Seattle and Arizona have had similar seasons. Both started 2-6, before going 5-2 in their last seven games. The Seahawks have enjoyed some amount of national recognition for their resurgence, helped in part, by two blowout wins on national television. The Cardinals did not have a quality win until Week 13 and Week 14 when they beat the Cowboys and 49ers at home on successive weekends. Kevin Kolb’s failure at quarterback is what most fans think about when thinking of the Cardinals, and for good reason. The truth, at least for this season, is that the Cardinals are a energized defensive team with a decent running game that can rise up and beat any team, especially at home.
The Seahawks have been charging hard at an improbably playoff run for nearly two months. Their run culminated this past weekend against the 49ers. It was an emotional and physical game that ended up in a disappointing loss. For the first time this season, the team has to manufacture motivation. They have played through more than a dozen players going on injured reserve. They have played through quarterback controversies and quarterback injuries. Now, they’ll have to play through apathy.
One could argue the Cardinals will be facing the same emotional obstacle, but they have yet to achieve the recognition the Seahawks have as a team on the rise. A wise Cardinals coach would point out the similarities between the two team’s seasons, and tell his team they could prove they are the true team to watch after the 49ers in this division. It would give them an 8-8 finish, 2nd place in the division, and a season-closing victory over a team they likely feel is casting a shadow over their own accomplishments. This is a franchise accustomed to playing for morale victories, and has been far tougher at home where they are 5-2.
None of this is to say the Seahawks can’t win this weekend, but it would qualify as a surprise. This team has played hard in each game, and effort or motivation has never been a question. Their only real motivation heading into Arizona is ending the season with an 8-8 record. People may dismiss this as psychological hooey, especially coming from a guy who spends a lot of time taking the statistical angles, but football requires an emotional edge. Arizona has that this weekend.