Setting the stage
Following a heartbreaking loss to division rival San Francisco, the Arizona Cardinals have very little time to grieve, turning around to face the fearsome Seattle Seahawks for a Thursday Night Football matchup at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Despite many encouraging signs against a solid 49ers team, the only thing the Birdgang is concerned about is a 3-3 record that puts them on the outside looking in at a playoff spot in the tight NFC West. A win at Seattle would do wonders to keep them in the conversation.
However, injuries are starting to take their toll; the Cards may be without Larry Fitzgerald, Calais Campbell, Karlos Dansby and John Abraham, who are all listed as questionable early in the week. Their presence in the lineup would make for a much easier game, as Seattle has been one of the key teams to beat in the NFC West in 2013. All hands will need to be on deck if the Cardinals want to beat the Seahawks.
Here’s a look at some of the key matchups in Thursday’s game:
Michael Floyd vs Brandon Browner
It would behoove Carson Palmer to not test Seattle’s Richard Sherman, especially if Fitzgerald isn’t 100 percent. Given the volume that the Cardinals quarterback has been throwing lately, that seems like disaster waiting to happen.
Enter Michael Floyd, who has done everything he’s been asked this weekend, including catching a touchdown pass from Palmer last week.
Everything Floyd does in this game works to open up the Seattle defense, giving opportunities to Fitz, Andre Roberts, and even Andre Ellington.
Seahawks pass rush vs Cardinals offensive line
After getting sacked nine times in the first three games of the season, the Arizona offensive line has dialed in, only allowing four sacks in their last three games. Attribute it to them figuring it out, or the departure of Levi Brown, but the Cardinals offense has looked a lot better, and San Francisco was no exception.
The offensive line has a cloying task ahead of them, defending what is a very deep unit. The Seahawks don’t have a JJ Watt or a Jared Allen for the Cards to hone in on, but Seattle has been spreading the sack wealth pretty evenly, as nine players have contributed to their 16 sack total on the season.
If there is a weak link in this Cards offensive line, Seattle will find it. Bruce Arians and company just have to hope there isn’t one.
Andre Ellington vs Earl Thomas
Ellington has quickly risen through the Arizona running back pecking order, and has developed into a reliable weapon in Arians’ system. That may work against Arizona, however.
With ample tape now out on him, Ellington may find himself increasingly stifled when he takes the field. Seattle is perfectly equipped to deal with that, as all they may have to do is assign their safety Earl Thomas to mirror the former Clemson running back.
If that isn’t enough, Ellington will be an X-factor on an Arizona offense that will struggle to put up points against a stout Seattle defense.
By the numbers
Arizona 2013 record: 3-3
Seattle 2013 record: 5-1
Vegas betting line: Seattle is favored by 6.5 points.
Lifetime series: Arizona leads 15-13, home team leads 18-10
Last year: Cards won first matchup 20-16, but lost second matchup 58-0.
2013 Individual stats
Carson Palmer: 131-221 (59.3 comp%) for 1483 yards, 7 TD, 11 INT (sacked 13 times)
Andre Ellington: 25 carries for 176 yards (7.0 ypc) 1 TD; 18 receptions for 180 yards and a TD
Larry Fitzgerald: 30 receptions for 405 yards and 4 TD; Michael Floyd: 26 receptions for 345 yards and a TD
Patrick Peterson: 8 pass deflections and three interceptions
Russell Wilson: 97-158 (61.4 comp%) for 1542 yards, 8 TD, 4 INT (sacked 17 times)
Marshawn Lynch: 117 carries for 487 yards and 5 TD; 13 catches for 174 yards and a TD
Earl Thomas: 4 pass deflections, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and a team-leading 43 total tackles.
Richard Sherman: 5 pass deflections and three interceptions (including a pick-six against the Texans)
Depending on which Cardinals team shows up on Thursday, I think Arizona has what it takes to beat Seattle, given that the game is in Glendale and Arizona is playing with a ton of fire after the San Francisco loss. Even better yet, the offense is finally starting to click, turning in their best offensive game (in terms of yardage) all year against what was supposedly the best defense they had played so far.
And while a majority of the experts will undoubtedly pick the Seahawks, I am going to call the upset here in favor of the Birdgang. I like how Arizona played against the 49ers enough to call the bounce back.
Arizona plays their best game all year, and shuts down their best opponent all year, to an easy, yet hard-earned victory, ARI 31 – SEA 24.
I encourage you to also check out isportsweb’s own Ken Kosirowski’s preview of the same game, from a Seahawks perspective.