No team more than the Seahawks. They have the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL, including two games in a five-day stretch coming up -- Sunday at CenturyLink Field against the Cardinals and Thanksgiving night on the road against the San Francisco 49ers.
“There’s a lot out there," Carroll said. “We know we have to do it one week at a time, and with Arizona starting, that’s the only game in the world that matters.”
The Cardinals also are the only NFC West to win a game in Seattle since quarterback Russell Wilson arrived in 2012. Arizona defeated the Seahawks 17-10 in December, the only home loss in 2013, ending a 14-game home winning streak for Seattle.
“It reminds you that it’s not automatic when you’re home and you have to fight your tail off,” Carroll said. “I think any time you have a streak like that, you get disappointed. It was disappointing we couldn’t maintain that. It was right there to be done, and we couldn’t finish the game the way we wanted to. It was a good illustration to us of how tough the division is.”
The one missing starter on defense now is nose tackle Brandon Mebane, who is out the rest of the season with a torn hamstring.
"I think it’s big that we’re getting right [health wise] at the right time," Wagner said Friday. "This is an important stretch for us, and we’ll be ready."
Two backups on defense will not play -- rookie outside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (shoulder) and nickel cornerback Marcus Burley (hamstring).
As expected, center Max Unger is out with a knee and ankle injury. He is expected to be out three to four weeks. Coach Pete Carroll would not say who will start at center between Patrick Lewis and Lemuel Jeanpierre, who was re-signed this week.
Left guard James Carpenter, who was a full participant Thursday, now is listed as questionable for Sunday.
"He was limited at the end of the week here," Carroll said of Carpenter. "He had a little more work [Thursday] than we could get him [Friday]. We had to hold him out, and we will see all the way up to game time with him."
If Carpenter doesn’t play, Alvin Bailey will make his third consecutive start at left guard. Bailey also started at left tackle on Nov. 2 when Russell Okung was hurt.
Running back Marshawn Lynch, who didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday the past three weeks, was a full participant Friday and Carroll said Lynch is ready to go.
“Every week we turn in plays that we challenge," Carroll said. “I said to someone yesterday that [the league informed him] there were a couple of rulings that should have gone the other way.”
The Seahawks had a first-and-goal at the Kansas City 9 on the pass to Kearse with cornerback Sean Smith covering him.
The pass to Baldwin was a fade in the left corner of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal at the 2 when Baldwin was pushed by Smith. Carroll was told both plays should have been flagged.
“There’s no value in it at all, except they don’t get them all right,” Carroll said. “Hopefully they will do a great job this week [Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals] because every play is going to count, just like any of those plays would have made a difference in [the Kansas City] game."
"If you guys ever would have asked -- which you didn't -- I would have told you we want him around here as long as he can play," Carroll said. "There's never been any hesitation and there's never been another thought about that.
"That came totally from somewhere else. He's under contract next year, and we'll be thrilled to have him playing for us. We'll do everything we can to get that done."
Lynch is in the third year of a four-year deal that pays him a total of $31 million. He held out of training camp this summer for eight days to get more money up front and was given $1.5 million more this season, upping his 2014 salary to $6.5 million, but no new money. He will count for $8 million against Seattle's 2015 salary cap.
On Carroll's weekly radio show Monday on 710 ESPN Seattle, he said "we're working through it" in regard to issues over his relationship with Lynch and Lynch being upset about his contract situation.
On Oct. 27, Carroll was asked about an ESPN report that the Seahawks were tired of his act.
"I have nothing to say about that because there's nothing to that," Carroll said at the time. "I have no idea where that came from. We have nothing to say about that. At this point, I don't think it behooves us to try and respond to all of these kinds of things in the locker room. Our players have told you how they feel, our coaches have told you how we feel about it, and we're in a really good place right now. It's just not worth it, so there's nothing to that at all. I don't know where that came from."
Carroll also was asked that day if he talks to Lynch regularly.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who didn't practice for the third straight day because of a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee, will be a game-time decision Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
Coach Bruce Arians made the announcement Friday. The 31-year-old Fitzgerald, who was officially listed as questionable, injured his knee last Sunday against Detroit.
