By Clint Elsemore
Back home after a tough loss last week to the Chiefs the Seahawks face an Arizona squad leading a charmed life this year. By all statistical measures Arizona should not be 9-1 with an inconsistent offense, and an opportunistic defense that has struggled at times defending the pass, but they have found ways to close out every close game they have played this year.
Arizona has the leagues #1 ranked rush defense, and have levered that to make teams one dimensional passing the ball. They they bring pressure via the blitz from every position on the field and rely on their excellent secondary to cover one on one. They have close wins against the Eagles, Chargers, and Niners where they played zero coverage and brought everyone after the quarterback. This strategy is a double edged sword when coverage is blown, but they have yet to be beat this year utilizing this strategy.
On offense Arizona has an inconsistent passing and running game featuring some very good games but with struggles to build sustainable drives at times. They do have big play ability via Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown, and RB Andre Ellington who has been much more effective in the passing game than in the running game. They lost their starting quarterback Carson Palmer two weeks ago to a knee injury, but the backup Drew Stanton has played capably and is a game manager who is not afraid to take chances over the top. The offense embodies the spirit of their risk taking coach Bruce Arians who has dialed up big down field plays at key moments that have connected against long odds.
The Cardinals enter the game with a 3 game division lead, but with some tough matchups remaining. This game would help them to assert ownership of the division and leave the remaining teams to fight for the scraps. The Seahawks are prideful and are playing at home however where they tend to play their best football. I expect the crowd to be on their game as well providing a strong home field advantage, and the defense that is slowly returning to health with the return of Bobby Wagner and the secondary back to full force should be able to squeeze Arizona’s relatively green quarterback into a mistake or two. The run defense will return to their top 5 standard and will limit Ellington to small gains between the tackles. Marshawn and the Seahawks offense also will find it tough sledding against the Arizona front, but a few big plays improvising by Russell both in the downfield passing game and with his feet open the game up. Expect a touchdown to Luke Wilson through the air, and Marshawn emerges with one score most likely receiving as well as Arizona struggles to put up points and turns the ball over 3 times on the day.
Final game prediction: Seahawks 23 Arizona 13