TEMPE, Arizona (AP) — Now that his team is guaranteed to have a losing record for the first time in his four seasons in Arizona, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians' next chore is to prepare a team headed nowhere for a Christmas Eve encounter with the Seahawks in Seattle.
"It's the Seahawks," Arians said at his Monday news conference, "so we should be ready to play."
Arians liked everything but his defense in Sunday's 48-41 home loss to the New Orleans Saints. The outcome left Arizona at 5-8-1. The Cardinals finish the season with road games at Seattle and Los Angeles, and the best they could hope for is to wind up 7-8-1.
But Arizona is 1-5 on the road with the only victory away from home at San Francisco, a team that stands 1-13.
And a strong finish to the season would entail beating a Seahawks team that will have extra rest and something to play for when the teams meet at Century Link Field.
Arizona has won in Seattle two out of three times under Arians, including last season's 39-32 back-and-forth triumph en route to a 13-3 season and an NFC West title for the Cardinals.
"The way it went, to get way ahead," he said, "to lose it, and then come back, it was very special."
Now, Seattle (9-4-1) has sewn up the division title and is a half-game ahead of Detroit and Atlanta for the No. 2 seed in the NFC and the first-round bye that goes with it.
Arians has a healthy respect for the Seahawks.
"Every time you play them," he said, "you better have your big-boy pants on."
That will be a big challenge for an inexperienced, makeshift offensive line that held up well against the Saints. So will the next game, the season finale against the rugged front of the Rams.
"They'll have their hands full both times," Arians said. "Being on the road with arguably the two best, most disruptive players in (Michael) Bennett and Aaron Donald, we have our hands full when we have a healthy offensive line."
Two months ago in Arizona, the Cardinals and Seattle fought to an odd 6-6 tie with both teams missing chip-shot field goals that would have won the game in overtime.
This is a much different Arizona squad, though, after a series of injuries.
"We don't have the same team we played them here with, but I like the way we played this past week offensively," Arians said. "Special teams, other than the (missed) extra point, were good. We had a couple of good kickoff returns. Defensively, we've got to show up."
The coach described the play of his secondary as "very, very below par for us."
He said safety Tyrann Mathieu, playing despite a shoulder injury, "gave it everything he had."
But, he said of Mathieu's play, "it ain't Ty."
There were some bright spots.
In addition to the overall strength of the inexperienced offensive line, Arians also liked the play of defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, the first-round draft pick who played after being inactive for most games this season.
"Robert did well," Arians said. "The stat sheet didn't look it, but he was explosive. He's been practicing really well."
The coach has criticized Nkemdiche for not working hard enough in practice, but said effort isn't a problem now.
"The last six weeks he has (worked hard)," Arians said. "The opportunity presented itself this time. He had a really good week of practice."
David Johnson set an NFL record by topping 100 yards from scrimmage in the first 14 games of a season. But Arians doesn't like Johnson's chances for reaching another huge milestone — 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving.
Johnson needs 200 yards receiving to reach the goal.
"I'll be surprised if he gets it," Arians said. "One-hundred yards as a back receiving is very hard to do, two weeks in a row against two really quality defenses, two best in the league."