A Developing Rivalry
It’s amazing to me how rivalries come and go in the NFC West. Back in 2004 when the Seattle Seahawks finally rose to the top of the NFC West, there was no team more hated in Seattle than the St. Louis Rams. Today’s Seahawks fans look past a game with the Rams without a second thought.
In 2011 and 2012 most people will tell you that the biggest NFC West rival for the Seattle Seahawks is the San Francisco 49ers; and they are probably right. The 49ers are clearly the team to beat and that makes them hated across the division; not to mention bad blood remaining between Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh from their Pac-10 days.
That being said, and considering the Seahawks face an important home game this weekend against Arizona, I’d like to take a deeper look at what the Seahawks-Cardinal rivalry has become.
The biggest rivals in the division always seem to be the former champion against the new champion. The exclusion to this principle is teams linked by history (i.e historically Packers-Bears will always be rivals, even when both teams are 4-12).
In 2004 the Seahawks and the Rams played heated rival games. The Rams, who were the perennial powerhouse in this division for years, were finally over taken by the Seahawks for the division title. The Rams and the Seahawks built a strong rivalry when the Seahawks became the new powerhouse within the division. Shortly thereafter the Rams began to get old, stars left, stars retired, and eventually they were an afterthought.
Bring on the Cardinals
Enter the Arizona Cardinals. First there was the draft pick in Larry Fitzgerald, a player that has receiver capabilities unmatched in the NFL and has proven that, when he has a good QB, he’s cannot be covered. Then came the signing of a legend whose career was suppose to be over. Kurt Warner was brought in as a mentor QB for young guys like Matt Leinart. The problem was that Warner couldn’t help but outplay Leinart. These two key additions, matched with the new head coach Ken Wisenhunt, made the Cardinals relevant, much like the combination of Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Alexander and Mike Holmgren had done for Seattle.
Seattle dominated the mid 2000’s from ’04-’07 and the Cardinals countered with dominance over the Seahawks in ’08 and ’09. However, since then the two teams have played back-and-forth games with a variety of outcomes.
The last three meetings between the teams have been decided by an average of 3.3 points
Over the past 5 seasons the Seahawks have struggled when you look at their record. In head-to-head matchups during those years the Seahawks are 3-6. It is worth mentioning, however, that four of those losses came in the ’08 and ’09 seasons when the Cardinals had their short lived run as one of the NFL’s best. Since then the Seahawks are 3-2 vs. the Cardinals.
The Cardinals and Seahawks also have something that the Rams and 49ers do not have in the past 10 years, a super bowl appearance where they both met the same opponent with the same outcome.
These teams have not had any playoff battles in recent history, they have not had fighting issues on the field, and the two head coaches do not have any animosity towards one another. What connects these two teams is almost the similarity between them. Both teams have long histories of losing with some recent success and a Super Bowl appearance. Both teams have lost their Super Bowl teams and have since rebuilt and appear to be headed in the right direction.
The way I look at it is, the Cardinals are a quarterback away from being relevant again and when that happens expect this rivalry to take the next step and don’t be surprised when an early December match up between Arizona and Seattle is getting national attention.