The Arizona Cardinals have been the NFL’s best team in 2014, while the Seattle Seahawks currently find themselves out of the playoffs, heading into Week 12. Even though the Cardinals have a three-game lead in the division over the defending Super Bowl champs, the oddmakers refuse to give the first-place team the respect they deserve.
Seattle is giving 6.5 points to the visiting Cardinals at multiple Las Vegas casinos in the matchup between AFC West teams on Sunday. The Seahawks are known for having the best home-field advantage in the sport, but even if they are awarded a 3.5-point advantage at CenturyLink Field, that means the two rivals are even on a neutral field.
It’s possible that the Seahawks are better than their record might indicate, and the Cardinals are still not the Super Bowl favorites, but it might be difficult to contend that Arizona isn’t the better team.
Arizona’s only loss came in Denver against the Broncos, when the Cardinals were forced to use their third-string quarterback for the majority of the second half. They haven’t just beaten up on bad teams, defeating the San Diego Chargers, 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions. The Cardinals have not been squeaking out victories either, winning seven games by at least eight points.
The Seahawks have four losses on the season, winning just three of their last six contests. Their worst loss came at St. Louis against the Rams, but Seattle was also beaten at home by Dallas.
The biggest difference between the two teams in 2014 has been on the defensive end. While Richard Sherman and Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” got plenty of headlines last year, Arizona’s defense has been terrific in 2014.
While Peyton Manning and the Broncos scored 41 points in the Cardinals’ only loss, the team hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in any other game. Arizona ranks third in scoring defense, and handed the No.1 ranked defense of Detroit a 14-6 loss in Week 11. The over/under for the Week 12 game is 42 total points.
Russell Wilson won’t have an easy time against the Arizona secondary, which ranks fifth in the NFL, surrendering a passer rating of 79.9. The third-year quarterback has thrived on the ground in 2014, but he’s had his share of struggles when throwing the ball. His 90.8 passer rating ranks 16th, and he finished no worse than seventh in that category in each of his first two years.
Wilson hasn’t thrown for more than 199 yards in a game since Oct. 19, and there’s a good chance that streak will continue in Week 12. Seattle will most likely rely on their top ranked rushing attack to move the ball, though Arizona ranks third in stopping the run. The Cardinals are the only team to hold DeMarco Murray under 100 yards rushing, and the Eagles are the only team to surpass the century mark against Arizona.
The Cardinals might not have the advantage at quarterback, but Drew Stanton is more than capable of helping Arizona steal a victory in Seattle. Against the league’s top defense last week, Stanton posted a 91.4 passer rating, completing 66 percent of his passes and throwing two touchdowns.
Head coach Bruce Arians has stated that he believes the team can win a Super Bowl with Carson Palmer’s replacement at quarterback, and Stanton has been up to the task, thus far. After earning wins against the San Francisco 49ers and Lions, there’s no reason to believe he can’t beat a Seattle team that is no longer what it was a year ago.
PREDICTION: Arizona over Seattle, 20-17