At 7-5, the Seattle Seahawks are clinging to the No. 6 seed in the NFC. Without question, the next four weeks will determine their fate as the Buccaneers and Redskins are right on their heels for that sixth and final playoff spot.
Pete Carroll's club will need to win at least two of their next four to punch their playoff ticket, but to be safe, they should really win three of their next four. The first team standing in their way is the 4-8 Arizona Cardinals.
After a 4-0 start, the Cardinals have somehow managed to lose every game. So, the Seahawks will need to watch out as this game could easily be classified as a trap game. Given the fact Arizona hasn't won at CenturyLink since 2009, this Sunday's game should be in their favor.
Let's take a look at the Seahawks' must-win matchups for Week 14 as they will help ensure their eighth victory of the season.
When the Seahawks Are On Defense: Richard Sherman vs. Larry Fitzgerald
If we flash back to the Week 1 matchup between the Cardinals and Seahawks, there was one fierce battle that stood out by game's end. Cornerback Richard Sherman and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald squared off against each other for only the second time ever in their careers.
It was rare to see Fitzgerald struggle with coverage because he usually does such an incredible job of using his size and leverage against smaller corners who don't match him in stature, yet at 6'3" Sherman didn't back down from one of the best receivers to ever play the game.
He was physical with Fitz and knocked him off his routes more often than not, which in turn helped minimize Fitzgerald's damage to one measly catch on four targets in Sherman's coverage for 23 yards. Moreover, Sherm picked off a pass that was intended for Fitzgerald with 7:51 remaining in the third quarter.
The play above started with a strong initial jam that slowed No. 11 off his route, and as Fitzgerald tried to work his way down the right sideline, Sherman was right there step for step trying to keep pace. You can clearly see the second-year player from Stanford had no problem keeping pace, but the real test came next as quarterback John Skelton let go of the ball.
Arizona's pass play called for a deep comeback that has worked a million times before because of Fitz's route-running skills, but Sherman must have put in work in the film room. He beat the All-Pro wide receiver to the spot and practically ran the route for him.
He also managed to add a nice toe tap at the end of the interception as well.
Even after eight consecutive losses, Skelton is back under center with an improved offensive line in Week 14, so expect Fitzgerald to return to form. Skelton never seems to hide the fact that his favorite target is indeed No. 11.
In two head-to-head matchups, Sherman has the upper hand. He has surrendered five receptions on 11 targets against Fitzgerald for 87 yards and one interception. Additionally, the Cardinals' quarterback rating when throwing into his coverage is 30.9.
When the Seahawks Are On Offense: John Moffitt and Paul McQuistan vs. Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell
The last time these two teams met, the Seahawks interior offensive line was wrecked by the Cardinals defensive line. Defensive end Darnell Dockett had a field day against rookie right guard J.R. Sweezy and opposite end Calais Campbell dominated left guard Paul McQuistan.
Both offensive guards were over matched in both the run game and pass protection. Combined, Sweezy and McQuistan surrendered a total of five quarterback pressures. As a whole, Seattle's offensive line allowed 16 total pressures—one quarterback sack, four quarterback hits and 11 quarterback hurries.
On the ground, Marshawn Lynch didn't have many running lanes whatsoever as he had to create plenty of yards on his own. Fifty-eight of Lynch's 85 yards came after contact, and he forced an incredible six missed tackles as he tried to carve out open space.
On this run play, it's easy to see just how Dockett uses his strength and leverage to work his way up and down the line of scrimmage. You can see that Sweezy tries to stand Dockett up, but he fails miserably as No. 90 makes his way to the running back without much resistance at all.
At times in Week 1, it took double-team blocks from Sweezy and Unger just to slow him down. However, the rest of the season hasn't mirrored his Week 1 performance. The player the Seahawks interior offensive line should be truly worried about is Campbell.
For the third season in a row, he is on pace to have a career year against both the run and the pass. His main matchup the first time around was McQuistan, yet the second time around will be second-year guard John Moffitt.
The last time he played the Cardinals as a rookie, he allowed a sack and two hits. According to Pro Football Focus, he didn't do much better against the run as well—No. 24 only averaged 1.5 yards per carry when running of his backside.
If the 'Hawks want to get the ground game cranked up, they are going to have to put forth a better effort than they did in September.
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