We've reached the end of another season, filled with crazy finishes and disappointing losses. With the Seattle Seahawks coming to town, the Arizona Cardinals look to finish their season with a victory, pulling their record to .500 after a 1-6 start. The Seahawks are also hoping to grab a victory in the desert, and finish their season at .500, and second place in the NFC West. In a game that doesn't mean much for both teams(in fact a loss would be beneficial to draft position) its tough to gauge how motivated the players on either side will be. All we can hope for is a good game, with no injuries, and a Cardinals victory.
Hit the jump to see 5 keys to getting that win.1. Don't fall too far behind - In the last game of the season, it looks like once again Kevin Kolb will be sitting out due to concussion symptoms, giving John Skelton his eighth start this season and 13th of his young career. For whatever reason, no matter how poorly Skelton has played in the other three quarters, he finds a way to elevate his play and put us in a position to win. Last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, Skelton fought his way out of a 23 point fourth quarter deficit, and threw a pass that would have tied the game, were it not for Early Doucet tripping. However, as miraculous as that comeback was(or should have been), much of it was due to two timely fumble recoveries by the defense. This week, Skelton can't rely on those late turnovers, and will have to keep the score much closer going into the fourth. Once the fourth quarter hits, Skelton can do his thing.
2. Good playcalling - The past two weeks, we've witnessed some of the poorest playcalling in recent memory. In those two games Mike Miller has called for 90 pass plays against 35 runs plays. We have seen that (for three quarters at least) John Skelton is a below average quarterback. So if we want to have a chance at winning, we should rely on Beanie Wells and Larod Stephens-Howling to carry the load offensively. Put Skelton in shorter down and distances and give him easy throws for conversions to build up his confidence and rhythm. If we see another game where the Cardinals go three and out, on three straight pass plays, Mike Miller will have to try to find another job(if he hasn't already lost this one).
3. Force Jackson to beat us - The Seattle Seahawks are a good team, heck I'd even say a very good team, minus one position: quarterback. Tarvaris Jackson is stopping the Seahawks from reaching that next level. On defense, the Seahawks easily rank within the top 15, no doubt hindered by Jackson's turnovers and below average play. Running the football, they are pretty good, with Marshawn Lynch carrying the load to the tune of 1118 yards and 12 touchdowns. Quarterbacking is where they stumble. Jackson has played terribly average to below average all season, and has made some decisions that, more or less, lose the game for the Seahawks. If we want to win, we must eliminate their rushing offense, and see if Jackson can elevate his game to beat us.
4. Finish your sacks - Last time these two teams met, despite generating four sacks(due mainly to a monster game from Calais Campbell) the Cardinals allowed Jackson to avoid a number of would be sacks and extend the play, either completing a pass or rushing for some of his 20 yards on the day. This week, the Cardinals have to get him to the ground when they have the opportunity against the depleted offensive line of the Seahawks. I have a good feeling that this will happen because when these team last met in week three, our starting outsider linebackers were Joey Porter and Clark Haggans, with Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield get very limited, if any, playing time. Now that Acho is starting, and Schofield is being worked in more, Jackson shouldn't be able to allude the sacks that he did before.
5. Defensive scoring - Honestly, when I first came up with this key, it was just me being greedy. I am a huge fan of defensive scoring, and after the buffet we were offered last season, to this year having none, i have become slightly famished. But the more i thought about it, the more a defensive touchdown seemed like a legitimate key to victory. After suffering an Achilles injury on what should have been an interception, were it not for a penalty on Adrian Wilson, Patrick Peterson does not look likely to play. His only practice time this week was on Friday, in which he was limited. If Peterson does not play, we will be down our best cover man, leaving A.J. Jefferson and Richard Marshall as the two starting cornerbacks. This season we have dropped too many potential interceptions, and potential pick sixes, and getting one on Sunday would go a long way in helping John Skelton get comfortable, and get the Arizona Cardinals a victory.
Grabbing a victory on Sunday would be great, in my opinion. We get to finish at 8-8, a record that would have won the NFC West last season, and start off 2012 with a victory, hopefully one of many. The draft will sort itself out, and is too far in the future to cheer for a loss right now. Wherever we end up drafting, I am sure that Whisenhunt and Co. will draft a great player who can help this team in the coming years. What do you guys think? Do you agree or disagree with these keys? Let me know in the comments below, and have yourselves a safe and happy new years.