First-place Seahawks swoop into the desert to take on Cardinals
(SportsNetwork.com) - If the Arizona Cardinals plan on getting involved in the NFC West race, it's imperative they hold serve at University of Phoenix Stadium when the division-leading Seattle Seahawks arrive for "Thursday Night Football."
The rough and tumble West could very well be the NFL's toughest division and is currently the league's only one in which all four teams are at or above .500.
This upcoming stretch could tell the tale of the Cardinals' season. After playing four of their first six on the road, Arizona gets to spend the next month in the desert (three home games and a bye).
The Cards, however, took a step back last week, dropping a 32-20 decision to rival San Francisco in the Bay Area when the 49ers converted four turnovers into 16 points.
Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer threw for 298 yards and two touchdowns -- a 75-yard hookup with Larry Fitzgerald and a 10-yard pass to Michael Floyd -- but threw two interceptions that led to field goals for San Francisco. Andre Ellington added a 15-yard touchdown run in the loss.
"It was tough, man," Cardinals star linebacker Daryl Washington said. "Once you get your back to the wall, you have to toughen it out. I thought we lost our energy that fourth quarter to end the game."
In a scary moment Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell was carted off the field late in the fourth quarter after going head-first into a pile at the end of a run by the 49ers' Frank Gore but was able to move all his extremities.
The 6-foot-8, 300-pounder, who has 31 sacks in six season for the Cardinals, was taken to Stanford hospital where he underwent a CT scan and MRI as a precautionary measure and things came back clean. So much so that Campbell was back at the Cardinals' facility on Monday morning and was able to take part in team meetings. His status for this game is uncertain, however, especially with the quick turnaround.
Seattle, meanwhile, is coming off a hard-fought 20-13 decision over the visiting Tennessee Titans in Week 6. Marshawn Lynch provided the majority of the Seahawks' points in that one with a pair of rushing TDs.
Lynch carried 21 times for 77 yards to help the Seahawks remain unbeaten at home in 11 tilts since Russell Wilson took over as the team's starting quarterback.
"It's nice to learn while you are winning and I think that's where we are," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "That's what we're hoping to continue. I don't know if we'll be able to reach the levels that we saw late last year where we were scoring points at a huge rate (including a 58-0 drubbing of Arizona on Dec. 9). That was an enormous run that we had."
Wilson did not find the end zone against the Titans but carved up Tennessee's defense for 257 yards on 23-of-31 passing and added 61 yards on the ground. Lynch also caught four passes for 78 yards.
"It was a good win," Seattle wide receiver Sidney Rice said. "We worked hard, we believed and kept trying in the end we won."
The Cardinals and Seahawks will be lining up for the 29th time with Arizona holding a slim 15-13 advantage in the series. Dating back to 2004, the Cardinals have won seven of their last nine home games against Seattle.
The Cards and Seahawks have split the season series each of the last two seasons, with Arizona winning both in the desert, where they are 9-4 all-time against the Seahawks.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
This week's game features two of the NFL's premier cornerbacks in Arizona's Patrick Peterson and Seattle's Richard Sherman.
Both ball hawks are in their third NFL season and Peterson's 10 INTs since 2012 are third in the NFL behind Sherman (11) and Chicago's Tim Jennings (12).
Sherman may have the tougher task on paper because in 18 career games against the Seahawks, Fitzgerald has 107 receptions for 1,436 yards -- his most against any opponent -- and 10 TDs. Fitzgerald has a sore hamstring, though, and the short week won't help the All-Pro.
"It gets a little better and then he plays on it and it gets worse," Cards coach Bruce Arians said when talking about Fitzgerald's health. "So hopefully we can continue to nurse it into the small open week and get it better."
Despite possessing far more experience Palmer is more likely to play free and loose with the football than Wilson, who generally stays away from tight windows because he understands the Seahawks are a run-first team and everything plays off his own ability in the read-option as well as Lynch's tendency to draw an extra defender in the box and set up play action.
Wilson's ability as a dual-threat also creates many headaches for an opposing defense and don't be surprised if Arizona commits Washington as a spy.
Facing the NFL's fifth-ranked defense last week the Cardinals posted a season- high 403 yards of offense, averaged a season-best 6.4 yards per play, threw for 298 yards -- their second-best total of the season -- and piled up a season-high 109 rushing yards. But, those kind of numbers mean little unless they start taking care of the football better and Palmer has thrown nine of his 11 interceptions in the last four games.
The Seattle defense, meanwhile, ranks second in the NFL with 290.2 yards allowed per game and third by giving up just 15.7 points a contest. The front seven is a little banged-up, however, and both defensive end Chris Clemons (elbow) and linebacker Bobby Wagner (ankle) may not be able to go.
Seattle has been mortal away from the Pacific Northwest this season, rallying late to beat Carolina and Houston before stumbling in Indianapolis. Meanwhile, Arizona has the kind of defense that could make things difficult for the Seahawks' running game and has the revenge factor after the ugly 58-0 setback in Seattle last season.
"They're a brand new team to us," Carroll said referring to the new coach (Arians) and QB (Palmer). "There are things that look similar, but it's not the same. All kinds of stuff has changed, so we have to look at them all over again. It's not like we're just carrying it over, same ol' same ol'. It's not like that."
The Cardinals come in here as the far more desperate team and have a history of handling Seattle in the desert, so that makes Arizona the prudent pick here ... if Palmer can play a somewhat clean game.
And that's a big 'if.'
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cardinals 23, Seahawks 20
10/17 09:44:25 ET