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Cardinals/Seahawks Preview

14 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

What a way to kick off the second half of the season. There is little doubt that this game is the biggest game of our season thus far, given the opponent and the potential implications of winning or losing. In front of a nationally televised audience the Seahawks host the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. After two straight wins heading into the bye the Seahawks sit at 4-4. The Arizona Cardinals have jumped out of the gate to a 6-2 start and hold a two game lead on Seattle for the division lead. The all-time series with the Cardinals is tied 16-16. The Seahawks have won their last two games against Arizona including a 35-6 walloping of the Cardinals in week 16 last season to take control of the NFC West lead. The Cardinals are a tough opponent and have recent history of beating the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field so this game is certainly no gimme. Here is what I will be watching for on Sunday night.

The common narrative heading into this game has been the Seahawks lack of efficiency in the red zone so far this season. In our first 8 games the Seahawks have taken 18 drives into the red zone. Of those drives, half of them have resulted in field goals and only 5 have resulted in touchdowns. The last Seahawks red zone touchdown came on Marshawn Lynch’s one yard run in the first quarter against San Francisco two weeks ago. Our red zone touchdown percentage of 27.8 is the worst in the league. Seattle also only averages just over two visits to the red zone per game; also dead last in the league. The Seahawks need to capitalize on our trips deep into Arizona territory. Settling for field goals will make it tougher on us especially later on in the game. With the improving play of our offensive line, expect quarterback Russell Wilson to have more confidence throwing towards key red zone targets Jimmy Graham and Jermaine Kearse. If Marshawn Lynch can also get going to extend drives the Seahawks will be in fantastic shape.

The Arizona Cardinals have a very good passing game, oftentimes using three or more receivers. On defense this week for the Seahawks I am looking at what our personnel will look like when we use nickel or dime packages, and just how often will we use at least 5 guys in the secondary. Of course the Seahawks are well known for playing a “cover 3” defense but given the talent Arizona has at the receiver position it may be necessary for DeShawn Shead or Marcus Burley to play more. Playing an extra member of the Legion of Boom may work to our advantage, especially if we can confuse Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer in coverage. Forcing interceptions may be difficult this week though. Palmer has thrown over three times as many touchdowns as he has interceptions. Sacks may also come at a premium, as the Cardinals offensive line has done a great job protecting their quarterback. Arizona has surrendered only 11 sacks so far, an average of 1.4 sacks per game.

On offense the Arizona Cardinals have two of the most explosive units in football. The signing of running back Chris Johnson has propelled the Cardinals to the 9th best rushing unit in the league. My focus this week will be on Arizona’s fourth ranked passing offense led by quarterback Carson Palmer. Arizona averages 292 passing yards per game, and 66.3 percent of Palmer’s completions have been caught by the three headed monster of Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, and Michael Floyd. My X-Factor Player to Watch spotlight will be on Fitzgerald this week as his role is the most interesting in my eye. Fitzgerald leads all Arizona receivers in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. The majority of Fitzgerald’s time however has been spent in the slot rather than on the outside. This is where a fifth Seahawks defender will come into play; to help cover Fitzgerald in the middle of the field. Fitzgerald catching passes means the Cardinals will be moving the ball in small chunks while tiring out the Seahawks defense at the same time.

Although Arizona leads the NFC West and they have good talent on the defensive side of the ball, after watching film I still consider this unit to be a “poor mans” Seahawks defense. The Cardinals are using the Seahawks blueprint to create their defense and it is working. The pass rush continues to be exceptional with Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker, and Dwight Freeney. Linebacker Kevin Minter has great range as he is the second best tackler on the team and also leads all Arizona defenders in tackles for loss. What scares me the most though is the play of the Cardinals secondary. Patrick Peterson continues to be one of the best cornerbacks in football. Tyrann Mathieu is probably their most versatile defender doing everything from rushing the passer to playing in deep coverage. If there is one defender to watch it is strong safety Deone Bucannon. In his second year out of Washington State, Bucannon has gone from reserve safety to the leading tackler on the team with 56 through their first 8 games. Bucannon is a hard hitter in coverage and also displays impressing ball-hawking skills. If the Seahawks throw deep do not be surprised to hear Bucannon’s name on the broadcast.

