Tag Archives: Darnell Dockett

Cardinals/Seahawks Preview

22 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

The Seahawks are facing a situation that I did not expect us to be in with 6 weeks left in the regular season. With 6 games left, 3 of which coming at CenturyLink Field, we are now in a spot where the rest of our home games need to feel like playoff atmospheres. With the best team in the National Football League coming to town this week, what better motivation  to fire up the 12th Man? Five of our final 6 games are against NFC West opponents and this week the Seahawks host the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks are 6-4 and are in danger of falling out of the division title race for good with a loss. The Cardinals on the other hand are sitting in the same position the Seahawks were in last season. Arizona has a 9-1 record, a 3-game lead over Seattle and San Francisco for the NFC West lead, and clinching a playoff berth is within striking distance. Arizona leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 16-14. Their last meeting came in December of 2013 when the Cardinals came into Seattle and stunned the Seahawks 17-10, snapping the Seahawks 16-game home winning streak. I believe this game will be the toughest game we play at home all season. This is what must happen for the Seahawks to come away victorious.

There are two things the Seahawks offense must focus on this week. The first is to continue to effectively run the ball. This will be a challenge as the Cardinals boast the league’s third best run defense, allowing an average of 81 rushing yards per game. This week Seattle needs to get creative in the running game, using some sort of running back rotation as well as allowing Russell Wilson to use his legs to pick up yards. Last season the Cardinals did an incredible job of shutting down our offense and holding us to only 10 points. Arizona has a secondary with incredible talent and I believe that cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie will do a good job of stopping our receivers, especially on the deep ball. I would not be surprised to see Russell Wilson have one of his worst days throwing the ball in recent memory. Our offense will only excel as much as our running game allows it to. A successful game in my eyes would be to run for between 100-125 yards. If we can get to three figures, I believe we can put ourselves in position to win the game.

The second thing the Seahawks offense must do is protect the ball. Points may come at a premium this week and the worst thing the Seahawks can have happen is to give the ball away, which would subtract the number of possible scoring opportunities we get. The Seahawks average just over one turnover per game at home this season, and they have played only one home game where they turned the ball over multiple times. If we can run the ball effectively our chances of turning the ball over on the ground are small. I believe any turnovers this week will be interceptions on forced throws made from Russell Wilson. There is a direct link between pass protection and turnovers. If we can keep Wilson clean, we will not turn the ball over.

Just like how I am putting an emphasis on preventing turnovers on offense, the number one priority on defense this week is to force Arizona turnovers. The Seahawks will be facing a quarterback in Drew Stanton who has never played a game in Seattle. The Cardinals have struggled all season long in the running game, averaging only 3.1 yards per carry. It is this number which leads me to believe our run defense can hold Arizona running back Andre Ellington to limited yards. The difference in this game will come in the Arizona passing game, which in turn puts the spotlight on the Seahawks pass defense. Stanton has only thrown 2 interceptions in 5 games this season, both coming against Detroit last week. It is crucial for the Seahawks to put pressure on Stanton to force him into bad throws. Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and Bruce Irvin must work cohesively this week to penetrate the Arizona offensive line. If we can force Stanton into hurried decisions or sacks consistently, it will be extremely difficult for the Cardinals to get anything going on offense.

The Arizona Cardinals sit at 9-1 without several notable defensive players including defensive end Darnell Dockett and linebacker Daryl Washington. It is the Cardinals defense that has me more worried about this home game than any other home game in recent memory. This week however I am focusing on the Cardinals offense. Arizona has several playmakers at the receiver position which will make for great matchups to watch on the outside. Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell will have their hands full with Cardinals receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd but I am most interested in seeing what happens out of the slot. My X-Factor player to watch for the Cardinals this week is their #3 receiver, rookie John Brown. If the Seahawks play a good game on defense it could come down on which team can make a big play on offense. The Cardinals definitely have a big-play guy in Brown. So far this season Brown has made 9 catches that have gone for 20 yards or more including three deep touchdown catches. If Brown lines up in the slot he will likely go up against Jeremy Lane. Brown’s speed however could set up an interesting matchup down the field between him and Earl Thomas. I would not be surprised to see Drew Stanton try to bomb it downfield for Brown at least once on Sunday.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will go with all-navy uniforms this week while the Cardinals will likely dress in all-white… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX with Pam Oliver reporting from the sidelines. This is the first Seahawks game Burkhardt and Lynch have done all season. Since they are FOX’s #2 broadcasting crew I believe this means there will be a skycam at this week’s game, even though this is not the Sunday afternoon national game of the week… Gene Steratore is the referee this week… A reminder to everyone attending this week’s game. The game starts at 1:05 NOT 1:25. Make sure you are in your seats before kickoff. We need everyone to be ready to be loud… My guess as to who will raise the 12th Man flag is Randy Johnson. I know nothing that leads me to believe I am right. It is a completely random guess… The halftime show this week is the annual wiener dog races. This is the only halftime show that is consistently entertaining. There is always at least one dog that gets away and is hard to chase down… If we lose this game we will be 4 games out of first place in the NFC West with 5 games to play. In other words, we will have no chance to win the division if we lose this week. A win is crucial to our entire playoff push. We have little room for error. If we lose, this entire city will go into panic mode.

