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4 things to watch: Seahawks vs. Cardinals

Russell Wilson, the Seahawks wide receivers and tight end Jimmy Graham will be keys to Sunday's game. (AP file photo)

SEATTLE -- The Seahawks regular season comes to a close this afternoon against NFC West Division foe Arizona.

By now you have likely heard the scenario that must take place for the Seahawks to extend their postseason streak to six straight years. First and foremost, the Seahawks must beat the Cardinals, keep in mind Arizona has won three of its last four games in Seattle. The other part of the equation is the Panthers need to beat the Falcons in Atlanta. But If one of those two things doesn’t happen, the Seahawks season will end before the New Year begins, and that is strange territory for Seahawks fans this decade.

Here are four things to watch in today’s must win game against the Cardinals.

Russell Wilson.

Wilson usually puts up gaudy numbers through the air in December. That hasn’t been the case the past two weeks especially. Against the Rams Wilson completed 14-30 passes for 142 yards and one touchdown. Against the Cowboys the struggles continued, Wilson was 14-21 for 93 yards and two touchdowns. Asked about the struggles of the passing game this week Wilson saw room for improvement. “ I think we can be a little better and I think I can be a little bit sharper. Other than that, we’ve been very successful throwing the ball all year. I don’t think it’s anything that we’re doing or anything like that, I think we just have to be a little bit sharper.”

Arizona is very good defensively against the run so Air Wilson may be the best option to scoring points in this must win game where the passing game will indeed need to be sharper.

Doug Baldwin and Friends

Where have they been? Normally boasting big receiving numbers in the month of December Doug Baldwin and the rest of the Seahawks receivers desperately need to rack up some catches. Last week Baldwin had four catches and a touchdown in the win over the Cowboys. This week the entire Seattle receiving corps will need to play the best. Baldwin knows what is on the line, he’s been a part of this Seattle playoff streak and doesn’t want it to end. This week Baldwin was embracing the must-win scenario the Seahawks now face. “ Because your backs are against the wall, there’s really no other option. You have to lay it out on the line. There’s a lot that you can control there’s a lot that you don’t control and so to me it’s just a beautiful example of life, of adversity that life throws at you and again it introduces you to who you really are, so I’m looking forward to that.”

The Seahawks under Pete Carroll have traditionally played well when their backs are against the wall, that is certainly the case this week.

Jimmy Graham

One of the biggest, most talented players on the field during any Seahawks game is tight end Jimmy Graham. He should be a dominant offensive force for the Seahawks every single week but too often this season we are left wondering if Graham even played. Still effective in the red zone despite his struggles, Graham has more touchdowns this season ,10, than any tight end in Seahawks history. It’s the absence of Graham though in critical third and long situations at midfield where he should be utilized more. Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell was asked about the challenge lately of getting Graham involved with a passing game that is struggling. “ Yeah I can’t stand right here and just put my finger on it, exactly this time. There is always things that we try. We tried to throw him the ball and we get a 2-yard loss on a naked a couple weeks ago. So there is things in there. Obviously he is a bigger factor in the red zone ,which we are still able to make him show up there, but I think again, a lot of times it comes down to opportunities. I think we need to continue to find ways to give him opportunities, which means either that we have the route designed to go there or we have to throw the ball to him.”

They have certainly struggled to use Graham effectively but a basic approach to integrating him more may be the perfect approach to a passing game that desperately needs a boost.

The Crowd

The 12s never had a chance to be a factor against the Rams. LA’s early dominance took the Centurylink Field out of it early and the lack of noise was just part of a bad day all around for the Seahawks, honestly there was very little to cheer about.

This week the place needs to be electric from the start. Anything to add to the confusion for the visiting Cardinals will help. We saw last week against Dallas how important forcing turnovers is for the Seahawks. A heathy dose of crowd noise and the confusion that ensues for an opposing offense may play a factor in Arizona making some costly mistakes.

There is also the other factor of scoreboard watching. Everyone in that stadium will be well aware of the Panthers and Falcons game being played at the same time. It is one of those rare days where Seahawks fans will root for Cam Newton and the Panthers to win. While the energy of the crowd in Seattle may be indicative of what is going on in Atlanta, Pete Carroll will be doing all he can to stay focused on the game in front of him. “Well there is always stuff that can distract you and there’s always stuff out there.” Said Carroll this week when asked about what his team will need to be focused on Sunday. “ This happens to be this scenario. It’s hugely important to focus on what’s at hand and that’s for sure, so you know it’s not anything different than what it normally is. We’re trying to win every game and every one of them counts and it’s a big deal and we do everything we can to play for that.”

This should be one tense Sunday afternoon. Enjoy the game.

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