We're one week away from the matchup of the year, but first the Seahawks (11-3) must get past the Cardinals (4-9-1) in Week 16.
It'll be the first of two-straight home games to close out the 2019 regular season as Seattle has a great chance to win the NFC West and a solid shot at claiming the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The Seahawks do have several notable injuries that will make Sunday's contest more of a challenge. Still, Seattle should be able to handle Arizona.
Here are five Seahawks players who need to play well in order to make that happen.
1. FS Lano Hill
Quandre Diggs (ankle) is doubtful to play which is a huge loss for Seattle's defense. Diggs is the Seahawks second-highest graded defensive player (87.8) according to Pro Football Focus, second only to Jadeveon Clowney. In his five games for Seattle, Diggs has three interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a touchdown.
Those are big shoes for Hill to fill. The Seahawks are likely to play more Cover 2 with Hill in the lineup after having played far more Cover 3 over the last month. Hill needs to show that he can be a capable playmaker. He's shown flashes in the past, but health has always been his biggest issue. Diggs isn't likely to play again in the regular season which makes this a huge opportunity for the third-year safety.
2. DL L.J. Collier
Collier played a career-high 37 snaps against the Panthers in Week 15. Although he failed to register a tackle, Pete Carroll said the team's first-round pick showed improvement.
"He just played tough and looked more comfortable," Carroll said. "Played his gap control assignments and stuff really consistently. We didn't have any busts to speak of. Just looked more comfortable. He's got enough playing time in now where I think he's feeling like he's comfortable enough to go for it, take a shot at his pass rush opportunities and things like that as opposed to just hoping it gets by."
Collier has just two tackles in nine games this season, but he should have an opportunity to add to that with Clowney (core) likely to miss Sunday's game in addition to Al Woods (suspension). The rookie could see a similar workload to the 37 snaps he received against Carolina, if not more.
3. DE Ziggy Ansah
Carroll said on Friday that Ansah had his best week of practice all season. The veteran pass rusher doesn't carry an injury designation, and he'll make his return to the lineup after missing two games with a neck injury. Seattle needs Ansah to step up in Clowney's absence. The Seahawks hope they'll see the player who posted 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble against the Eagles in Week 12.
"He's the heaviest and strongest he's been since he's been with us," Carroll said on Friday. "Everything looks really positive. I'm really fired up for him to have a chance to get back in there and do some good stuff."
It makes sense to have a defensive line theme given that Seattle's pass rush has been inconsistent at best for most of the season, and the Seahawks will be without Clowney against the Cardinals. You probably could have made a decent amount of money if you bet on Green to be Seattle's sack leader through 14 games. He has just four, although he'll have a great chance to add to that total on Sunday. Green played 45 snaps last week in Carolina and should see a similar role against the Cardinals.
I'm obviously cheating here, but all three of these guys will play an important role on Sunday as Seattle doesn't have a clear-cut No. 3 receiver. All of them will see an uptick in usage following Josh Gordon's suspension. Their production has been almost identical. Moore has 250 yards, Turner has 222 yards and Brown has 220 yards. I'm betting that one of them scores against the Cardinals.
Week 16 preview: 5 Seahawks players to watch vs. Cardinals originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest