By Matt Thorpe – Arizona Cardinals Writer
If there is one aspect of life as an Arizona Cardinal fan then that predictability has been a consistent theme that has lingered over the last couple of seasons. That predictability came to fruition on Sunday night when the Red Sea’s bogey team, the Carolina Panthers, brought down the Cardinals, thanks to the homecoming king Quarterback Kyle Allen. Although that said, yet another tight end caused Arizona a whole world of problems in the backfield.
However, this week, Cardinals welcome a bitter foe in the Seattle Seahawks to State Farm, a team that hasn’t lost in the desert since 2012. What was I saying about predictability?
This Sundays’ opponents have started this season with a solid start. Back-to-back wins against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers got the Seahawks off to a flyer but they were dealt a setback at CenturyLink in Week 3. A Drew Bree-less New Orlean Saints handed the Saints a 33-27 loss and came away from the Emerald City with a big win. Already – Hawks fans are calling this a ‘must-win game’, which means the pressure is on the hosts to deliver a more consistent performance on both sides of the ball this Sunday.
Despite QB Kyler Murray not putting up the same aerial stats he produced in the opening two weeks (657 yards combined) – he got the offense cooking with some blistering rushes of his own in what was a promising first half against the Carolina Panthers. Nevertheless the Cardinals’ worst enemy was that of their own in the second half when dropped open catches, two interceptions and predictable offensive plays crippled the Cards – the Panthers ended up coming away from the desert with a 35-20 win and a way back into the NFC South.
What do the Cardinals need to do this week?
Let’s start with the man at number one – Kyler Murray. We’ve learnt a lot about the number one 2019 overall draft pick in the opening three weeks of this season. We saw his will to come back from the depth and his no-fear attitude in the face of adversity against the Detroit Lions in Week 1. Following on from that, we witnessed his pinpoint accuracy and ability to ball out against the Baltimore Ravens. Last week was all about his speed rushing out of the pocket. Murray showcased some scorching rushes out of the pocket to gain some hefty yardage on second and third down.
Another player that showed glimpses of that of old was Running Back David Johnson – more notably breaking two tackles to get into the endzone in the first quarter. The Cardinals are ranked 26th in rushing so far this season but can be one of the top rushing sides in the league. For that to occur, variety needs to be demonstrated especially against a Seattle team that have allowed 203 yards on rushing in the league this year (3rd in the NFL).
One aspect that the Cardinals will need to get a grip of is their coverage in the secondary, particularly on tight ends. It’s been mentioned in almost every team media but it’s a blaring hole that needs to be plugged by defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and his defense. Panthers TE Greg Olsen joined the list of three successful tight ends who have exploited the backfield, the only saving grace for Arizona being that Olsen failed to reach 100 yards. Positives, people.
Cardinals star cornerback Patrick Peterson is sidelined for another three weeks due to violating the league’s PED policy and it’s understood that fellow cornerback Robert Alford will not return until the second half of the season after breaking his left leg in the preseason. Vance Joseph needs to find his aces when selecting coverage, particularly when you have Outside Linebacker Terrell Suggs and the sack league leader OLB Chandler Jones pushing up into the pocket hunting for cornerbacks. The high pressing defense has only benefitted Jones and has left a lot of room to attain in the backfield.
The Cardinals will not want Tyler Lockett in that gap either. The Seahawks star Wide Receiver had a career-high game last week against the Saints with 154 yards from 11 receptions and a touchdown to show for it.
Then, of course, you have QB Russell Wilson. The highest-paid player in the NFL but definitely for a reason, Wilson has been a star since being drafted in round three in 2012. Six Pro Bowls, one Superbowl and a passer rating that is only bested by Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers – Wilson has been the face of Seattle for many years for all the right reasons. Kyle Allen’s performance last week against the Cardinals secondary was eye-opening, to say the least, but will have its’ biggest test yet when they face one of the best passers in the league.
Prediction: Seahawks 24 Cardinals 17
I want to be optimistic here and whilst I feel like we may learn something new and exciting about this young team and it’s resourceful rookie, I feel like the power of the Seahawks offense will mean it’ll be another year to wait for the Cardinals to register a win at home against their fierce rivals.
(Feature Photo – Credit: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)