Playing a Thursday game against a division foe after losing a tough, physical road game to another divisional foe on a short week is akin to adding salt to an open wound. While the Arizona Cardinals do have a tough matchup in the Seattle Seahawks, they are at least playing at home. Thankfully for the Cardinals the Seahawks have struggled in Arizona and are also on a short week after a physical game.
What to Look For:
Seattle's defense again is one of the best in the league. Overall Seattle is ranked 2nd in the nation in total yards per game, giving up a scant 290 yards per game. Seattle is 2nd in the NFL in passing yards allowed in the NFL and 11th in rush defense. They will be the best defense the Cardinals have faced all year. If there is ever a time for the Cardinals offense to turn it on, it's now. The Cardinals may be able to run the ball against Seattle and could even find success in the air with Arizona matching up well with Seattle's physical DBs.
The Cardinals offensive line is going to be in for another battle against another very good front seven that excels at stopping the run. The Cardinals catch a small break in that Seattle has been average at getting to the passer with 16 sacks on the season, tied for 13th in the NFL with Arizona, St. Louis and Oakland. Many Seahawk fans have touted the strength of their pass rush by dropping Michael Bennett's name but he only has 3.5 sacks on the season and is their team leader in that category. The interior of the Cardinals line should hold up well in pass protection, especially considering their success against some of the premier interior players in the NFL. The outside could be another issue for Arizona as Seattle has great DE depth with Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, and the aforementioned Bennett who are all playing well. Bradley Sowell and Eric Winston will again be key reasons on whether the Cardinals will be successful on offense against the Seahawks.
Arizona is also challenged in that Seattle is tied for 4th in interceptions with nine on the year and have also forced 10 fumbles, recovering 8 of them. However despite the awesome numbers and rankings Seattle has accumulated Arizona can move the ball against them. In an excellent break down by Seth Cox, he shows a Seattle weakness in how they tend to stack the box against running teams. Seattle is weakest against the run and the Cardinals have shown that when they are dedicated to running the ball they can churn out some yards and open up the play action pass. Look for Arizona to mimic the Colts game plan and run often in an attempt to establish the play action pass and create favorable matchups for the Cardinals wide receivers.
On offense Seattle is 10th in the league in total yards per game. The bulk of their 372 yards per game comes from their stellar rushing offense which is currently 2nd in the NFL in yards per game, averaging 158 yards per game. Arizona faces a similar challenge in the Seahawks as they did with 49ers, a run heavy team using a power scheme. The big difference in this week's matchup is that while Seattle two fold, their line is not near as good as San Francisco's and they do not have a TE of Vernon Davis's caliber. As TE's seem to be the kryptonite for this defense, it bodes well for the Cardinals as the Seahawks do not have great TE weapons. The TE's for Seattle have combined for 17 receptions, a meager 17.5% of Russell Wilson's completions.
Seattle has no clear number one receiver and truly no receiver that can change a team's game plan like a Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald. Todd Bowles may stick to his formula of having Patrick Peterson shutting down whoever he is lined up against, or he could take advantage of this and have him play a more dynamic part in the defense. Pat Pete and the Honey Badger on a double DB blitz? Sounds fun and huge risk and reward type of call. These are the type of calls that Arizona will need call and have success with to win the game. Look for the Cardinals to utilize more DB blitzes and force the Seahawks WRs to beat us instead of Marshawn Lynch.
Seattle's offense line is in bad shape and has led to 17 Wilson sacks. Wilson is an extremely elusive QB and so I do not think it is a huge leap to say that most other QBs behind his line may be into the mid 20's in sacks. Arizona lately has been doing a good job at getting pressure on QBs and did a great job on Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick in limiting their scrambles. Wilson is far more elusive than the previous two QBs so it is essential that they keep him bottled up. While Wilson can be a dangerous pocket passer but he has struggled this season with ugly games against San Fran, Houston, and Indy. Look to see Arizona stack the box and dare Wilson to beat him on his arm. He can definitely do it, but it will be hard against a stout Arizona line and the dual threat of Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby roaming the middle. If Campbell plays it will be even harder with the big 6'8 monster towering over him.