Random Thoughts: With the aura of primetime football comes a primetime broadcast crew. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call on NBC. Michele Tafoya will report on both teams from the sideline. The Seahawks will wear all-navy and the Cardinals will likely wear white jerseys and white pants. I highly doubt we will see Arizona break out the red pants… Clete Blakeman is this week’s referee… Ah finally; primetime football after daylight savings time. It will be dark. It will be loud. It will be the most bonkers atmosphere of the 2015 season. I cannot wait… The game theme is military appreciation. 91-year old Corporal Clayton Pitre will raise the 12 flag prior to kickoff… No bars this week since I’m taking my dad. Lunch downtown then probably either Pyramid or Safeco Field for pregame beers most likely so that should be a nice little change of pace… This game is the biggest game because of the possible ramifications. A win and the Seahawks are one game behind Arizona and our hopes of a division title remain intact. A loss means we are three games behind Arizona, they will hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, and we can virtually kiss our chances at a division title goodbye. We will be solely focused on a Wild-Card berth if we lose this game and I am not ready to turn my attention to the 5 or 6 seed. A loss is not acceptable.

Prediction: In the Pete Carroll era the Seahawks are 9-0 in primetime with a combined score of 245-94. I do not expect this game to be a blowout but I also do not expect a loss at home in primetime. Russell Wilson will be sacked 4 times but will make two deep throws to set up Marshawn Lynch touchdown runs. Carson Palmer will throw for one touchdown, Chandler Catanzaro will kick a field goal and the Arizona defense will also add a safety. In the end however, Steven Hauschka will kick two fourth quarter field goals and the Seahawks will win their third straight game, improving their record to 5-4.

Seahawks 24, Cardinals 12

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Review: Seahawks 35, Cardinals 6

21 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

When the 2014 regular season schedule came out last April there were rumblings that the NFL was afraid to schedule the Seahawks in primetime at home because we were constantly blowing our opponents out under the lights. They said nothing about blowing out our opponents on the road. In our fourth primetime game of the season, the Seahawks ripped first place away from the Arizona Cardinals, winning in dominating fashion 35-6. The Seahawks scored more points tonight than our defense has allowed in our last 5 games combined. The red-hot Seahawks improve to 11-4 on the season while the Cardinals fall to 11-4 and to second place in the NFC West by virtue of head-to-head tiebreaker. With a win at home against the St. Louis Rams next week, Seattle will lock up its second straight NFC West title while also ensuring the road to Super Bowl XLIX travels through CenturyLink Field. Here is what I took out of tonight’s win.

Seahawks Break Yardage Mark: The Arizona Cardinals defense entered Sunday’s game allowing an average of 350 yards per game. The Seahawks were 21 passing yards away from equaling that average. The Seahawks broke a franchise record on Sunday night with 596 yards of offense. If there were any questions or doubts as to if our offense could get going, I believe they were all answered after this performance. The key to our offensive success is that we stuck to what worked. Quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch, and tight end Luke Willson were the playmakers of the game, combining for nearly 76 percent of our offensive production. Tonight’s game gets me very excited about the upcoming weeks. I am reminded back to 2012 when the Seahawks combined for 150 points in a 3 week span at the peak of the season. I want to see the same kind of point production next week but Sunday’s performance has me dreaming of an identical January to last season.

Defense Plays as Expected: The Seahawks defense made Ryan Lindley look like, well, Ryan Lindley (more on him later). For the third time in the last five games, the Seahawks did not allow an opposing touchdown, holding Arizona to only 6 points. The Seahawks recorded 4 sacks, one of which coming from former Cardinal O’Brien Schofield, and Richard Sherman intercepted a deep Lindley pass to put the bow on top of the present. The Seahawks took the Cardinals rushing attack out of the game early forcing Lindley to throw all night long which greatly worked to our advantage. Stepfan Taylor led all Arizona running backs with 19 rushing yards on 11 carries. This stat may put this of defensive dominance in perspective better than any other numbers I have seen: The Seahawks offense scored 35 points in this game. The Seahawks defense has allowed a total of 33 points in their last 5 games combined. In my opinion our defense is playing better during this 5-game winning streak then they played all throughout last season. With the path to the Super Bowl hopefully heading through Seattle, there is no reason for me to believe this defensive dominance will stop any time soon.

