For week 3, the 1-1 Arizona Cardinals will be visiting the 0-2 Seattle Seahawks at Century Link Field. The Cardinals are coming off of a devastating loss to the Redskins, who were able to seal the game by recovering a fumble by Cardinals WR Chansi Stuckey with 1:38 left in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Seahawks were getting trounced by the Steelers, 24-0. Seattle’s offense was inept, and the defense, who played surprisingly well overall, was on the field for far too long. Tarvaris Jackson completed 20 of 29 attempts for 159 yards, with a long of 17 (to FB Eddie Williams). The running game was once again shut down, and after trailing for basically the whole game the team gave up on it.
The success of this offense is in the hands of Jackson. He needs to make better decisions this weekend by stretching the defense vertically and targeting his big receivers (especially BMW and Zach Miller) more often. Right now, Jackson is averaging a mere 5.4 yards per passing attempt this season, which really shows how bad this offense has been. The pass protection isn’t amazing, but it’s there; for their part, the o-line is giving Jackson enough time to throw. The (hopeful) return of Sidney Rice this week should help out Jackson by giving him a familiar target and home-run hitter.
But in order to keep the Cardinals’ offense off the field, the Seahawks will need to rely on Marshawn Lynch to carry the load this week. That said, the Seahawks have not been using Justin Forsett enough, and if they want to be successful they need to focus on getting all three backs involved.
Controlling the ball and taking risks at the same time will be key. Balance is the name of the game.
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A surprising bright spot this season has been the play of the Seahawks’ defense. Staying on the field too long is the one serious flaw in this group, but overall they’ve done well. They’ve contained the run against two very good backs in Rashard Mendenhall and Frank Gore, and the secondary’s play is much improved over last year.
This weekend they need to find a way to contain Fitzgerald, and I think Browner will be the man asked to do it. The Seahawks screwed up badly last week with the Browner-Wallace matchup, Browner and his 6’4” frame is best used to cover taller, more aggressive receivers. The team likes to keep Trufant on the left side and Browner on the right, but they may need to change that up as Trufant hasn’t had much success against Fitzgerald recently.
I don’t see the run defense having any problems this week, but Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock need to come off the edge with some presence this week. Getting pressure on Kolb will be key. It also sounds like Aaron Curry will be replaced by K.J. Wright at strongside linebacker, so that will be a position to watch.
Keys to the Game:
1) Dominate the line of scrimmage. The offensive line needs to protect Jackson and create some holes for the backs, while the defensive line need to put some pressure on Kolb and force him to make bad throws.
2) Get the offense going. I know that sounds vague, but it speaks to what needs to be done: the Seahawks need to run the ball a whole lot better, and Jackson needs to find his receivers and not throw the checkdown all the time. Plus, the longer Seattle has the ball, the longer the Cardinals’ offense stays off the field, which always helps.
3) Contain Fitzgerald. Browner needs to play physical against Fitzgerald and bump him off his routes, and he needs help over the top from the safeties. Besides Fitzgerald, the only receiving threats the Cardinals have are Heap and maybe Doucet, but that’s it.
Final prediction: 24-21 Seahawks. The offense will finally get off the ground, thanks partly to the return of Rice. Fitzgerald will be contained, and the run D will be just like the run D always is.