"Practice at his age right now is overrated sometimes," Arians said. "Sometimes it can be good for you. But we'll see if he can capably play on Sunday at the game."
Arians said the deciding factor will be Fitzgerald's ability to "play at a certain level and not hurting us and being able to help us." Arizona's 9-1 record leads the NFC West by three games over Seattle and San Francisco.
If Fitzgerald cannot play, Arians said the combination of Jaron Brown, John Brown and Ted Ginn will fill Fitzgerald's role. John Brown is Arizona's second-leading receiver and leads the team with five touchdowns. Ginn has seven catches for 111 yards, and Jaron Brown has caught six passes for 76 yards.
"The other guys have had a real good week of practice, and they're more than capable of picking up for him," he said.
Fitzgerald last missed a game in Week 13 of 2007. Since then, he has played in 110 straight games, currently the second-longest streak for active receivers. Fitzgerald is Arizona's leading receiver with 46 catches for 658 yards.
"Knowing the warrior that he is, he's played a lot of times he probably shouldn't have just because he's going to do it for his teammates," Arians said. "And that mentality would be the same this Sunday, I'm sure."
Cardinals rookie defensive tackle Ed Stinson
Lynch was fined $100,000 on Wednesday for failing to talk to reporters after being warned about it starting last season.
"This is what irritates me most about the NFL," Baldwin said. "At this level it's not just pure football any more. It's about the business. People are gonna get mad and say you guys get paid to do this stuff and I get that.
"But that's where the off-the-field stuff gets kind of nasty. We play and game and give our heart. In Marshawn's case, he doesn't want to talk to the media, period, because they want to sensationalize stuff and are just trying to get clicks and make money, just like any business."
Baldwin also said he thought it was unfair for any reporter to make a complaint to the NFL about Lynch refusing to talk.
"We can talk about freedom of speech and all this, but in this case, you have to say something," Baldwin said. "You can't just be quiet. So it is frustrating.
"For somebody to go out of their way to tell the NFL that Marshawn isn't doing this, then he does go in front of the microphone and they ask him dumb questions. They ask irritating questions, questions that are leading to try to get him to say something so they can have a sound bite or a quote they can make some money off of."
Baldwin was asked what he thought could improve things between reporters and players.
"Understand we're humans just like anybody else," he said. "We're not robots and we're not perfect people that you have to put up on a pedestal.
"And sadly, I understand kids look at us as role models, but at the end of the day we just play football. We don't save lives. We're not doctors, we're not lawyers, we're not policemen and we're not firemen. We're football players. Not only the media, but fans also should realize we're just humans and make mistakes like anybody else. We say things that may irritate other people just like anybody else."
Baldwin offered this proposal:
"So what the media can do is be real," he said. "Don't just make stuff up to sensationalize a story. Take what you hear from a person and don't try to put your own twist on it. Then it will be a better relationship for the media and the fans. It'll bring out the stories everybody really wants to hear."
And he had one final word on Lynch.
"Marshawn not speaking is more interesting than anything he could say," Baldwin said. "It speaks volumes about the type of person he is. Like he said, he's only about that action."
And it's probably a must-win game to stay in the playoff picture since three of the last five games are on the road against winning teams.
The Cardinals are the real deal at 9-1, but the home-field advantage in what's bound to be an ear-drum rattling CenturyLink crowd will make the difference, especially against a quarterback who never has experienced how tough it is to play in Seattle.
The Seahawks have won 21 of their last 23 homes games. Yes, one of those losses was to Arizona last year, but that was a much different scenario. The Seahawks entered knowing they had two homes game left and only needed to win one of them to clinch the division title. The Cardinals were the team needing a must-win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and they pulled it out 17-10.
Now the Seahawks are the team with their backs to the wall. And statistically speaking, Seattle still is better -- 11th on total offense compared to 20th for Arizona, and third in total defense compared to 13th for the Cardinals.