Lindley Plays as Expected: In my Cardinals preview I broke down my analysis of Arizona quarterback Ryan Lindley after watching all of his previous NFL game film. I saw nothing in Sunday’s game that showed improvement in his performance from his first seven games. Lindley finished this game 18/44 (41% completion percentage) for 216 yards and one interception. Many of his throws did not hit his receivers in stride and although he completed one deep pass, many of his deeps throws were underthrown, as if he underestimated the speed of his receivers, especially John Brown and Jaron Brown. If I were an Arizona Cardinals fan I would be extremely worried about these next few weeks. It may be necessary to rush Drew Stanton back from his injury because the Cardinals will be in big trouble if Lindley has to start next week or even into the playoffs.

Cardinals Defense Cannot Hang: For the first 25 minutes of play it looked as though the Cardinals defense could shut down the Seahawks offense and keep this a close game throughout. There are two big things however that the Seahawks defense has that the Arizona defense does not; depth and stamina. Those two things made the difference in the Seahawks being able to pull away late. The Seahawks saw big time performances from several role players on Sunday night. Jordan Hill and David King each recorded sacks while Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead combined for 3 of the Seahawks 9 passes defensed. Lane should have intercepted one of those passes in the endzone, which would have taken 3 of Arizona’s 6 points off of the board. Fundamentals were also absent, especially on Marshawn Lynch’s ridiculous 79-yard touchdown run. Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson went for the strip of Lynch on that play instead of trying to make the tackle. Arizona did a very poor job tackling in this game overall and it led to at least 21 of Seattle’s 35 points.

Sunday Negatives: There are two glaring negatives I took from Sunday’s game, one being way more important than the other. The “other” was the performance of kicker Steven Hauschka who missed not one, not two, but three field goals. Those three misses give him six total on the season; Hauschka doubled his missed opportunities in this game alone. I am a firm believer that Hauschka simply had a bad night. There is no need to make any irrational suggestions like replacing him. I am fully confident he will bounce back next week. The other problem is something that has plagued this team all season long. The Seahawks were penalized 11 times for 97 yards on Sunday, the majority of them coming in the first half. Specifically, the number of procedure penalties on Sunday makes me sick to my stomach. The Seahawks had 4 procedure penalties in this game, two of which being back-to-back offsides fouls by defensive lineman Michael Bennett. The ability for the Seahawks to clean up their sloppy, undisciplined play in the second half gives me reason to be optimistic but this is a problem that has proven to not be fully fixed week in and week out. With the most important stretch of the season coming up in the next few weeks, now is the time to fix our penalty problem for good.

Thoughts on Arizona: Not including Sunday’s win, in the last 9 weeks our opponents are 0-9 in their next game after playing the Seahawks. I would be extremely worried if I were an Arizona Cardinals fan. This is the kind of game that could completely break a team. If the Cardinals have any chance to do damage in the playoffs, they must get Drew Stanton back on the field. If Ryan Lindley remains Arizona’s quarterback it is very realistic for me to think the Cardinals could lose to San Francisco next week, wind up as the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs, and be one-and-done after their Wild-Card playoff game.

Random Thoughts: How would I compare “Hold My Dick Part 2” to the original from the 2010 playoffs? I believe the first run was more impressive due to the number of defenders Marshawn Lynch ran over. On Lynch’s run on Sunday, he only shed 3 defenders on his way to the endzone. Given the fact that the first run was also at home and triggered an earthquake, I feel obligated to give it the edge. I do love that this run was longer and it involved a much more noteworthy player on the opposing side in Patrick Peterson. It’s not the best run I’ve ever seen but it is definitely in my top 3 all-time. It is plays and individual efforts like the one Lynch had on Sunday that can lift teams to unprecedented heights. That run may have just spring boarded the Seahawks into another memorable run deep into January… Although it seemed as Cardinals fans were in full force early on, that notion surely died with their short-lived lead. The 12th Man made a significant presence at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday night, and after the game the scene around the NBC Sports Network set looked identical to the scene following last season’s Thursday night game in Arizona… The Seahawks are one win away from home field advantage but I am on record stating that the Seahawks are going to make it to Super Bowl XLIX. One more home game to clinch the division and then two more potential home games in the playoffs? In my opinion the NFC has already been won. See you in Arizona in February.

