The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks will play perhaps the most important game of the season for both teams this weekend on Sunday Night Football in front of a national audience. Arizona is 6-2 and has control of the NFC West right now. Seattle is 4-4, but heating up. A win by either team changes the dynamic of the division race moving forward.
It seems almost unfair to put this much stock in a game that is on the road for Arizona, but here is what happens.
If the Cardinals go in to Seattle and get the win, they essentially squash any hopes the Seahawks have of coming back and winning the division. It would give the Cardinals a three-game lead over the two-time defending NFC champs with seven games left to go. It would eliminate the possibility of Seattle having a head-to-head tie break, making it that much harder to get ahead of the Cardinals. An Arizona win in Seattle also kills all the momentum the Seahawks have had and sends a message that the division is no longer theirs.
On the other hand, if Seattle comes away with a win, especially if they do so in any convincing form, it pulls them within one game of the division lead and it furthers the narrative about both teams -- Seattle will come back strong in the second half of the season while the Cardinals still can't beat anybody of any sort of quality. It will give everyone the feeling the Cardinals are beginning to fade and the Seahawks are coming on strong.
Of course, there will still be seven more games left to play, but there will be blood in the water and the Seahawks will be the sharks smelling it.
But if the Cardinals go into Seattle and continue to do what they have done almost all season, the stomp on the Seahawks and tell them "maybe next year."
This week's game might not be a must-win for the Cardinals, but it is as big a game for both teams as you will see. The result will set the tone for the rest of the season in the NFC West.