The Seattle Seahawks have had many up’s and down’s to their 2017 season. Quarterback Russell Wilson has turned into an elite star carrying the offense, the running back dilemma has still not been solved, the offensive line has improved but is still a work in progress, and their dominate defense is not the same after losing cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Kam Chancellor, and defensive end Cliff Avril to season-ending injuries. However, the Seahawks have prevailed to this point to a 9-6 record against a daunting schedule and have put themselves in a position to sneak into the final NFC Wild-Card playoff spot. The scenario is simple for Seattle on the outside looking in, a win at home against the Arizona Cardinals and an Atlanta Falcons loss to the Carolina Panthers in week 17, the Seahawks will reach the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year. Any other scenario happens, Seattle misses out on the playoffs for the first time since 2011, head coach Pete Carroll’s second season in the Pacific Northwest. All else aside, the Seahawks must not worry about what happens in the Atlanta-Carolina game. They must be 100 percent focused on the task at hand, an Arizona Cardinals team that provides some match-up problems in a must win game. Arizona is playing with a back-up quarterback and a third-string running back with a depleted roster themselves to help the Seahawks’ cause, but Seattle cannot just lay down and cake walk to a win in week 17.
It all starts for Seattle on the offensive side of the ball. They must be able to find some sort of running game to help take the load off of Wilson’s shoulders. Wilson has been found to be trying to do too much at times over the past three games, in which the Seattle offense has struggled to move the ball. He seems to be trying to make the big play or score a touchdown on every snap, which is impossible to do in the NFL. A good game from running backs Mike Davis, Thomas Rawls, and J.D. McKissic could really help Wilson get back to the basics of moving the ball down the field consistently and making the right plays instead of the spectacular ones. If Seattle can get 100 yards rushing as a team, it will help open up downfield to let Wilson make plays to his receivers. Good offensive line play will help this happen, but Seattle needs to find an identity in the rushing attack outside of Wilson.
Another factor is they must get Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham going again in the passing attack. Graham has only caught two passes for a total of two yards and a touchdown over the past three games, something Seattle cannot have happen much longer and expect the offense to excel. Graham also has the least amount of yards gained receiving on the season since his rookie year with the New Orleans Saints, despite catching 10 touchdown passes in 2017. Graham must be able to get back into sync with Wilson in order to open up the other receivers on the offense to make plays. Graham is probably the Seahawks’ most talented receiver and biggest part of the passing attack, so getting him going against Arizona should be a priority early on in that game. Seattle has only lost one game in 2017 in which Graham has caught a touchdown in, so finding the end-zone will be vital for the Seahawks’ offense.
Finally, the defense must be able to play the way they did against the Dallas Cowboys in week 16. Seattle was able to keep Dallas’ rushing attack in check for most of the game, making Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott have to force the ball downfield, which Seattle was able to force three turnovers to be the deciding factor of that game. Having linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright healthy is such a huge part of Seattle’s defensive success without three former All-Pro players in the lineup. Safety Earl Thomas ball-hawking in the middle of the field has been a must for the Seattle defense without two members of the famous Legion of Boom secondary that has terrified its opponents since forming in 2011. The Seahawks brought a lot of pressure last week from the edge, which was a big part of their defense getting in sync together as well. Seattle will need to force Arizona’s back-up quarterback Drew Stanton to force the ball into tight spaces where the Seahawks’ defense can force turnovers or mistakes from Arizona’s offense. Getting some pressure from defensive linemen Frank Clark, Michael Bennett, and Sheldon Richardson will really help Seattle keep Arizona’s offense from finding a rhythm.
This is an absolute must-win game for Seattle to keep their streak of playoff appearances alive. With a depleted roster, this may be one of the most impressive roads to the playoffs for the Seahawks since the streak started in 2012. Seattle hopefully is not looking to far ahead and really focuses on the task at hand of defeating the Cardinals. A win and keeping your fingers crossed for a Falcons loss would seal the deal to send the Seahawks to NFC Wild-Card playoff weekend.
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