One more huge week is ahead of us before the city of Seattle kicks into playoff mode. Check back next Saturday as I preview the regular season finale; our week 17 matchup against the St. Louis Rams. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Cardinals Preview

20 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

Site: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

The Seattle Seahawks have the opportunity this week to prove one of head coach Pete Carroll’s most well-known mantras right; it’s  not how you start, it’s how you finish. The Arizona Cardinals have been the top dogs in the NFC West all season long and the Seahawks have the chance to knock them off their throne and take full control of the division. In front of a nationally televised audience on NBC’s Sunday Night Football the Seahawks will take on the Arizona Cardinals in what some people are calling the biggest regular season game in Cardinals history. Arizona is 11-3 and Seattle is 10-4. A Seahawks win would give both teams an 11-4 record with Seattle taking the division lead based on the head-to-head tiebreaker they would have over Arizona. A Cardinals win clinches the NFC West and home-field advantage for themselves. This is without a doubt the biggest game of the season and many of the matchups definitely favor the Seahawks. In a game that should be filled with dominant defense, this game will likely be won and lost and the hands of the offenses, which is where I put my primary focus for both teams this week. Here is what must happen on Sunday for the Seahawks to take over first place in the NFC West.

There are two things I am looking for out of the Seahawks offense on Sunday. First is we need to get off to a fast start by scoring early points. Two of the top defenses in the league will be featured in this game and points may be at a premium all night long. The best way to do this is to try to establish the run with Marshawn Lynch. If Seattle is unsuccessful running the ball, the best option in the passing game may be to use all sorts of quick passes, screens and slants in particular. In his last 3 games against the Cardinals, quarterback Russell Wilson has been sacked 14 times. The Seahawks cannot afford to move backwards via sacks in this game. If the Cardinals front-seven does a good job penetrating the Seattle offensive line early on, my hope is to see Wilson use his legs more than usual to pick up yards and use quick passes to take the pressure off of himself.

If the Arizona Cardinals have any chance to win this game it will be up to their defense to play their best game of the season. I say this because of the potential anemic play of the Cardinals offense. Arizona will start third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley on Sunday, who in 7 career games has not thrown a touchdown pass. This week I analyzed all of Lindley’s game film including 6 games from the 2012 season and the quarter and a half he played last week in St. Louis in place of Drew Stanton. Here are my thoughts on Ryan Lindley:

There a lot of negatives that I take out of Ryan Lindley’s game. He is a very inconsistent player who struggles doing the most fundamental aspects of the quarterback position. Lindley’s most glaring weakness is that he stares down his receivers, almost as if he predetermines which receiver he is going to throw to. Lindley also struggles reading the rest of the field, oftentimes unknowingly throwing into double or even triple coverage. This could mean big things for the Legion of Boom, as they thrive on reading the quarterback’s eyes to get in position to make a play. Lindley is a traditional pocket passer and he cannot throw on the run to save his life. He is very inaccurate outside of the pocket and even struggles mightily at times hitting receivers in stride from inside the pocket. If Lindley is going to have any success moving the ball the Cardinals will have to throw similarly to how I think the Seahawks should approach the passing game; with short passes and screens. In 7 games, Lindley is 2/27 on passes that travel 15 or more yards in the air (7.4% completion percentage on deep throws). There are two things the Seahawks defense can do that I think can shut Lindley down. If the Seahawks stack the box with 7, 8, or even 9 defenders and send heavy blitzes, Lindley will be flustered easily and may make horrible throws. This is the approach Rex Ryan’s Jets took in a game against Lindley in 2012 and he finished with a 32% completion percentage, 72 passing yards, and one interception. The Cardinals only scored 6 points in that game. The other thing the Seahawks can do is play press coverage on the outside all game long. If the defense plays zone, you are basically giving Arizona free yards and Lindley can take advantage on quick out routes and curls on the outside. Press coverage would eliminate the cushion Lindley would have to make throws to his receivers.

