Hello from rainy Seattle on the most important Seahawks game day of the season so far. The forecast for this evening says a 30-percent chance of showers and cool, with temperatures in the low 40s. In other words, as it should be in November in the Northwest. It will the coolest, wettest game this season for Arizona.
The Seahawks officially list Marshawn Lynch as questionable because of an abdominal pain he felt at the end of practice Thursday. But coach Pete Carroll said Friday that after a full day of the running back getting treatment the team expects Lynch to start tonight.
Here is our game preview story, with the Seahawks realizing this is pretty much a must-win game without coming right out and declaring it so.
TNT columnist Dave Boling says it’s time for Russell Wilson to play like a rookie -- like he did as a rookie in 2012, that is.
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Join us from the press box at CenturyLink Field for our live game chat beginning at 4:45 p.m. Pacific Time here on www.thenewstribune.com/sports.
ARIZONA CARDINALS (6-2) at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (4-4)
Sunday, 5:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Channel 5 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM
Line: Seahawks by 3.
The series: The teams have split the 32 meetings. … Arizona’s last win in Seattle was Dec. 22, 2013. The Cards, Cowboys (in ’14) and Panthers (last month) are the only teams to beat the Seahawks in Seattle over the last four seasons. … Arizona lost both meetings last season by a combined 54-9. That was over the final six weeks of the season while Palmer was out injured and backup Drew Stanton then third-stringer Ryan Lindley had to start against Seattle.
SEATTLE’S KEYS TO VICTORY
Block the blitz: Dallas screwed up by blitzing only nine percent of the time in the Seahawks’ last game, their first all season not allowing a sack. Arizona will not screw that up. No one blitzes more than the Cardinals, and when Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable was asked how often he expected Arizona to blitz he said "every, single play." Since the Rams flooded Seattle’s offensive line with starters in three new positions in the opener, the book’s been out and wide open: The Seahawks haven’t consistently answered blitzes all season. The Cardinals dumped Russell Wilson seven times when they played in Seattle last November. This Seahawks’ line has been worse than that one.
7 instead of 3: Sure, it’s great for Seattle Steven Hauschka is 18 for 19 on field goals. But Arizona’s is the wrong offense against which to settle for field goals in the red zone. That will result in an L. The Seahawks, last in the NFL in red-zone touchdowns, spent their bye week and this week studying and tweaking their approach inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Those changes may include more emphasis on jump balls for 6-foot-7 tight end Jimmy Graham. And converting on third downs for a change (SEA’s 37.6% rate is 29th in the league) sure help, too.
Make him Chris Johnson, vintage 2014: The former 2,000-yard rusher with the Titans was forgotten and discarded last year in Tennessee. Now he’s third in the league in rushing, after signing with the Cardinals in August. He’s made Carson Palmer and Arizona’s passing game even more dangerous. If Seattle’s ninth-ranked rushing defense can limit Johnson to, say, 70 or fewer yards, recently zooming sack ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett will better test Arizona’s line, one that might have an injury fill-in at center (journeyman A.Q. Shipley), and swarm Palmer more.
The pick: Seahawks 23-20. The division champs know this is their chance for prime position toward another title. They also know it’s wild card or bust if they lose. Earl Thomas has his best game this season vs. Arizona’s deep passes, Bobby Wagner leads a limiting of Johnson, and the defense again carries an unsatisfying offense to a victory Seattle absolutely must have.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
29 Earl Thomas FS 5-10 202 sixth
Palmer has a NFL-best 144 passer rating from 11-20 yds down middle. That’s where All-Pro Thomas plays
54 Bobby Wagner MLB 6-0 241 fourth
Another SEA All-Pro will be the key to keeping Johnson from breaking more long runs
10 Paul Richardson WR 6-0 183 second
If he’s as fast and ready as all say coming off PUP list, SEA has a deep weapon to debut
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
3 Carson Palmer QB 6-5 235 13th
Didn’t play in either of losses to SEA last year. Playing as well as any NFL QB right now
23 Chris Johnson RB 5-11 203 seventh
Romping like it’s 2009 for him. Giving Cards’ attack a running dimension they’ve lacked for years
32 Tyrann Mathieu FS 5-9 186 third
Been all over the field, blitzing, breaking up passes and thumping ball carriers. SEA needs a plan for him