Arizona Cardinals (9-5) at Seattle Seahawks (12-2)

Sports Xchange

December 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, at CenturyLink Field, Seattle – TV: FOX, Chris Myers, Tim Ryan, Jennifer Hale
SERIES HISTORY: 30th regular-season meeting. Cardinals lead series, 15-14. The Seahawks have won the last two meetings and they haven’t been close. They beat the Cardinals, 58-0, in Seattle a year ago and 34-22 earlier this season. The game earlier this season wasn’t that close. The Seahawks led, 31-13, entering the fourth quarter. The Cardinals weren’t able to run the ball effectively, gaining 30 yards on 18 carries.

KEYS TO THE GAME
The Cardinals firmly believe they are a vastly improved team from the one that was outclassed 34-22 by the Seahawks at home in Week 7 in a primetime game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.

Seattle will look to contain Arizona’s progressing ground game with the front seven and at times SS Kam Chancellor, and then rely on its front four to again walk the Cardinals’ offensive line back into QB Carson Palmer, who was sacked a staggering seven times and picked off twice in the first meeting. He has a better grasp of the offense now and has been adept at utilizing audibles at the line of scrimmage, but Seattle’s defense swarms off the ball at home. The good news has been the steady progress of WR Larry Fitzgerald (concussion) this week.

The Seahawks’ ground game has scuffled a bit over the past month, but offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has done a good job of maintaining balance. QB Russell Wilson was under heavy pressure from the Giants last week and the Cardinals can stay competitive by getting to Wilson and hunkering down in the red zone.

MATCHUP TO WATCH
Cardinals WR Michael Floyd vs. Seahawks CB Richard Sherman: Floyd’s last 24 receptions have each gone for first downs, while Sherman is coming off a two-interception performance and deflected a third for a pick last week. Floyd was targeted nine times in the first meeting, catching five passes for 58 yards.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT
Cardinals S Tony Jefferson: The rookie is in line to start with Tyrann Mathieu out and Rashad Johnson unlikely to play. Is he ready to handle the rigors of a full game? Said coach Bruce Arians: “No, but he’s going to.”

FAST FACTS: The Cardinals will finish with a winning record for just the fourth time since moving to Arizona in 1988. … Wilson has an NFL-record 23 wins through his first two seasons and has joined Dan Marino and Peyton Manning as the only QBs with 50-plus TD passes through two seasons. He is 14-0 career at home.

PREDICTION: While the Cardinals are wise to point to this game as a measuring stick of their growth rather than a must-win to stay in the playoff hunt, they must also set reasonable expectations.

*Our pick: Seahawks 27-19