Prediction: In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I think this is going to be a low scoring game with neither team able to score 20 points. I think the Seahawks will have yet another goal-to-go opportunity this week and unlike last week, this time we will take advantage, giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch and having him punch it in for a touchdown. Larry Fitzgerald and John Carlson will catch touchdowns for the Cardinals but the difference will come in the kicking game. Three Steven Hauschka field goals, two of which coming off of Arizona turnovers will give Seattle a narrow victory, improving our record to 7-4.

Seahawks 16, Cardinals 14

The next week few days on the blog will be very busy. Check back late Sunday night for my review of this game. Go Seahawks!

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Review: Cardinals 17, Seahawks 10

22 Dec
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Photo Credit: azcardinals.com

Well that did not go the way I thought it would.

The NFC West division championship celebration is on hold for one more week after the Arizona Cardinals came into CenturyLink Field on Sunday afternoon and stunned the Seattle Seahawks 17-10, giving the Seahawks their first loss at home since Christmas Eve 2011. The Cardinals improve to 10-5 on the season and their playoff hopes are still alive heading into the final week of the season. The Seahawks fall to 12-3 and are now only up by one game on San Francisco for the NFC West lead. What’s even scarier is the reaffirmation that it is in fact possible for a visiting team to come in to the hardest place to play in the NFL and beat one of the best teams in the NFL. The Arizona Cardinals have created a blueprint for other teams to come to Seattle and give the Seahawks a run for their money. This game was very frustrating to watch in multiple aspects and extremely difficult to think about after the fact but this is what I took out of it.

A Hot Knife Through Butter: This is the only comparison to describe the Cardinals running game through the Seahawks defense. Running backs Andre Ellington, Rashard Mendenhall, and Stepfan Taylor ran for a combined 139 yards on Sunday and the Seattle defense could not stop runs through the middle of the field if their life depended on it. After watching a replay of the game the Cardinals offensive line did a great job blocking and creating room to run but the Seahawks defensive line and linebackers were quite undisciplined in regards to their gap assignments. The Seahawks gave up 10 rushes of 5 yards or more, including two first down runs late in the fourth quarter that were of 10 yards or more. Whenever the Seahawks needed a crucial stop, it seemed like the Cardinals countered with a gain that extended their drives. What frustrated me the most was how easy it looked for the Cardinals to run the ball. On many of their long rushes the ball carrier went untouched until he got to the second level of the Seahawks defense. It was a very uncharacteristic performance by the Seattle defense but I give credit to the Cardinals offensive line for being able to create those humongous holes for their running back to run through.

Michael F**king Bowie: From a broad perspective the Seahawks offense played their worst game of the season. Russell Wilson only threw for 108 yards, one touchdown, and one “interception” and Marshawn Lynch added 71 yards of his own. But to truly understand just how poorly the Seahawks offense played on Sunday, you have to zone in on what was occurring in the trenches. Me and the guys around me nicknamed starting right guard Michael Bowie “Michael F**king Bowie” on Sunday because he stepped in for the concussed J.R. Sweezy and struggled mightily keeping the pressure off of Russell Wilson. I kept tabs on Bowie for three consecutive second half drives and this is what I noticed. In 11 total plays, Bowie was only able to successfully contain his man once, on a 27 yard scramble by Wilson. Defensive tackle Dan Williams and defensive end Darnell Dockett were able to collapse the right side of the offensive line and Wilson was under constant pressure during this span. In this three drive sequence, Wilson went 2/6 passing for 9 yards. The Cardinals have an incredibly talented front 7 and they flat out embarrassed Bowie on Sunday. Bowie is still very raw and I think it was a mistake to start him at a position that he has not played consistently this season. It got to the point that the Seahawks were substituting Bowie for rookie lineman Alvin Bailey to try to get some offensive momentum going. Hopefully Sweezy will be back next week because with another talented defense coming to town next week, Bowie may be in for another tough day at the office, assuming he starts once again over James Carpenter if Sweezy cannot go.

