CHARLOTTE NC - DECEMBER 19: John Skelton #19 of the Arizona Cardinals call a play against the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 19 2010 in Charlotte North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Week one is finally upon us, are the back and forth of the preseason the games that matter are here. First up for the Arizona Cardinals is a tough home opener against a divisional rival on the rise the Seattle Seahawks. For the first time in his career John Skelton will be starting an NFL game as the true #1 on the depth chart and he will want to keep his undefeated home record going with a win.
In 2011 the Seahawks and Cardinals split their two games with neither game decided by more than a field goal. The Cardinals picked up an overtime victory at home and would have rued two missed field goals from Jay Feely in a 13-10 loss in Seattle.
Heading into this game the two overarching storylines for the Arizona Cardinals have been the performance of the offensive line and the battle for the starting job at Quarterback. Both will need to put up solid games for Arizona to come out of this game with a win. The offensive line needs to make sure that they set the tone early in the running game and give Skelton a semi clean pocket to make plays from. Expect to see a fair amount of passing plays with 3 or 4 routes and 7 or 8 players in protection to give the offensive line help. For John Skelton getting off to an improved start is going to be key, he needs to take care of the football early, take what is there and move the chains. He posted a 30.8 QBR in first quarters in 2011 to go with three interceptions and no touchdowns, if that is what he brings vs. Seattle it could get ugly early. Look for Arizona to establish a ground game early creating short 2nd and 3rd downs that open up the playbook, with Beanie Wells questionable for the game, Ryan Williams could play a big part early in his NFL career. Arizona is going to be aggressive defensively and attack the pocket, but they will need to stay disciplined and make sure that Russell Wilson cannot use his legs as an escape route.
With the Seahawks inserting Russell Wilson as their starting Quarterback this game marks the third time in three years that the Arizona Cardinals will open up their season against a rookie Quarterback, the major point of difference here is that Sam Bradford and Cam Newton were both first overall selections whereas Wilson was a third round selection and had to earn his way into the starting job over Seattle’s marquee free agent acquisition former Aaron Rodgers backs Matt Flynn. With Marshawn Lynch questionable it could be down to two rookies in the Seattle backfield with Robert Turbin the backup running back slated to start if Lynch cannot go. The ground game will be key for Seattle they will want to pound the ball early and often to open up throwing lanes for Wilson, and also to ease him into the game. Look for the Seahawks to use a lot of playaction and get Wilson outside the pocket in the passing game where his legs can become more of a weapon. Seattle will be looking for their talented secondary to be active and create turnovers to help switch field position and give their offense good field position.
The is shaping up to be a close game either way, all eight of Arizona’s 2011 wins came by 7 points or less including four in overtime. The Cardinals and Seattle split the 2011 series with the margin being 3 points in both games. The little things are going to decide this game, special teams, turnovers, 3rd down efficiency and redzone efficiency. With the help of a strong running game a big defensive performance and homefield advantage the Cardinals should get home in a close one 17-13.
Projected Starting Lineups;
Skelton, Wells/Williams, Sherman, Heap, Roberts, Doucet, Batiste, Colledge, Sendlein, Snyder, Massie*
Dockett, Williams, Campbell, Acho, Lenon, Washington, Schofield, Peterson, Gay, Wilson, Rhodes
Wilson*, Lynch/Turbin*, Robinson, Miller, Baldwin, Rice, Tate, Okung, McQuistan, Unger, Sweezy*, Giacomini
Bryant, Mebane, Branch, Clemons, Wright, Wagner*, Hill, Sherman, Browner, Thomas, Chancellor.
Be sure to check www.revengeofthebirds.com before game time for updated injury reports and inactive lists.