I am curious to know how short Ryan Lindley’s leash is. If he struggles early will Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians pull the plug and replace him with rookie Logan Thomas? Arians stated early this week that they will implement a package of plays for Thomas but he did not go into details. If the Cardinals start ice cold on offense I think it is possible Arians will try to pull several tricks out of his hat, including using cornerback Patrick Peterson in wildcat formations. With Peterson already a dominating defender, the threat of his speed making an impact on the offensive side of the ball makes him my X-Factor player to watch for the Cardinals this week. I would not be surprised to see Peterson play both ways on Sunday and I do not think it is crazy to think he will see an expanded role on offense to get the running game going.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys on Sunday but it is unclear once again what color pants we will wear. I personally hope we wear blue pants… It is my opinion that the Cardinals will ditch their traditional red jerseys for this game and will instead wear their black alternate jerseys. They usually wear black twice per year (as NFL uniform rules permit) but they have only worn them once in 2014. With this being their last home game, I would not be surprised at all to see Arizona wear black jerseys and white pants this week… Al Michaels will provide the play-by-play and Cris Collinsworth will provide commentary for NBC this week. Michele Tafoya will report from the sidelines… This is the first Sunday Night Football game the Seahawks will play on the road since playing at Tampa Bay in 2008. (This season’s game on Thanksgiving does not count towards this stat)… Walt Anderson is the referee this week… Sunday is going to be a long and tense day leading up to kickoff. I don’t think I’ll be nervous, but I’ll just want the game to start already… Last December the Seahawks played the Giants at MetLife Stadium with the hopes that they would make a return trip for the Super Bowl in the coming weeks. The Same goes this week. You can’t tell me it won’t be discussed among the players and staff that the goal is to get back here [to Arizona] next month for Super Bowl XLIX… I was considering going down to Arizona for this week’s game over the summer. I should have made the investment. My hope was to have all of my Christmas shopping done and all my presents wrapped so I could head down to the valley of the sun and spend a nice relaxing weekend in the warm weather, down by the pool with a drink in hand, and watch the Seahawks play. Looking forward to doing all that is we make it to the Super Bowl!… It will be interesting to see what kind of home-field advantage the Cardinals have this week. Last season the 12th Man invaded University of Phoenix Stadium and made it their own. My hope is that the same thing happens this week. Are we going to see the biggest regular season game in Cardinals history and not have their own fans show up in full force and in full throat? Look at the second deck of the stadium, particularly the corners of the second deck and we’ll have the answer to that question.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: Things are getting simpler. If the Seahawks beat the Cardinals, we clinch a playoff spot, we take control of the NFC West, and we take control of the #1 seed in the NFC Playoffs. We would then  be able to clinch the division with a win at home next week. If the Cardinals win, they clinch the division and home-field advantage and the Seahawks can finish no better than the #5 seed in the NFC Playoffs. Here are this week’s other games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

Philadelphia (9-5) at Washington (3-11)

Detroit (10-4) at Chicago (5-9)

Green Bay (10-4) at Tampa Bay (2-12)

Indianapolis (10-4) at Dallas (10-4)

Prediction: I was talking to one of my friends earlier this week about what it will take to give the Seahawks a win in this game. We agreed on two things; the first team to score 14 points wins and/or if the Seahawks return an interception for a touchdown at any point in this game we will win. Although I do not predict a pick-six, I do believe the Seahawks will intercept two Ryan Lindley passes and the Seahawks defense will allow less than 175 yards of offense to the Arizona Cardinals. Even though Arizona will do a good job shutting down and stalling Seattle’s offensive drives, Marshawn Lynch will run for a touchdown and three Steven Hauschka field goals later in the game will preserve the victory for the Seahawks. We will take first place in the NFC West and will be in prime position to clinch the division next week.

Seahawks 16, Cardinals 8

Check back late Sunday night or early Monday morning for my review of this game. Thanks for reading and enjoy this game everyone. Go Seahawks!

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!

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!

Review: Seahawks 58, Cardinals 0

10 Dec

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This was a good old-fashioned butt kicking. The Seahawks set a franchise record for points scored in a game and a tremendous performance by all three phases gave us a 58-0 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks improve to 8-5 and take over the 5th seed in the NFC playoff race while the Cardinals extend their losing streak to 9 games. Arizona is now 4-9 on the season. I really do not have anything to critique. This is what I liked about Sunday’s dominant performance.

Wilson, Flynn, Lynch, And The Incredible Offense: I’ll get to my only negative of the offensive performance right now. Russell Wilson threw his first interception at home this season. Now that we have gotten that out of the way lets preach the offense! Wilson threw for 148 yards, a touchdown, and an interception this week against Arizona. Those stats are after only 35 minutes of football. With 10:19 left in the third quarter, Matt Flynn replaced Wilson at quarterback and held down the fort just fine. It was nice to see Flynn get his first playing time of the year and he got a lot of it. The offensive player of the game is no doubt Marshawn Lynch. Lynch ran for 128 yards on 11 carries and scored 3 touchdowns. It was by far Lynch’s best game of the season. To add to the offensive dominance, Robert Turbin also added 108 rushing yards of his own and Leon Washington added a touchdown run as well. On the receiving end, Anthony McCoy led all receivers with 105 yards on three catches. With a performance like that, the Seahawks are on a roll that could spring them to the top of the NFC West. My only worry is our offense will be burnt out for next week’s game against Buffalo.

