Seattle Seahawks (8-4) at Arizona Cardinals (3-9)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
TV: FOX, Thom Brennaman, Barry Alvarez, Charles Davis, Chris Myers
SERIES: 16th meeting. Seattle leads the series, 8-7. The Seahawks have won the last four meetings by a 115-62 margin, including 21-10 at Qwest Field in the second game of this season.
2006 RANKINGS: Seahawks: offense 21st (14th rush, 22nd pass); defense 18th (18th rush, 17th pass). Cardinals: offense 27th (32nd rush, 12th pass); defense 30th (20th rush, 29th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cardinals have to feel like they have a chance to be competitive with the Seahawks winning by the skin of their teeth while trying to overcome several key injuries. Meanwhile, Arizona's offense has started to hit its stride with the latest offensive line changes finally paying some dividends. If rookie QB Matt Leinart has time in the pocket, Cardinals WRs Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald should have little trouble getting open downfield against the Seahawks' shaky secondary. The bigger question is whether Arizona's defense can lend a hand. The Seahawks' offense can hurt opponents on the ground or through the air, and the Cardinals don't stop either particularly well. But Seattle also relies heavily on timing and tempo, both of which have been lacking since QB Matt Hasselbeck returned from a knee injury two games ago.
Seahawks: Clinch NFC West title with a win and a loss by San Francisco. ... LB Julian Peterson's nine sacks in 12 games are 3.5 more than he had in his previous 20 games. ... WR D.J. Hackett has eight receptions with no drops on third down.
Cardinals: Seek consecutive victories for just the second time in three years under coach Dennis Green. ... Have lost the past four meetings.
--LB Julian Peterson returned to practice Thursday after missing one day with an excused absence.
--FB Mack Strong missed practice Thursday. He is questionable on the injury report with an ankle injury.
--LB D.D. Lewis missed practice Thursday. He is doubtful on the injury report with a toe injury.
--C Robbie Tobeck missed practice Thursday. He is doubtful on the injury report with a hip problem.
--TE Itula Mili missed practice Thursday. He is suffering the effects of a concussion.
--DT Rocky Bernard missed practice Thursday. He is probable on the injury report with a foot injury.
--QB Matt Leinart has played three consecutive productive games, completing more than 60 percent of his passes. He's been sacked just once in each of the past four games.
--SS Adrian Wilson lines up everywhere for the Cardinals. He'll blitz, he plays nickel back and sometimes he'll line up as a linebacker. The Cardinals try to move him around so teams aren't able to key on him.
--RB Edgerrin James finally went over 100 yards rushing last week, his first time as a Cardinal. James is benefiting from improved play on the offensive line.
--OT Reggie Wells appears to have found a home on the right side. He has good quickness and has done a nice job of protecting QB Matt Leinart's blind side.
--C Nick Leckey has played well since moving into the starting lineup last month. He's been tough and doesn't get beat nearly as often as his predecessor, Alex Stepanovich.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
The Seahawks have had some huge offensive performances against the Cardinals in recent seasons. Shaun Alexander rushed for 313 yards and six touchdowns in two games against Arizona last season. Darrell Jackson has five 100-yard receiving performances in the five full games he has played against the Cardinals over the years.
The Cardinals aren't afraid to take chances on defense. Sometimes they make plays; the approach forced Matt Hasselbeck into four interceptions during a 2004 game in the desert. More often than not, however, Seattle gives better than it gets in this series.
"Against some of the teams they've played this year, they confuse their opponent," Hasselbeck said. "And I think we have the advantage that we've played these guys a bunch, and we know them a lot better than we would know someone that's outside of our division.
"At the same time, they get creative on defense, and we have to play our best football."
Hasselbeck has been a bit rusty since returning from a knee injury. The ground game appears to be picking up momentum, however, and that should continue against the Cardinals' struggling defense. "I think we have a great plan, and I feel good about what we're doing that way," Hasselbeck said. "I think we have some things that are going to work. But we have to go out and do that and not think about it.
"Just go out and play and play hard and play fast and execute well."
The Seahawks do not expect to have wide receiver Bobby Engram for this game. Engram has improved significantly from a thyroid condition. He is practicing and could return in another week. The team is listing him as questionable on its injury report, but coach Mike Holmgren said it might be a "stretch" for Engram to play this week.
Without Engram and center Robbie Tobeck, the offense is not at full strength. Fullback Mack Strong also might miss this game. But with right tackle Sean Locklear back from injury, the pass protection has a chance to improve.
While the Cardinals offense has improved over the past month, injuries have taken a toll on the defense in recent weeks. Two linemen are out with injuries, and there is a noticeable drop off with their replacements. End Bertrand Berry will be sidelined for the remainder of the season with a torn triceps, and nose tackle Kendrick Clancy will miss a second consecutive week with an ankle sprain. Clancy missed three games earlier this year with the same injury.
Clancy is replaced by rookie Gabe Watson and veteran Chris Cooper. Watson has some ability, but he's a bit raw and he doesn't have much stamina. Cooper is better suited to playing end, but he gives great effort.
Clancy is hard to replace, however, because he holds his ground at the point of attack. Antonio Smith has replaced Berry, but he doesn't come close to having Berry's pass-rush skills.
To compensate, the club is blitzing outside linebacker Karlos Dansby more.