But throw that out. The Cardinals are tough, and this will be close, but the roar of the home crowd will be enough for the Seahawks to pull it out.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 23
Now who would have thought the Seattle Seahawks would be the team in a must-win situation in late November when the Arizona Cardinals came to town?
Such is the case in a key NFC West matchup between the division leading Cardinals (9-1) and the Seahawks (6-4), who need a victory to keep any realistic hope alive of winning the division title.
Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and Seahawks reporter Terry Blount take an in-depth look at some of the issues facing each team in this division showdown:
Blount: Josh, let's get right to the point. Can the Cardinals keep up the pace, win the NFC West and become the first home team in the Super Bowl with Drew Stanton at quarterback?
Weinfuss: If you would've asked me this last week, I would've said wait until we see how he plays against the Detroit Lions. I needed a game to decide if he's capable of making the run that you just described and here's what I've determined: He can keep the 9-1 run going and he can win the NFC West, but I'm not sure the Cardinals can go to the Super Bowl. Stanton is capable of winning games during the regular season for two reasons: 1. the offense hasn't changed and he's more than capable of running it almost as efficiently as Carson Palmer and 2. the defense has been playing great and can clean up any mistake Stanton makes. But the reason I don't think Arizona makes the Super Bowl is because that deep in the playoffs, teams are good enough to capitalize on the missteps -- especially if they're playing a team like Green Bay.
For the most part, a Super Bowl hangover is a myth ... but yet it seems like that's what the Seahawks are going through this season. Simply asked, are they?
Blount: The players scoff at the Super Bowl hangover talk, but whatever you call it, things have not gone the way the Seahawks expected. This is a group of players who believed they would continue to get better, the best was yet to come and they would make it back to the Super Bowl. The odds are against them now, but I think they've learned what so many other Super Bowl champs learned -- it's a lot harder to stay on top than it was to get to the top. The Seahawks just don't have the depth they had a year ago and it has shown with the injuries they've experienced. And no matter how much they deny it, the Percy Harvin trade threw everyone for a loop and brought about a lot of national speculation about problems in the locker room. Most of it was baloney, but it was a distraction they didn't need.
Josh, I, for one, am shocked how well the Cardinals have played on defense this season after losing Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett. Does defensive coordinator Todd Bowles have some magic potion? How have they done it?
Weinfuss: If he does have some magic potion, he's not selling it. Arizona's defense hasn't dropped off and that's because of Bowles. In short, his scheme works. He's able to develop a game plan and mold his 3-4 scheme around his and the opponents' personnel. Case in point: Against Dallas, Arizona ran a 4-3, he played Dan Williams and Sam Acho more, and the Cardinals broke DeMarco Murray's streak of 100-yard games. Bowles isn't one of those coaches that makes a square peg fit into a round hole. And, what's been the cement for all of Bowles' bricks, has been the locker room buying into the next-man-up philosophy that Bruce Arians has preached since he got here.
Terry, will Marshawn Lynch be able to carry the Seahawks to the playoffs this year or has that ship sailed? And how has not having Golden Tate impacted the offense?
Blount: If ever there was a player who fit the definition of an enigma, Lynch is it. On the field, he is performing as well as he ever has. He's rushed for 264 yards in the last two games alone. But this is a man who marches to the beat of a different drummer. He's still upset about not getting what he wanted after his contract holdout, an issue that Pete Carroll said they are working through. Lynch's decision last week to stay in the field at halftime to get treatment on his back led to speculation about him sulking, which wasn't true, but the fact that he didn't talk to reporters after the game led to increased speculation. Now he's been fined $100,000 by the league for not talking. It becomes a sideshow the team doesn't need, but he answers by giving all he has on the field an playing at as high a level as he ever has. As for Tate, it's clear now he was a big loss, not only at receiver, but also as a punt returner. Frankly, the Seahawks haven't gotten what he gave them as either spot.
Josh, the Cardinals now are 19-7 under Arians after going 18-30 the previous three season before he arrived. And the Indianapolis Colts were 9-3 while Arians was the interim head coach during Chuck Pagano's 2012 illness. What is it about Arians that has made him so successful?