It’s All About the Ball: Well, usually it’s all about the ball. The Seahawks won the turnover battle 4-2 on Sunday but walked away on the losing end for only the fourth time under Pete Carroll (the Seahawks are now 26-4 when winning the turnover battle). The Seahawks pressure on Carson Palmer was very good early on and it seemed as though if we could keep up the pass rush, Palmer would continue to make mistakes. Richard Sherman took the league lead in interceptions after intercepting two more passes on Sunday. Sherman now has 8 interceptions on the season. Kam Chancellor and Malcolm Smith also added interceptions off of tipped Palmer passes.

Defense Can’t Hold: Last season the Seahawks failed to hold leads late in the fourth quarter of four different games. All of those losses came on the road. This week the Seahawks blew a fourth quarter lead at home for the first time since the last game they lost at home in 2011. After scoring a touchdown to take a 10-9 lead, the Seahawks kicked off and the Cardinals had 7:26 to go roughly 55 yards to get into at least field goal range to have the opportunity to take the lead. The Cardinals went the length of the field, culminating in the deciding 31-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to Michael Floyd. The two-point conversion attempt was successful and Arizona took a 17-10 lead. This was one of the most unusual feelings I have had at a home game in a long time. Usually once the Seahawks take a lead late in a game, the crowd gets louder and the defense is able to feed off of the energy to step up and stop the opposing offense rather quickly. It has happened time and time again when playing at home over the past two seasons. Today the Cardinals were able to successfully finish their final drive and ultimately walked away victorious.

The Bad Calls: Fair warning, I am not trying to make excuses but I feel there were a handful of calls made by Scott Green and his officiating crew that may have shaped the outcome of Sunday’s game. There are 4 rulings that I felt were bad calls which killed our momentum and extended crucial Arizona drives.

The first questionable call came with 12:39 left in the game. Richard Sherman was called for pass interference on wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald which gave the Cardinals the ball at the Seahawks 16-yard line. From my seats it looks like Sherman’s feet got tangled with Fitzgerald’s, resulting in incidental contact. After watching the game film it looked more ticky-tacky on television but I still saw no interference on Sherman. Questionable call number two came on the very next play. Arizona running back Rashard Mendenhall rushed for no gain but the ball was recovered by Seahawks defensive tackle Michael Bennett. It was ruled on the field that Mendenhall was down by contact but the Seahawks challenged the play. The ruling on the field was upheld even though one angle seemed to show that the ball was coming loose before Mendenhall’s arm hit the ground, however the referee saw no conclusive evidence to overturn the call. That drive ended in a Cardinals punt.

The third questionable call made me madder than any of the other bad calls. With 5:04 left in the game Malcolm Smith was called for defensive holding on a 3rd down and 5. Instead of forcing the Cardinals to punt, the penalty gave the Cardinals a first down and they scored the game-winning touchdown later on in the drive. What made me mad was the extremely long delay between the end of the play and the penalty flag being thrown. The official that threw the flag on Smith had waved his arms to signal an incomplete pass THEN reached for his pocket to throw the flag. How in the world can you call the play incomplete then suddenly change your mind several seconds later to call a penalty? That long delay tells me that the referee actually may have been unsure what to rule and went with the “safer” decision. The play did not look like a defensive hold to me and the Seahawks should have gotten the ball back up by one with a chance to close the game out. Instead, the Seahawks got jobbed.

To add icing on top of the cake one last questionable call was made at the two-minute warning. A Russell Wilson pass intended for Doug Baldwin was ruled a deflection and an interception but the replay showed that the ball hit the ground before popping up into the air, which should have made it an incomplete pass and kept the Seahawks potential game winning drive alive. Baldwin said after the game that he knew the ball hit the ground and the referees made the wrong call. The replay angles show the ball hitting the ground with the field turf rubber popping up into the air but head referee Scott Green explained after the game that he “did not have conclusive evidence to overturn the call on the field.” This final bad call gave the Cardinals the ball back and they ran out the clock to win the game.

Thoughts on Arizona: If the Arizona Cardinals can make it into the playoffs, they are certainly a dark horse candidate to make a deep run. They certainly proved that they can win in an extremely hostile environment and their defense may be one of the best overall units in all of football. This team will certainly be a power in the NFC West moving forward in the coming years even if they fail to qualify to make the playoffs this season.

