Game day dawning in the desert with the temperature in the mid-60 -- on the way to 95 degrees.
Because the University of Phoenix’s stadium rules call for the roof to be open for the teams’ pregame warmups if it is to be open for the game, here’s guessing (for what it may be worth) the roof will be closed in air conditioning tonight for the Seahawks at the Cardinals. It’ll be in the mid-90s when the teams are warming up around 4:30 p.m.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (4-1) at ARIZONA CARDINALS (3-3)
Sunday 5:30 p.m., University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
TV: Ch. 5 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: This the 35th meeting of NFC West rivals. Each team has won 17 times in the series. The Seahawks have won three in a row at Arizona by a combined 105-34. That includes Jan. 3, Seattle’s 36-6 loss in the 2015 regular-season finale after the Cardinals had already clinched the division title. Arizona took quarterback Carson Palmer and other starters out of the game after Seattle’s dominant first half. Arizona’s last home win was on Sept. 9, 2012. In their 20-16 win quarterback Kevin Kolb (who?) rallied the Cardinals late in rookie Russell Wilson’s first regular-season start for the Seahawks. .
Line: Cardinals by 2.
Slow down the new Cardinals threat: Powerful running back David Johnson is the "most effective guy" the Seahawks have seen yet this season, according to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. "He’s my Job 1," linebacker Bobby Wagner says. Johnson runs as well as catches, leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage and co-leading in touchdown runs. He gives Arizona a dimension about which Seattle hasn’t had to worry in previous years. It’s not just Carson Palmer’s deep balls anymore. But from Todd Gurley this season to Adrian Peterson twice last season and beyond, the Seahawks have dominated top runners the last few seasons. They are mad at being only No. 3 in the NFL against the run right now.
Expect copycats: As sure as coach Bruce Arians wears Kangols, the Cardinals are going to test the Seahawks’ secondary and fill-in strong safety Kelcie McCray with the same route combinations Atlanta used to burn Seattle last week: motions, crosses, high-low route concepts outside. We all spent the past week dissecting Richard Sherman’s blowup over the two blown coverages for Falcons touchdowns. The Seahawks spent it reinforcing if they do what they are taught on such routes, there will be no issue. Yet the coverage breakdowns happened at the Jets Oct. 2, in the loss at the Rams last month, against Carolina and Cincinnati, Arizona and the Rams last season … you get the picture. The Seahawks must be on point outside, not only Sunday night but against every other copycat foe that saw what the Falcons did.
Seize this unexpected chance: Everyone who expected the Cardinals to begin 1-3 raise their hands. The Seahawks didn't either. Even after two consecutive wins, Arizona is already in near-desperate straits entering this one. Seattle can move three games ahead of its biggest division threat in the loss column approaching the season’s midway point – if they can win for the fourth straight time in the desert. This is a surprising opportunity too good to squander.
The pick: I still think Seattle and Arizona are the NFC’s most talented teams. This is a different Cardinals’ offense, with Johnson plowing and not as many big plays deep so far. It’s going to come down to corralling Johnson. And the Seahawks’ defense has manhandled prolific, powerful runners the last few seasons. Seahawks 28, Cardinals 20.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
54 Bobby Wagner LB 6-0 245 fifth
Carson Palmer has never faced him blitzing as much as he will here. Part of a career renaissance
33 Kelcie McCray SS 6-2 202 fifth
Says last wk’s communication/coverage issues everyone’s fault. Likely in for Chancellor again.
68 Justin Britt C 6-6 315 third
Great so far in new spot. Must correctly call AZ bringing Golden, Jones, pass rush from all angles
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
31 David Johnson RB 6-1 224 second
NFL’s leader in TD runs, yds from scrimmage. Teammate says runs like Walter Payton. Huge test
3 Carson Palmer QB 6-5 235 14th
Apparently has NFL’s first dehydrated hamstring. Seahawks blitzing more than he’s used to seeing
44 Markus Golden LB 6-2 260 second
4 sacks off edge in a new, 4-man fast rush with 3 LBs. Arizona is tied for 3rd in NFL w/ 19 sacks.
Here is Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talking following Friday’s practice about the game: