GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Seattle Seahawks are in an eerily familiar position during the final week of this regular season, needing a win in the finale and some help from another team to squeeze into the postseason.
Last year, it worked out for the Seahawks.
Seattle isn’t thrilled about having to roll the dice once more, but it doesn’t have much of a choice.
The Seahawks (8-8) travel to face the Arizona Cardinals (4-12) on Sunday in a meeting of NFC West rivals. There are a few scenarios that would get Seattle into the playoffs, but the simplest one is this: Seattle beats Arizona and Green Bay loses to Chicago.
“That’s just the bed we (made) for ourselves,” Seahawks receiver D.K. Metcalf said. “We’ve got to finish the season off strong, and like you said, we need help just to get in the playoffs.
“Once you get in this position, you just start looking back at all the games that you should’ve won or the plays you should’ve made.”
Seattle is trying to make it to the postseason for the 11th time in coach Pete Carroll’s 14 seasons on the sideline. If they don’t get in, it’s the second time in three years the team missed the postseason.
Carroll said he doesn’t expect his team to do a lot of scoreboard watching Sunday. He just wants his team to play well, particularly after a disappointing loss to the Steelers last weekend.
“We’ll have plenty of time to find out what happened,” Carroll said.
The Cardinals and first-year coach Jonathan Gannon have struggled for big chunks of the season, but played arguably their best game last weekend, coming from behind for a 35-31 road win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Arizona is 3-4 since the return of franchise quarterback Kyler Murray from a torn ACL in his right knee. The Cardinals have a four-game losing streak against the Seahawks and are 0-5 against NFC West teams this season.
This year, the Cardinals will try to play spoiler in Week 18. Gannon hopes the stakes are higher next year.
“It’s a really good division and we have a long way to go to get to that level where we’re playing meaningful games in December and January,” Gannon said.
Seattle’s shoddy run defense seemed to hit a new low last week when awful tackling led to big days from Pittsburgh’s duo of Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren.
The Steelers became the sixth straight team to rush for at least 135 yards against the Seahawks with 202 yards on the ground. During the six-game span, opponents are averaging 170 yards rushing and 5.0 yards per carry against the Seahawks.
The challenge for Seattle doesn’t get any easier facing James Conner. According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Harris had 118 yards after contact last week and now comes Conner who has been one of the best this season at gaining yards after first getting hit.
“You have to honor him, and the moment you pay too much attention to him, that’s when Kyler comes into the mix,” Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “It’s going to be a big challenge for us, and we need to make sure we’re ready for it and we tackle.”
The Cardinals got some bad news this week when they learned starting left tackle D.J. Humphries has a torn ACL in his left knee, knocking him out of the season finale and potentially part of next season, too.
The 30-year-old Humphries has been a stalwart on the team’s offensive line for nearly a decade, providing protection for Murray’s blind side since 2019. Veteran Kelvin Beachum is expected to start at left tackle against the Seahawks.
But Humphries’ injury could have long-term implications for the franchise, too. The Cardinals are expected to have two first-round picks in the draft in April and there are several highly regarded offensive linemen available.
Seattle QB Geno Smith is hoping to put together a solid final chapter to the regular season. Smith’s season has lacked some of the excitement and numbers that made last year so memorable. He also missed time with injury after staying healthy throughout the 2022 season.
Smith needs two touchdown passes to reach 20 for the season – after throwing 30 last year — and seems likely to top 3,500 yards passing for the second time in his career. One of the big reasons for Smith’s numbers being down is Seattle’s struggles on third downs. The Seahawks have converted just 35.4% of their third downs this season, ranking 25th in the league.
Arizona cobbled together a solid pass rush during the first half of the season, even if there weren’t many great individual performances.
But over the past month, that pressure has almost completely vanished.
The Cardinals have just one sack in their past five games, struggling to put much pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The roster’s defensive line has been hit hard by injuries, with guys such as Jonathan Ledbetter, Leki Fotu, Carlos Watkins and L.J. Collier spending ample time on the sidelines.
Linebacker Dennis Gardeck leads the team with six sacks.