Russell Wilson, Seahawks face Cardinals in primetime NFC West battle
The Seattle Seahawks will look to increase their lead in the NFC West division tonight when they take on the Arizona Cardinals at 8:25 p.m. ET on the NFL Network. The Seahawks recovered nicely from their Week 5 loss to the Colts by beating the Titans 20-13 at home this past Sunday. The Cardinals, after a dominant performance against Carolina two weeks ago, got smacked around by San Francisco on the road. Arizona did keep the game close for longer than expected and had some success through the air via Larry Fitzgerald's 75-yard catch and run for a touchdown.
The Cardinals are aiming for their first division win in an attempt to remain in the NFC West race. Surprisingly, the Cardinals sit at a respectable 3-3 this year, two games behind the 5-1 Seahawks. Seattle could use some separation from the 4-2 49ers, who inch ever closer to first place.
3 Keys to the Game
Arizona Rushing Defense vs. Seattle Rushing Offense
Something has got to give. The Cardinals, led by linebackers Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby, have registered 16 sacks and rank fifth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game. They gave the versatile Cam Newton fits two weeks ago. Newton was sacked seven times and threw three interceptions, while only rushing for 25 yards. In order to keep him from running, the Cardinals sent five or more rushers at Newton 60 percent of the time. They will likely duplicate that strategy against the similarly-skilled Russell Wilson. The combination of Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch has allowed the Seahawks to average better than 150 yards per game on the ground, giving them the league's second-ranked rushing attack. Lynch ranks second in the NFC with 487 rushing yards. If the Seahawks can establish the run, it should open up the pass against the Cardinals' 19th-ranked pass defense. Despite this ranking, Russell Wilson will need to be mindful of Patrick Peterson, who is quickly becoming a true shutdown corner and premier playmaker. The Seahawks are 9-1 when quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown the ball 24 times or fewer in a game. When he tosses it 25-plus times, the team record is 7-5. The key to stopping the Seahawks is to stop the ground game.
Can Carson Palmer avoid turnovers?
Palmer, a quarterback that only Eli Manning could make look good when it comes to ball security, has thrown 11 interceptions already this season. That ties him for the second-most in franchise history through six weeks. Palmer has thrown multiple interceptions in four games, and has done it in every game since Week 3. Nine interceptions in the course of a four-week period is not the type of football the Cardinals want to play against the takeaway-minded Seahawks.
Cardinals Passing Attack vs. Seahawks Secondary
The Cardinals rank 26th in the league in total offense and 25th in points per game. However, their passing game has shown signs at life at different points of the season. The Cardinals will need to be able to stretch the field against the Seahawks as they will likely find themselves in several third-and-long situations due to their matador-like offensive line. Palmer has two big, 6-3 targets in Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, but the Seahawks also boast plenty of size in their secondary. Richard Sherman (6-3) and Brandon Browner (6-4) should be able to match the physicality of the Cardinals' pass-catchers. The matchup to watch will be Sherman on Fitzgerald. Sherman is one's of the NFL's best at his position and he leads the team with three interceptions. Fitzgerald has proven himself time and time again as a reliable big-play weapon, however he has lacked consistent quarterback play over the last four seasons. Fitzgerald does lead the Cardinals with four touchdowns, so regardless of the coverage expect Palmer to look his way quite often.
Key Player for Arizona: Patrick Peterson, CB
Being the underdog means you need big plays to win. Good thing the Cardinals have Peterson, perhaps the league's most dynamic athlete. Peterson will need to make a big interception or have a key punt return for the Cardinals to turn the tide against the division leaders.
Key Player for Seattle: Earl Thomas, S
Thomas is all over the field for the Seahawks. A force in the passing game and running game, Thomas leads the team with 43 tackles, has two forced fumbles and has three interceptions on the year. The Texas product is quickly turning into the NFL's best safety.
Arizona's defense is absolutely good enough to play with Seattle's tough offense; however, the Cardinals' offense is going to struggle mightily to put up points on the Seahawks. The Cardinals have had trouble before with Seattle's big corners and it should be no different this time. Without a strong running game to keep them honest, look for the Seahawks' pass-rushers to pin their ears back and get after Carson Palmer. Eventually, a mistake will come and the Seattle secondary is likely to take advantage.
Seattle 24, Arizona 10