For the second year in a row, the Seattle Seahawks enter the final week of the regular season needing a win and a big assist.
A loss last week left the Seahawks in the same predicament they were in at this time last season: They need a victory over a division opponent and a Green Bay Packers loss to make the NFL playoffs.
Things worked out for the Seahawks last season, but can they go 2-for-2?
“I never imagined we’d be in this situation again, but here we are,” Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith said heading into Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz.
The Seahawks (8-8) controlled their playoff fate until last week but surrendered that advantage by giving up 202 yards on the ground in a 30-23 loss to visiting Pittsburgh.
“There’s one game to go. We’ve been here before,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We’ve got to go to Arizona and go play really well and get a win and see where that leaves us.”
Last season, the Seahawks needed a victory in Week 18 against the visiting Los Angeles Rams and for Detroit to win at Green Bay in the Sunday night game that added to the season-ending drama.
This time Seattle will need to win on the road while rooting for the Packers to lose again at home, this time to Chicago. There will be some scoreboard watching with the games kicking off at 4:25 p.m. ET.
But Seattle can’t afford to take Arizona lightly, especially after the Cardinals rallied from a 15-point deficit to shock the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday.
“(This) week is not going to be an easy game. We’ve got to go out there in their place and make it happen,” Smith said. “We’re the type of team that’s going to always bounce back. We’ve got the right leadership. We’ve got the right coaches, right players, and we’re going to make it happen. We’re going to find a way to make it happen.”
The Cardinals (4-12) have gone 3-4 since starting quarterback Kyler Murray returned from surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament. In the 35-31 win over the reigning NFC champion Eagles last week, Murray completed 25 of 31 passes for 232 yards and a season-high three touchdowns.
Running back James Conner played a starring role, including the game-winning TD, which could be cause for concern after the Seahawks were demolished by Pittsburgh’s previously stagnant ground attack.
“The guys, they played well,” Murray said. “We executed and we did our thing and, you know, it’s good. It’s good to feel that. Obviously, with everything that’s happened, a lot of disappointment this year, a lot of tough losses, but trying to finish the season off the right way.”
First-year Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon boomed with pride in his team finishing strong.
“I know our record isn’t what we want it to be, and that falls on me, but they have confidence,” Gannon said. “They never waver. And what I’m really pleased about is the way they practice that effort. They stay together. They focus. Attention to detail. A lot of teams just pack it in right now. That’s not our guys in there. So that’s just a tribute to the character in the locker room.”
Cardinals starting left tackle D.J. Humphries won’t play this week. He suffered a torn ACL in his left knee last week and was placed on injured reserve. Defensive lineman Dante Stills (knee), linebacker Dennis Gardeck (knee) and cornerback Garrett Williams (ankle) are also in danger of sitting out Sunday.
The Seahawks have their own injury concerns on the offensive line. Starting center Evan Brown (concussion) and right tackle Abraham Lucas (knee) missed practice, as did backup tackle Jason Peters (foot).
Running back Kenneth Walker III (shoulder) also sat out, but Carroll seemed optimistic the Seahawks’ leading rusher would play Sunday. Also missing practice were nose tackle Jarran Reed, defensive end Mario Edwards and linebacker Nick Bellore, all with knee injuries.