some of the one-on-one missed tackles in the secondary that plagued them a year ago. Witherspoon has proved to do just that when healthy, ranking among the team’s best run defenders, via Pro Football Focus. And it might be no coincidence that the run defense began to flail when he was sidelined seven plays into the 49ers game Dec. 10 because of a hip pointer. Witherspoon returned for the Steelers game but did so without much practice time. He admitted this week that the absence impacted his play – he was assessed two missed tackles against the run by PFF. “It was tough, and I got beat a couple of times in the game, and then I was just really frustrated because normally it doesn’t play out like that,” he said. But Witherspoon practiced this week, and being closer to his usual self could help the run defense greatly.

Coaching decision to watch

Defensive lineup changes? Coach Pete Carroll hinted at some changes after the tepid defensive effort against the Steelers. He wasn’t, of course, going to detail those, and he didn’t even say they would involve personnel. But it could make sense to shake up things as the Seahawks did for the Eagles game, when they went back to Witherspoon as the left corner in the base defense, used Michael Jackson on the right side and relegated Riq Woolen to a rotational role.

The X-factor

Setting an early tone: The Steelers loss was disappointing, dispiriting and disheartening – both the result and the manner in which it happened, with the Seahawks being outmuscled throughout. Simply put, the Seahawks just seemed to lack effort at times, even if Carroll said he didn’t think that was an issue. The Seahawks can’t afford any similar lapses, especially on the road and in such a critical game when nerves might already be tight. They must make things happen early, if only to show they are better than they played last week. Even if they miss the playoffs, the Seahawks can create some better final memories of this season.

Player who could surprise

WR Tyler Lockett: OK, so Lockett is obviously one of Seattle’s best-known players. But he’s concluding a different season for him. He does not have a 100-yard receiving game – he’s never gone a complete season without one. He also has only four touchdowns, which would be his fewest since his second season in 2017 (he’s had at least eight or more in every season since then). And he also doesn’t have a reception longer than 36 yards (he’s never gone a full season without one of 40 or longer). Lockett, though, has had some big games against Arizona, and especially in Glendale. He has six touchdowns in his past three games there, including three in his 15-catch, 200-yard game in 2020.

Key stat

Time of possession: The Seahawks obviously have not been good in time of possession this season, ranking last in the NFL with an average possession time of 26 minutes, 49 seconds per game. Winning time of possession has not been the be-all, end-all for Seattle that might be expected. Seattle is 4-3 in games when it wins the time of possession this season and 4-5 when it doesn’t. But given the way Arizona will want to run the ball, it feels like time of possession could be a key. If the Cardinals can move it on the ground, take time off the clock and not have to resort to passing a lot to score, that could be bad news for Seattle.


The Seahawks have defied the odds the past few years, losing when people expected a win, winning when people expected a loss. Seattle might seem like a dead team walking after the Steelers game. But it would be no surprise if they pull this one off, and then hope for the best. Score: Seahawks 27, Cardinals 23.