Weinfuss: It all boils down to the fact that he doesn't pull any fast ones on his players. His players respect him and bought into his philosophy. They'll do anything for him. It also helps that Arians is an offensive genius. When his scheme finally started clicking last season and Arizona went on that tear in the second half, his players finally saw he wasn't this mad scientist with a confusing offense.
Both Russell Wilson and Carroll downplayed losing to the Cardinals last season. Have you seen that game linger in their memories at all this week?
Blount: Not at all. The truth is the Seahawks entered that game knowing they had two home games left to clinch the division title and home-field advantage in the playoffs, so they didn't have a sense of urgency. They sure as heck do now, and they realize Arizona is the real deal. They are way more concerned with the 2014 Cardinals than the 2013 version that caught them napping last December.
He was one of three players who were limited in practice Wednesday but went full speed Thursday, including left guard James Carpenter (ankle) and right guard J.R. Sweezy (thigh). Cornerback Byron Maxwell (calf) also was a full participant after not practicing Wednesday. Defensive end Michael Bennett practiced after resting on Wednesday.
Backup defensive end Demarcus Dobbs (knee) was limited in Thursday's practice after not practicing Wednesday. Rookie middle linebacker Brock Coyle still is limited in practice with a glute injury.
Rookie outside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis didn't practice for the second consecutive day because of a shoulder injury. Cornerback Marcus Burley also still is out with a hamstring injury.
Running back Marshawn Lynch rested his back for the second consecutive day, but he also didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday last week before rushing for 124 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Now they're 6-4, needing a lot of good things to happen down the stretch to reach those goals again.
"I think we have that same resilience and that same championship mindset," said Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. "There were games last year where we had to come from behind and do some miraculous things. That's what it comes down to now and the weeks to come. It's something I look forward to."
It starts Sunday against the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field.
"It comes down to making big plays this week," Wilson said. "It's matchups and winning those matchups."
The Seahawks have run the ball well the last two games with 554 yards rushing overall. But they have struggled in the passing game most of the season. Wilson certainly hasn't lost his confidence.
"I think it's on me more than anything," Wilson said. "There's a time and place to be big right now and we've just got to make those plays. I believe we're going to. I believe we're going to capitalize and I'm going to make the throws when I need to make them."
Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett was asked about the team's mindset heading into the game with the 9-1 Cardinals.
"Have we lost focus? I don't think so," he said. "I think we're more focused than ever. The hole we need to make up, I think we're ready for the challenge. We have a lot of great players. Arizona is a good team, but they still have to line up and play and we can't let the media or the fans think the game's already won. We just have to go out there and play."
Wilson believes the Seahawks still control whether they make the postseason with five games remaining against NFC West opponents.
"The story hasn't been written yet," Wilson said. "We're going to have to write our own story and see what happens."
What matters is his play on the field, which is as good as it's ever been. Lynch has rushed for 813 yards this season, including 264 yards in the last two games.
Lynch leads the league with nine rushing touchdowns, including an NFL-best six on carries up the middle. All this despite issues with his back, his calf and his ribs.
"He's just been banged up," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. "It's classic wear and tear on a guy that plays the game the way he plays. We had to give him an extra day last week before we practiced him and we will see how it goes this week. I think it's pretty typical and he's been one to really be able to endure it over the past few years."
Despite all the off-the-field issues, including its handling of the Ray Rice assault case, the NFL says viewership numbers show that the masses are still very interested in watching games on television.
NFL games make up 28 of the top 30 TV shows since the season started Sept. 4, the league announced Thursday. The only shows in the top 30 that weren't NFL games were Game 7 of the World Series on Fox (12th-most watched) and an "NCIS" episode on CBS (27th).
Among the top 15 most-watched NFL games this season, the team that has been featured the most is the Denver Broncos, who have been on one-third of those broadcasts. The Cowboys, Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers have appeared four times each.
An NFL game has topped the weekly viewership charts for all 11 regular-season weeks this year, the NFL said.
The only recent competition for the NFL is AMC's "The Walking Dead," which has beaten NBC's "Sunday Night Football" in the ratings in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic for three straight weeks.