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Cardinals vs. Seahawks 2016, NFL picks and predictions: Seattle favored to widen its NFC West lead

Seattle travels to Arizona for a pivotal divisional showdown with the Cardinals, and a win could fast-track the Seahawks to an NFC West title.

After a rough start to 2016, the Cardinals have rebounded back to .500 -- just in time for a monster Sunday Night Football showdown with the Seahawks.

Arizona has been beleaguered by poor quarterback play this fall, but didn't need much of a passing game to knock off the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Jets in consecutive weeks. Those wins helped even out a 1-3 start, but the Cardinals haven't exactly instilled confidence this season. Their three wins have come against teams with a combined 4-13 record.

A big part of the team's drop from NFC Championship Game participant to borderline postseason candidate has been the team's play behind center. Arizona lost Carson Palmer for five quarters thanks to a concussion suffered in Week 4, but he hasn't been the same quarterback who posted a renaissance campaign at age 35 last season. His passer rating has dropped from 104.6 to 84.1 this fall as his numbers look less like the leader who fell one game short of a Super Bowl and more like the disgruntled passer who demanded a trade out of Cincinnati.

He's in no danger of being replaced, however. Backup Drew Stanton completed just 38.6 percent of his passes in relief of an injured Palmer. Unless David Johnson can continue his solid play at tailback, the Cardinals won't be able to get much going against Seattle.

Arizona's saving grace may be a pass rush that's emerged as one of the NFL's toughest. The defense has forced 19 sacks -- third most in the league -- and has held opponents to a passer rating of just 65.8.

That could be a problem for Seattle and Russell Wilson. Wilson has been his usual steady, efficient self this fall, gaining nearly 8 yards per completion and leading his team to a 4-1 record and a spot atop the NFC West. He's been the team's offensive engine after Marshawn Lynch's retirement. Without the bruising tailback in the lineup, the Seahawks have gained just 88 yards per game on the ground in 2016.

A win on Sunday would give Seattle an extra cushion for their early lead in the NFC West. For Arizona, a victory may be the only way to climb back into the divisional race.

Analysts from across the internet are leaning toward Seattle. Writers at ESPN picked a Seahawks road win at an 8-1 clip. Over at CBS, the picks were more balanced; four on each side of this pivotal NFC West showdown.

At SB Nation, this matchup is a toss-up. Writers there have it split right down the middle at five votes apiece.

Game RVB Stephen White Thomas George Jeanna Thomas Adam Stites Tyler Tynes Louis Bien Joel Thorman Fooch OddsShark computer

You can find out which half of our panel will have bragging rights on Sunday night. The game airs at 8:30 ET on NBC, with streaming available on NBC Sports.