LOCATION: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
BETTING LINE: ARZ -2
SEAHAWKS PLAYER TO WATCH
Wagner led the Seahawks with 14 tackles last week against Atlanta and helped limit Devonta Freeman to 40 yards. This week, they face the Cardinals, who embarrassed the visiting the Jets with a ground attack led by David Johnson. Bobby Wagner has a high football IQ and is the brains behind the front 7 and their ability to stop the run. Their weakness is leaving the middle open for any dump passes which turn into big gains. Wagner was able to quickly deny and pursue any Falcon players from exploiting that and they look to do it again this week. The Cardinals have relied on the run game most of this season, so expect Bobby Wagner to be face to face with David Johnson to enforce the Seahawks number one standing as the best defense in the NFL.
CARDINALS PLAYER TO WATCH
This game will serve as a very real test of Johnson’s rushing abilities. He managed to put up incredible numbers against a tough Jets run defense, but Seattle will be even tougher, and Johnson will be forced to rise to the occasion if the Cardinals are to have a chance at a W. DJ sits at a comfortable third in the NFL in rushing yards and tops the league in rushing TDs, but the Seattle defense ranks second in shutting both of those down. The way Carson Palmer is looking this year, this game will ride on Johnson’s ability to barrel through the Seattle D-Line, even with an inexperienced O-Line to help him out.
SEAHAWKS POSITION GROUP PREVIEW
The offensive line has stepped up it’s pass protection since it’s meltdown against the L.A. Rams, something that needed to be fixed immediately considering Russell Wilson’s injury. Now, they look better than ever and want to continue to protect their quarterback against a familiar foe.
Russell Wilson is still nursing his knee and ankle injuries, but after the bye week, he hasn’t seemed to lose his ability to move around in the pocket. He may not have gotten a touchdown last week, but his poise and playmaking ability was enough to win the game.
After a poor performance against the Falcons, the secondary had no answer to the Matt Ryan and Julio Jones combination. The Cardinals rely heavily on the ground game so the secondary will try and redeem themselves by defending the pass if the defensive front can for Carson Palmer to go to air.
GAME PREVIEW ANALYSIS
While every game a team plays in an NFL season is of equal importance, this matchup at home against the Seahawks is a little more equal. A victory in the desert holds significance for the Cardinals in every aspect from avoiding a home loss and beating a division rival to breaking .500 and redeeming any hope for a playoff run.
An underperforming Carson Palmer is going to be standing in the shadow of the Legion of Boom, a squad of secondary monsters that have contributed to Seattle’s second ranked pass defense. The solution does not rest on the ground either, as David Johnson and Co. will be running against the number two rush defense in the league.
In order to have Pete Carroll hanging his head on the flight home two things need to happen. First, the Arizona defensive line needs to eliminate the time Russell Wilson has to think. The Seattle pro-bowler is much too cunning of a player as is, and if the Cardinals give him time, he has proven in the past he will be nothing short of deadly. The second lies in the hands of coach Bruce Arians. Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks are likely the toughest opponent the Cardinals are to face this year, but a resounding win is absolutely possible with the current Arizona roster. Relying on 20+ plays, something that is hard enough without the Legion of Boom, can no longer happen. If the Cardinals are to win the offensive battle, it is going to be by driving down the field 10 yards at a time. No more attempting humongous plays on first down, especially at the rate they do it now. The Seahawks have owned University of Phoenix Stadium since 2013, and it is time for the Cardinals to reclaim their nest.
The Seattle Seahawks will be looking to keep their winning streak alive, and historically, they are more successful in Glendale when they’re facing the Cardinals.
Offensively, the Seahawks will utilize all available weapons to score quickly and target one on one battles. Russell Wilson has been making wise decisions as of late and will continue to do so under a much improved offensive line. Doug Baldwin remains to be Wilson’s favorite target because he manages to follow along with the improvisation that happens during breakdowns, but he hasn’t had to rely on that lately due to Wilson being grounded staying in the pocket behind better protection. Jimmy Graham has started to gain Wilson’s trust and has been thrown to in very difficult areas for only Graham to catch, so look for mismatched situations to him. The run game is still a little rusty since Christine Michael’s outstanding performance against the San Francisco 49ers, but he remains consistent in goal line situations and helps in short yardage situations.
The Seahawks were left stunned at the 3 touchdown performance by Matt Ryan, who was left scoreless for the entire first half last week. The Seahawks were pressuring Ryan consistently until the beginning of the third so they will attempt to play all four quarters of pressuring Carson Palmer. The Secondary wants to get off to a fresh start and erase the memory of the Julio Jones and Richard Sherman non call, but they will have to make sure they keep en eye on Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd who always end up being trouble for them. The primary focus, however, will be on creating a brick wall for David Johnson who is 3rd in the NFL in rushing. The Seahawks are 3rd in rushing defense, but they yet to face a runningback like David Johnson this season.
The divisional matchup will be played in Sunday night, so we expect a high drama football game against two rivals.
CARDINALS POSITION GROUP RATINGS
For a 2015 MVP candidate, Carson Palmer has not shown much on the field since the start of the new season. He’s overthrown pass after pass downfield, yet he continues to attempt deep passes. With an all-star receiving core, including one of the best in NFL history in Larry Fitzgerald, Palmer has options, he just needs to see them and capture them.
As a pass heavy, long-bomb offense last year, the Cardinals had an excellent season. However, things have changed since then, and Arians, Palmer, and the receiving core need to adapt. Instead of running John Brown downfield and hoping for 40+ yard plays, a statistic Arizona led the league in last year, they must utilize both Fitzgerald and Brown for shorter, more effective plays. The most important thing, however, is that Michael Floyd returns to his former self. He’s been dropping passes and committing brutal errors all year, and if the extremely powerful receiving core is to be back, he must rise to the occasion.
The Cardinals have shown they can’t get it done purely in the air, and that’s going to be even more apparent against Seattle’s Legion of Boom. Arians implemented a very speedy JJ Nelson into the backfield last week against the Jets, and it proved to be very effective with 23 yards coming out of just 2 carries. Stefan Taylor also averaged 7 YPC while Andre Ellington hit 5 YPC. The Arizona backfield, led by stallion David Johnson, has the potential to run right through the Seattle defense if Arians and the O-line give them the assistance they need.