Random Thoughts: I cannot remember the last time I felt so tired throughout a Seahawks gameday. I need to get more sleep the night before home games… Or take a 5-hour energy… I couldn’t believe how foggy it was in downtown Seattle during the game. My seats offer a view to the south of I-5 and the fog was so thick you could not see past the outside of the stadium. It was almost as if we were in the middle of a cloud… Shout out to Ebenezer from Georgia who was a random stranger we drank and chatted with at the bar before the game. He seemed out of it before even getting there (if you know what I mean) and his commentary was very erratic and contradictory. He provided quality entertainment for us though… Just to reiterate how badly our section is patrolled by frickin’ boobs, the seating host for our section once again proved how he takes his job unnecessarily seriously. He talked to the group sitting to my left that they were behaving inappropriately but I did not hear or see any kind of behavior that could confirm that claim. The run-ins with the seating hosts and security our section has endured this season continue to get more and more ridiculous… I haven’t walked down the ramps of the stadium following a loss in a very long time. That was a strange and upsetting feeling. I am very worried about the possibility of the Rams coming to Seattle next week and beating us. Next week’s game must have a playoff feel to it in the stands. Or we could just hope for a 49ers loss either Monday night or next Sunday.

Instead of clinching the division this week and resting our starters against the Rams, next week’s game has suddenly become extremely important. Check back for my Rams/Seahawks preview next Saturday. Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas everybody. Go Hawks!

Cardinals/Seahawks Preview

21 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

At the beginning of the season a lot of casual fans probably would have overlooked this week’s game on the whole. However this week’s matchup has turned into a very important game for both the Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks enter this week at 12-2 and a win would clinch both the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Cardinals come to Seattle a rather surprising 9-5 and a win would keep them alive in the NFC wild-card hunt. The Cardinals lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 15-14 but Seattle has had Arizona’s number of late. In their last meeting the Seahawks defeated Arizona 34-22 back in week 7, however note that the last time they played in Seattle was last December when the Seahawks won 58-0 in the most lopsided win in team history. It is very important for the Seahawks to not get ahead of themselves this week because if we struggle the Cardinals are definitely capable of gaining and maintaining a lead. This is what I will be looking for from both the Seahawks and the Cardinals this week.

After shutting out the New York Giants last week, it will be important for the Seahawks defense to keep their momentum rolling this week. After dominating the Cardinals back in week 7 it may be understandable for Seahawks fans to think that we will be able to shut them down again on defense this week. What you may not realize is the offensive roll the Cardinals have been on since our last meeting. In the 7 games since our last meeting with Arizona, the Cardinals offense has averaged 30 points per game. This week my primary defensive focus is on the Legion of Boom and if they can keep up their dynamite production after intercepting 5 passes last week. Richard Sherman will line up against Larry Fitzgerald and Byron Maxwell will battle both Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts. I will be interested to see how often Carson Palmer decides to throw downfield given that he has been the most efficient throwing slants and out routes in the short to intermediate passing game, and since he fully understands the potential danger of throwing into our secondary.

Running the ball with Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin as well as controlling the game clock will be the most important thing for the Seahawks offense to do this week. The Seahawks were able to effectively run the ball and control the clock last week in a winning effort. This week I would like to see the Seahawks run the ball more on third down instead of having Russell Wilson look for a receiver and take the risk of losing yards or even getting hurt, something that I discussed briefly in my Giants game review. Although he has been running the ball well, Marshawn Lynch has only carried the ball 20 times or more in a single game once in his last four games. This week, even against a ferocious and talented defense like Arizona has, I think it is in the best interest of our offense to feed the beast and let him run at least 25 times this week, using Robert Turbin for a handful of carries as well. If the running game struggles early I believe we will see creative packages and different play calling from Darrell Bevell in order to catch the Cardinals off guard. In short, the running game needs to be the Seahawks primary focus on offense but do not be surprised to see Russell Wilson be willing to run and throw if the Cardinals shut Lynch down.

Over the second half of the season the Arizona Cardinals have developed one of the league’s most improved offenses. Quarterback Carson Palmer has averaged 307 yards passing in his last 5 games to his array of wide receivers including perennial pro bowler Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, as well as the younger, potential-filled talent of Michael Floyd. Over the years, regardless of who their quarterback has been, the Cardinals have continued to be a predominant passing team but the newfound effective running game has helped keep Arizona winning week after week as of late. Last week the Cardinals ran for 145 yards on the Tennessee Titans and they have implemented a running back rotation that is continuing to work due to head coach Bruce Arians’ faith in establishing and continuing to run the ball. My X-Factor player to watch for Arizona this week is one of their two running backs, Andre Ellington. Ellington sees roughly half the number of carries that starter Rashard Mendenhall sees but his statistical averages make him a player the Seahawks front 7 must focus on. Technically as a backup, Ellington has averaged 56 rushing yards over the past three weeks including 71 rushing yards on 10 carries last week. Although these numbers do not scream “feature back,” the truth to Ellington’s effectiveness shows in the yards per carry category, where he averages 5.6 yards per carry over the past three weeks (7.1 yards per carry last week). Eliminating Ellington and the running game as a whole will force Palmer to throw which, in my opinion, is high risk/high reward when you think about the talent he has to throw to and the defense he is throwing into.

