SEATTLE (AP) — Part of the Seattle Seahawks’ mantra with Pete Carroll in charge is every week is important, every game has the same significance.
Carroll may be correct in his approach, but in reality there is very little importance for the playoff-bound Seahawks hosting the Arizona Cardinals in the regular-season finale Sunday. Seattle (9-6) already has its playoff spot wrapped up. A victory would get Seattle to 10 wins for the sixth time in Carroll’s tenure and ensure the Seahawks are the No. 5 seed in the NFC, setting up a wild-card round matchup at Dallas.
Getting rest for a number of injured players or those that have seen a heavy workload may be part of the equation in how Carroll handles Week 17. But don’t expect to just be seeing backups.
“Every game that we’ve ever played has always been the same in that we’re trying to give everything that we have to get the kind of performance that gives us a chance to be as good as we can possibly be,” Carroll said. “I know you hear it all the time, but that’s what they keep getting pounded with and I have never backed off of that, and we’re not starting now.”
There have only been a handful of meaningless games in the standings for Seattle in Carroll’s tenure, but the matchup with Arizona has to qualify. Carroll’s belief in the importance of each week means he doesn’t want to see a step back from last week’s win over Kansas City and then try to restart that momentum for the playoffs.
But Seattle is facing some injury concerns — especially on the offensive line — and could afford giving some players a brief respite to make sure they’re closer to being healthy for the playoffs.
“Whatever I can do to help the team win I’m here to do it,” Seattle running back Chris Carson said. “If they want me to play, I’ll play. If they don’t want me to play — I always want to be out there — but whatever they want me to do.”
An Arizona loss will clinch the top pick in the 2019 draft for the Cardinals (3-12) and may spell an end to Steve Wilks’ tenure as head coach. It’s been an underwhelming season for the Cardinals and the struggles have led to plenty of rumors that Wilks will only last one season.
There’s also the question whether Sunday will be Larry Fitzgerald’s finale after 15 standout seasons.
“I think the biggest thing is we’ve got to compete,” Wilks said. “We’ve got to finish with a sense of pride. I’m relying and leaning on our veteran leadership this week because we’ve won up there.”
Here’s what else to watch for:
This could be the last time Seahawks fans will see Fitzgerald.
The 35-year-old wide receiver is wrapping up what has been a very difficult season. He’s the only veteran in a very thin wide receivers room and is part of an offense that has ranked at the bottom of the NFL overall and in passing.
Still, his personal statistics aren’t awful, just low by his lofty standards: 65 catches, 698 yards, five touchdowns. He’s caught a pass in 226 consecutive games. Last week, he became the oldest wide receiver to throw a TD pass, a 32-yarder to David Johnson. With 14 yards receiving, he would have 2,000 career receiving yards against the Seahawks. It would be the third opponent that he’s topped 2,000 yards against (Rams, 49ers).
This will be his 234th game with Arizona, tying the franchise held by kicker Jim Bakken (1962-78). Fitzgerald hasn’t said whether this is his final season.
This might be a good week to get Seattle’s leading rusher a breather. Carson became the first Seattle running back to rush for 1,000 yards since 2014 when he gained 116 yards and two touchdowns last week against Kansas City. But he’s had 71 carries in the past three games after having 79 total in the previous five.
Seattle is hopeful rookie Rashaad Penny will be back from a knee injury, and veteran Mike Davis rushed for 101 yards vs. Arizona earlier this season.
The Seahawks have been running the ball like crazy. The Cardinals haven’t been stopping anyone on the ground. That could be good news for whoever Seattle plugs in to the backfield. Two weeks ago against Atlanta, one of the worst rushing teams in the league, the Cardinals allowed 215 yards, the most they’d given up. The following week, the Rams rushed for 269 against Arizona with Todd Gurley a spectator.
Asked if this bad run defense was getting under his skin, Wilks said it’s worse than that. “It’s a virus,” he said.
If Seattle can avoid any turnovers in Week 17 it would match the 2010 New England Patriots and 2011 San Francisco 49ers as having the fewest giveaways in a 16-game season with just 10. The Seahawks have thrown six interceptions and lost only fumbles, although they’ve fumbled 18 times total. Seattle has just one turnover in the past five games.
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