Sherman, Wagner, And The Incredible Defense: The common joke after the win was that the victory was brought to us by Adderall. Richard Sherman had two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and a fumble recovery in the Seahawks win on Sunday. Bobby Wagner also had two interceptions and a forced fumble. The Seahawks defense recorded their first shutout since 2009 and they also broke a fantasy football record for most points scored by a defensive unit in a single week. After last week’s game in Chicago I had a feeling that the Seahawks would come out in front of the 12th Man and put on a show but they put on a clinic. This defense is very exciting and there should be pro bowl nods all around. Bobby Wagner deserves to be a strong candidate for defensive rookie of the year and Richard Sherman is playing at a defensive player of the year level. Next week on the road once again, this I do not see how it is possible that this unit can slip.

Smith, Maxwell, And The Incredible Special Teams: Not to be forgotten, the Seahawks special teams also had a game to remember. They forced two Patrick Peterson fumbled punts. Malcolm Smith recovered the first in the endzone for a touchdown, the other was forced by Byron Maxwell and recovered by Sherman. The Seahawks won the turnover battle 8-1 on Sunday and the special teams contributed to 25 percent of our takeaways. That is very impressive.

Skelton, Lindley, And The Terrible Cardinals Offense: I got to see firsthand the joke that is the Arizona Cardinals quarterback carousel. John Skelton threw for only 74 yards and 4 interceptions before being replaced by backup Ryan Lindley who did not fare any better. Lindley threw for only 59 yards but did not commit any turnovers. After the game in his press conference when asked about who the starting quarterback will be next week in their game against the Detroit Lions, Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt asked the beat writer for the Arizona Republic with a serious demeanor and tone “I do not know. Are you available?” Whisenhunt may be on the hot seat and it may be in Arizona’s best interest to clean house and rebuild with a new quarterback next season.

Random Thoughts: The offense was introduced this week… The Seahawks wore the blue/blue uniform combination this week. It still looks good. I’m looking forward to seeing the grey jerseys in Toronto next week against the Bills… I tailgated in pioneer square before the game and had a great time. I also ran into my two friends James and Grant, who were also going to the game (and sitting in the club level)… Also before we left for the tailgate, I tried two new drinks. The first was peppermint schnapps mixed with hot chocolate. The other drink was a shot containing half Fireball whiskey and half RumChata creamed rum. It tasted like cinnamon toast crunch cereal. Delicious… It was cold on Sunday but that didn’t matter to me. I felt fine but I am now fighting a sore throat, which in my history books could (and most likely will) turn into a small cold… The people sitting around me including myself were told to stop throwing Skittles. That was after Marshawn Lynch’s third touchdown. Lucky for that security guard, I ran out of Skittles to throw… There was a kid sitting behind me who I think may have been at his first ever NFL game with his dad. It was really cool to see his participate in all of our chants and celebrations. It made me think back to my first Seahawks game when I was 9… The Seahawks week 16 game against the San Francisco 49ers has been flexed into Sunday Night Football. I know I shouldn’t look past our next game but words cannot describe how epic that game will be. Looking forward to it!

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks are 8-5 and are currently the 5th seed in the NFC Playoffs. The Chicago Bears are currently the 6th seed with an 8-5 record and the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, and Minnesota Vikings are all still in the hunt with 7-6 records. The Seahawks are still 1 ½ games behind San Francisco for the NFC West lead. Here are the matchups with NFC playoff implications next week.

Seattle (8-5) at Buffalo (5-8) (in Toronto)

San Francisco (9-3-1) at New England (9-3)

Green Bay (9-4) at Chicago (8-5)

Washington (7-6) at Cleveland (5-8)

Pittsburgh (7-6) at Dallas (7-6)

Minnesota (7-6) at St. Louis (6-6-1)

I will possibly blog during the week leading up to the Buffalo game next week since I am now out of school for the quarter. 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!