I have held the belief that the Arizona defense is one of the most underrated units in the league for a long time and they are maintaining and building on their quiet production leading into this week’s game. Believe it or not, the Arizona Cardinals currently have the number one ranked rushing defense in the league. As important as it is for the Seahawks to get Marshawn Lynch going early, the Cardinals are going to do everything they can to force Russell Wilson to throw. The Cardinals have a dynamic mix of pass rushers and tacklers loaded in their front 7. In the running game I look for leading tackler Karlos Dansby and linebacker Daryl Washington to make it hard for Marshawn Lynch to break through the first level of the defense and to fight for yards after contact. Outside linebacker John Abraham leads the Cardinals in sacks with 11.5 and along with Dansby and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, life will be made tough for Russell Wilson in the passing game, especially on passing downs. The Cardinals like to send maximum pressure using these three pass rushers and it could be even tougher for the Seahawks if the Cardinals are leading, or if the score is close late in the game. Something that also cannot go unnoticed is how the Cardinals try to force turnovers. The Cardinals average almost one forced fumble per game and John Abraham has forced 4 fumbles on his own this season. Due to the multiple ways Abraham can disrupt an opposing offense, it will be crucial (and perhaps necessary) to double team him along the outside. I recommend looking at how James Carpenter and Breno Giacomini do controlling Abraham on the line this week.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear all-blue once again at home this week. I’m curious if the Cardinals will wear red pants this week, something they only do on rare occasions especially on the road… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week… Scott Green will be the referee this week… I am taking my friend Josh to this weekend’s game and he is a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan first, Seahawks fan second. The Eagles play the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football so we will probably head to a bar after the game for him to watch the Eagles game. It will be interesting to see which jersey he wears on Sunday… It’s funny that Josh is an Eagles fan because this will be the 4th time he goes to the annual Cardinals/Seahawks game with me and we have gone to one game per year together for 7 years… Hopefully the Seahawks Pro Shop will have division champions gear for sale following the game if we win. I would love to be one of the first ones to get their hands on a division champions t-shirt and hat… This is the first Seahawks afternoon home game in 5 weeks. I’m going to have to get down to the bars early again this week… The Seahawks are giving out “#LOUDER” cheer cards this week to the first 20,000 fans. I don’t understand why they can’t make enough for everyone. All it is basically is a piece of stock paper… Remember, kickoff is at 1:05 not 1:25. Get to your seats with plenty of time to spare if you are going to the game… I am hoping that the before the game, either before team introductions or before kickoff, they announce to the 12th Man what is at stake in terms of winning the division and clinching home field advantage with a win. I distinctly remember them doing that before we played the Cardinals in December 2007 and we won the game and the division.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs with a win. Regardless of whether we win or lose, Seattle can also clinch the division and home field advantage with a 49ers loss on Monday Night Football. Here are this week’s games that can affect the NFC playoff picture. Teams to note are bolded.

Arizona (9-5) at Seattle (12-2)

New Orleans (10-4) at Carolina (10-4)

Dallas (7-7) at Washington (3-11)

New York Giants (5-9) at Detroit (7-7)

Pittsburgh (6-8) at Green Bay (7-6-1)

Chicago (8-6) at Philadelphia (8-6)

Atlanta (4-10) at San Francisco (10-4)

Prediction: The Cardinals and Seahawks will combine for 5 interceptions and 7 sacks. Although the game will include strong defensive play there is no way you can doubt the Seahawks at home. Russell Wilson will throw for three touchdowns and the Seahawks will clinch the 2013 NFC West title and will make sure that the road to Super Bowl XLVIII will go through Seattle.

Seahawks 30, Cardinals 10

Check back for my Cardinals/Seahawks review late Sunday night or early Monday morning. Enjoy the game folks. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Cardinals Preview

16 Oct

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

Site: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)

Kickoff: 5:25pm

In week 7 last season the Seahawks came off a close win the previous week and played a division rival on Thursday Night Football. The Seahawks are now set for their déjà vu moment this season. On Thursday night, the Seahawks will face their division rivals the Arizona Cardinals for the first time this season. The Seahawks are 5-1 and are coming off a 20-13 win last week over the Tennessee Titans. The Cardinals are tied for third place in the NFC West as they hold a 3-3 record. They are coming off a 32-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The Cardinals lead the all-time series 15-13 but in their last meeting in December 2012, the Seahawks demolished Arizona 58-0 in the Seahawks most lopsided victory of all-time. Although the Cardinals currently hold a worse record than at this point last season, many including myself believe Arizona is a much improved team this year and this could be a significant challenge and this could potentially be a trap game for the Seahawks. Here is what I think we need to see out of the Seahawks this week in order to have a good chance of coming home victorious.

