The parallels between the Arizona Cardinals' last visit to Seattle and their upcoming one are obvious. So is the one main difference.
Arizona brings a healthy Carson Palmer into Sunday night's showdown with the Seahawks, as well as a two-game lead on its NFC West rivals that it knows first-hand can mean very little at midseason.
The Cardinals were 9-1 and owned a three-game advantage on second-place Seattle when they entered CenturyLink Field last November, then left with a 19-3 loss that began a reversal of fortune for both teams. The Seahawks went on to win their last five games - including another over Arizona - to capture the division and the NFC's top playoff seed after the Cardinals dropped four of their final six.
Palmer's season-ending torn ACL suffered two weeks prior to the first loss clearly played a big part in the Cardinals' second-half fade, just as the veteran quarterback's strong play has Arizona (6-2) back atop the West midway through this season.
The 35-year-old leads the conference with a 110.2 passer rating and 20 touchdowns after throwing for four in the Cardinals' last outing, a 34-20 triumph at Cleveland on Nov. 1 in which they overcame four turnovers and a 13-point first-half deficit.
"Carson is playing phenomenal football," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, Palmer's former coach at USC. "He looks as good as he's ever looked. He's in great command of the offense.
"I think it's really the best I've ever seen him in all the years he's been out there playing."
Arizona is 12-2 since the start of last season when Palmer plays, though it's proved it can still succeed when he doesn't play well. Such was the case in the Cardinals' 2013 trip to Seattle, where Palmer threw four interceptions but the defense yielded 192 total yards in a 17-10 win that gave Russell Wilson his first home loss.
Seattle (4-4) also lost its most recent outing at CenturyLink Field when unbeaten Carolina rallied for a 27-23 decision Oct. 18. The two-time defending NFC champions have since rebounded with wins at San Francisco and Dallas prior to their Week 9 bye.
Wilson engineered a 17-play drive to set up Steven Hauschka's field goal with 1:06 left in the 13-12 victory over the Cowboys, in which the Seahawks allowed 220 total yards after limiting the 49ers to 142 in a 20-3 win.
Seattle also stymied an Arizona offense without Palmer in each of last year's wins, holding the Cardinals to a combined 420 total yards and three Chandler Catanzaro field goals.
The Seahawks figure to face more of a challenge this time. Arizona ranks second in scoring (32.9) and fourth in total offense and passing yards, while a resurgent Chris Johnson has four 100-yard rushing efforts over the last six games to lend balance to Palmer and receivers Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd.
Johnson recorded 109 yards on 30 carries and Floyd compiled a season-high 106 with a touchdown on four catches against Cleveland.
"They're really making the most of their personnel," Carroll said.
Brown, averaging 6.3 catches and 102.5 yards over his last four, missed the Cleveland game with a hamstring injury but is expected back as Arizona emerges from its bye relatively healthy entering a defining stretch of games. The Cardinals host undefeated Cincinnati next week and later face St. Louis, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Green Bay in succession before a rematch with Seattle in the Jan. 3 finale.
"We've got a really tough challenge coming down the road," Fitzgerald told the Cardinals' official website. "We understand that, but I think we're ready for the challenge. We're excited about it."
The Seahawks also come in mostly injury-free, though Ricardo Lockette is out for the season after sustaining a concerning neck injury against the Cowboys. The reserve receiver returned to the team Monday after being released from a Dallas hospital following surgery.
"He's got a great spirit, so he bounced back with an attitude that wouldn't surprise us,'' Carroll said. ''He couldn't wait to get back to his teammates and get back with us.''
Wilson, 28-3 at home including the playoffs, threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-6 rout at Arizona on Dec. 21. He took seven sacks in last year's meeting in Seattle and had been sacked 31 times over this season's first seven games before the Seahawks didn't allow any against Dallas.