There were a lot of things on offense last week that frustrated me. Upon reviewing the game film however, there were some aspects that are encouraging and are showing signs that our offense is indeed improving. Quarterback Russell Wilson did not have a flashy performance against the Titans but did manage to throw for 257 yards and record a passer rating of 98.5. He himself made no fundamental or mental mistakes including no turnovers. Over the past few weeks it seems to me that Wilson has not been as accurate on longer throws and because of that he has played more conservatively. This week I think it will be necessary for Wilson to get back to his 2012 self by confidently stretching the field. Facing a Cardinals defense that will try to take advantage of weakened offensive line, Wilson will be forced to make hurried throws. If the Seahawks offensive line can effective manage Arizona’s pass rush, Wilson could exploit the coverage of the Cardinals secondary. Look for Golden Tate to make a big impact and I think Jermaine Kearse’s height could make him a key contributor as well. Wilson has hit Kearse deep for touchdowns in two of the Seahawks first three road games.

The biggest key to an all-around good game from the offense could be the return of tight end Zach Miller. Miller has been a valuable asset in both the passing game and the running game as a blocker. Miller has been sidelined the past two games with a hamstring injury. Surprisingly, without Miller this season the Seahawks average 45 more yards rushing per game than with him. The Seahawks offense also average about 1.5 sacks less without Miller than with him. Given these numbers the Seahawks are averaging 3.3 more points more with Miller than without him. Adding Miller back into the mix could definitely help the Seahawks move the ball better and Miller’s presence could lead to more scoring opportunities. If we can take advantage and score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals the Seahawks will be in great shape.

There are three things on to keep an eye out for on defense this week. The first two are individual players. Defensive end Chris Clemons is unlikely to play this week after suffering a hyperextended elbow against Tennessee. If Clemons is out we are down to only three primary pass rushers. Bobby Wagner’s absence was also noticeable last week as the Seahawks used many different linebacker packages. Heath Farwell was who I expected to step in primarily for Wagner last week and he only recorded one tackle. Wagner was missed tremendously last week and I think it would be beneficial to limit the linebacker rotation to a small handful of players instead of the cornucopia of linebackers the Seahawks used against the Titans. With a smart veteran quarterback in Carson Palmer, the Cardinals may know how to exploit the Seahawks in the middle of the field more effectively than a Ryan Fitzpatrick if Wagner is not there to balance out our defense.

Most importantly in my opinion, I will be looking at the Seahawks fourth quarter defense. After shutting the Houston Texans down in the fourth quarter and overtime three weeks ago the Seahawks have given up a long game-winning drive to the Indianapolis Colts and a 96-yard drive to the Titans last week which resulted in a field goal. Both of these drives came in the final 15 minutes of the game. If the game is close entering the final quarter of the game I will be extremely worried. The Cardinals were able to go down the field for a long game-winning scoring drive against us last year in Arizona and this year could spell the same fate with an improved Cardinals offense. The perfect way to avoid this is to run away with the game in the first three quarters. But what if the game is close? The Seahawks need to take it one play at a time and don’t panic every time Arizona moves the chains. Third downs will be very important and smart tackling could prevent disappointment. Do not go for the turnover, just focus on wrapping up the ball carrier. If we can force an Arizona turnover late in the game we will most likely win. Fundamental defense will be our biggest ally in these situations. Do not get fancy and play smart. Smart play and good fundamental execution will put us in good shape.

The Arizona Cardinals feature a rather improved offense this year. A lot of this has to do with their new starting quarterback Carson Palmer. After 3 seasons with a rotating quarterback carousel, Palmer adds stability to a position and a team that has not made the playoffs since Kurt Warner led the Cardinals to back-to-back division titles in 2008 and 2009. The Cardinals do not boast an overly-impressive running game and it will be very tough to run on the Seahawks run defense. This makes the passing game my focus of the Arizona offense. Usually I like to pick an X-Factor player that flies under the radar but this week how can you not pick Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald? Fitzgerald is the Cardinals leading receiver with 405 yards and 4 touchdowns. Fitzgerald will line up across from Richard Sherman this week and if there is one receiver who could give Sherman trouble it’s Fitzgerald. I expect Carson Palmer to test Sherman a lot on Thursday night by trying to get the ball to Fitzgerald. Look for the head coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin to build a game plan that will feature creative ways to get Fitzgerald open.

Even though the Cardinals have gone 8-14 dating back to the start of last season, they feature one of the best defenses in the league. I think their defense is very underrated and they play extremely well at home. Patrick Peterson is one of the best cornerbacks in the league and the return of linebacker Karlos Dansby has added a dynamic tackler to the Cardinals linebacking corps. The Cardinals held Russell Wilson to 139 yards passing and also sacked Wilson 3 times in week one last season. There are two players on the Cardinals defense that are worthy of being X-Factor players to watch. Rookie cornerback Tyrann Mathieu has the second highest number of tackles on the Cardinals defense with 40 and his speed could present a problem for the Seahawks receivers. The best pass rusher the Cardinals have is defensive end Darnell Dockett who has 4 sacks this season. Dockett had a big impact when the Seahawks played in Arizona last season and it will be crucial to double team Dockett to prevent Russell Wilson from getting knocked down.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will most likely wear white jerseys this week. No word on pant color yet… Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock have the call for NFL Network this week. After discussing broadcasters and analysts with a couple of friends last week, I came to the conclusion that Mayock is my favorite analyst on any network. He knows the game of football very well, knows the talent on the field being an NFL Draft expert, and can be critical of players; something you oftentimes do not see on a television broadcast. *Cough, Jon Gruden, cough.*… NFL Network features a 2-hour pregame show as well as live look-ins all day on their weekday shows. I look forward to Rich Eisen’s comedy, Kurt Warner’s Arizona bias, and Deion Sanders’ ridiculousness on TV this week… For those of you who do not know who Priyanka Chopra is you are going to find out right before Thursday’s game. Her single “In My City” is the theme song for Thursday Night Football and not only is it a catchy song, she is also a stone-cold fox… Why does it seem like the Seahawks never get to play at home for Thursday Night Football? Since TNF started in 2006 the Seahawks have only played a TNF game at home twice… The crowd at University of Phoenix Stadium is the loudest I have heard on any of my road trips. Add in the fact that Thursday’s game has been announced a sellout and that it is in primetime, the Seahawks may have trouble at the line of scrimmage this week. Hopefully not though… If the Seahawks can pull out a victory they will head into a mini-bye week before week 8 against the St. Louis Rams with a 6-1 record!… To anyone who is going to Thursday’s game and Saturday’s UW game at Arizona State, I am extremely jealous (that means you, Dad).

Prediction: Rushing yards will come at a premium this week for both teams. I think the Seahawks will struggle mightily at times on Thursday night. The Seahawks will ride a roller coaster consisting of solid plays and frustrating plays. The Cardinals will be able to move the ball effectively but I think Carson Palmer will throw at least two interceptions this week. After giving up a field goal to make it 21-19 Arizona, the Seahawks will successfully drive down the field and Steven Hauschka will kick a game-winning field goal with mere seconds remaining. The Seahawks will barely escape with a 6-1 record and will hold a 1.5 game lead on the rest of the NFC West heading into Sunday’s games.

Seahawks 22, Cardinals 21

Check back on Friday for my review of Thursday Night Football. Go Seahawks!

Cardinals/Seahawks Preview

8 Dec

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Matchup: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

The Seahawks are back at home for the first time in four weeks. After their thrilling win in Chicago last weekend, the Seahawks are looking to gain momentum and trying to further strengthen their playoff chances. This week, the Seahawks host the Arizona Cardinals. After getting off to a strong 4-0 start, the Cardinals have lost their last 8 games in a row. At 4-8, the Cardinals are now looking towards the 2013 NFL draft but are also looking to play spoiler for the rest of this season. The Cardinals franchise leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 15-12. In their last meeting in week one of this season, the Cardinals beat the Seahawks 20-16 after the Seahawks offense was unable to get into the endzone after four attempts inside the 5-yard line. Here is what I’m looking for in this week’s game.

After his best performance of the season against Chicago last week, Russell Wilson is primed to have another big game this week. However, the reason why I think this is because he will have a big game on the ground rather than through the air. The Arizona Cardinals have the third best pass defense in the league, giving up an average of 196 yards per game. The Seahawks perfected the zone-read option last week so I would expect to see a lot of it ran this week as well. Through 5 home games this season, Wilson has yet to throw an interception. He is going up against a very talented secondary this week and I think the key to limiting potential turnovers is throwing a lot of short to moderate throws. It would not surprise me to see Wilson test Patrick Peterson and Kerry Rhodes, but to be safe it may be in the Seahawks and Wilson’s best interest to keep passing plays short and simple, thus eating away clock when we convert. Marshawn Lynch will be a big factor in chewing clock this week. I hope to see Beast Mode run for over 100 yards and have a touchdown this week.

Also, this is the first time in Russell Wilson’s career that he has played the same team twice in the same season. His preparation for this game matched with the analysis of the previous game against the Cardinals makes me feel very comfortable that he will know how to play them much better this time around.

On defense this week, I am very confident we can shut the explicitly inept Arizona offense down but there are two big things to note. First, Brandon Browner will not be available this week and for the rest of the regular season as he is serving his 4-game suspension for testing positive for Adderall. Walter Thurmond is expected to start this week at cornerback and will most likely line up against Cardinals receiver Andre Roberts. I believe Thurmond will do an adequate job holding down Browner’s spot this week. Also, the Seahawks need to make sure they do not come out overconfident this week. The last thing we need is a letdown this week coming off the Chicago win last week. A similar set of games to look at is the Packers game in week 3 and the Rams game in week 4. After beating Green Bay, the Seahawks I think may have felt overconfident against St. Louis the next week. They did not perform like they could and it cost us a game. This week at home, I think the Seahawks will make sure there will be no letdown.

The biggest key on defense this week is the pass rush. On paper, this should be no problem as Arizona boasts one of the worst offensive lines in the league and have given up 48 sacks this season, an average of 4 per game. The pass rush has been a big problem the last couple of weeks but since we are back at home this weekend, I would not be surprised to see Chris Clemons, and Bobby Wagner go to town this week. If we can put increased pressure on John Skelton this week, the Seahawks will be in great shape.

The Arizona Cardinals come into this week’s game on a real slide. The Cardinals have not won since September 30th, losing their last 8 games. This week on offense, Arizona will start John Skelton at quarterback. The Cardinals started rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley the last two weeks but after last week’s 7-6 loss to the New York Jets, head coach Ken Whisenhunt believes Skelton gives the Cardinals the best chance to win in a hostile environment like CenturyLink Field. Skelton has experience playing in Seattle but has never won here. In their first meeting, Skelton looked good before getting hurt in the fourth quarter. He only threw for 149 yards in week one, but he only committed one turnover, an interception to Richard Sherman along the sideline. Larry Fitzgerald needs to attract the attention of the Seahawks secondary. No matter how good or bad Arizona seems to play, Fitzgerald always has an impact, especially in Seattle. Fitzgerald has not been putting up good numbers recently; something that hopefully continues this week.

On defense, the Arizona Cardinals have some of the best secondary talent in the league. Patrick Peterson, Kerry Rhodes, and Adrian Wilson are all having decent seasons and all are tremendous ball hawks. This is the reason why I discussed how it might be in Russell Wilson’s favor to keep passes short this week. The Cardinals have forced 11 total turnovers in their last 3 games but because of their offense they have been unable to close out those games. The Seahawks must protect the ball this week because this Cardinals secondary will make you pay for it. Another emerging storyline is the role defensive tackle Darnell Dockett will play for Arizona this week. After getting into a scuffle with Kerry Rhodes last week in New York, Dockett has been fined a “six-figure” amount by the Cardinals organization and his playing status is up in the air. Dockett may be only used this week in a limited role. If this is the case this would be a huge blow for Arizona’s front three. If Dockett does not start expect to see Vonnie Holliday or Nick Eason step in at defensive tackle.

Random Thoughts: It will be nice to get back to CenturyLink Field this week. It’s been too long… I will be tailgating in Pioneer Square this week. Once again, it’s been too long… The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys this week. Both teams will also be wearing a special “50 years of the Pro Football Hall of Fame” patch on their jerseys this week. There will also be Hall of Fame related festivities throughout this weekend’s game as well… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week again. They called a good game last week but I’m glad I won’t have to listen to them this week… I will be praying that the Miami Dolphins will somehow beat the San Francisco 49ers this week. It would be nice to be ½ game out of first place after this week… The temperature at kickoff is supposed to be in the mid-40’s. Now I have a decision to make, blue season-ticket holder beanie or grey beanie?… The pregame giveaway this week is Seahawks cheer cards. Better than the alternative I guess… I am taking my friend Josh to the game this weekend. He is an Eagles fan by heart but a Seahawks fan by head. He is always a blast to go to games with because he is pretty passionate… The offense will most likely be introduced this week before the game. If they are not it may be because they will want to do the offense against San Francisco in 2 weeks in the event that game gets flexed into Sunday Night Football.

Prediction: The Seahawks will come out overconfident to start but will settle down in a hurry. The defense will record 4 sacks and pick off John Skelton twice, one of which will be returned for a touchdown. Russell Wilson will run for more yards than in any other game and will lead the Seahawks to a victory and an 8-5 record.

Seahawks 27, Cardinals 13

I’ll be back on Monday with my review of the Cardinals game. Also, I am now out of school for the quarter so my hope is to get on more frequently during the week over the next 4 weeks. Stay tuned for that. Thanks for reading. Go Seahawks!