Thursday Night Bird Fight

After a road win against the division foe 49ers, the Arizona Cardinals will be back home to take on the Seattle Seahawks in week 10’s Thursday Night Football, Color Rush.  It felt like just yesterday when both teams were in the Super Bowl discussion, but neither team has been impressive thus far.  In fact, if the playoffs started today, both teams would be out.

At 5-3, the Seahawks will be coming to town as favorites (+6), having not lost at the University of Phoenix Stadium since 2012.  Last year’s game in Glendale ended in a tie, an ugly 6-6 tie that saw both teams miss potential game winning field goals.  Oddly enough, both teams have new kickers this year, neither of which are anywhere near fan favorites.  Cardinals’ kicker Phil Dawson has already missed six field goals on the year.  To put that in to perspective, Chandler Catanzaro missed seven for the entire 2016-17 season, and the Cardinals let him walk.  Arizona’s General Manager Steve Keim, seems to be at his wit’s end with the kicking woes stating, “We just have to go back to the basics and really dig in and see what’s going wrong and make sure that we fix it, because it cannot happen again.”  Don’t be surprised if a miss at home this week results in Dawson working on his golf game rather than his kick game when week 11 rolls around.  Last week Seattle fans watched Blair Walsh kick the Seahawks out of first place by going 0-3 in field-goal attempts, contributing to a 14-17 loss to the Washington RedskinsHad the Seahawks won that game, they’d be 6-2 and in first place in the NFC West.  The outcome this week will determine who ranks second in the division.

The key to Arizona winning this week for is clear: keep Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson off the field.  Easier said than done, right?  Wilson obviously leads the team in passing yards, but he leads the team in rushing yards, too.  While his 271 yards rushing certainly aren’t scaring anyone, his run game is annoyingly efficient.  13 of his 46 rushing attempts have resulted in first downs.  That’s over a 28% conversion rate.  Another perspective:  Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliot only convert just over 23% of their runs to first downs.  Look for Arizona to blitz and spy DangeRuss heavily throughout the game.  The other way to keep Russell off the field is to not let him have the ball.  Arizona fed running back Adrian Peterson 37 carries last week.  Doing this not only resulted in 159 yards for Peterson, but it allowed Arizona to control the clock for nearly 13 more minutes than the 49ers.  That’s almost an entire quarter.  The Cards run game is ranked a pitiful 31st, but AP has had impressive performances in two of his last three games.  He’ll be hungry to show the world in a primetime game that he can still go “All Day”.

Seattle’s head coach Pete Carroll has always tried to maintain a “run-first” strategy (unless he’s on the one), but the mismatch this week stands out, and it’s in the pass game.  Seattle comes in ranked second in pass yards per game (275), and the Cardinals pass defense is ranked 24th, giving up 249 yards per game.  Patrick Peterson will undoubtedly shadow Doug Baldwin, but the Cardinals have struggled containing anyone that #21 isn’t showing attention to.  With Wilson’s ability to extend the play, the Cardinals will need to find a way to prevent speedster receivers Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson from streaking wide open down the field.  If all else fails, Russell always has his 6’7” all-pro tight end Jimmy Graham to throw to.  Richardson and Graham are both listed as questionable for Thursday night’s contest, but it appears they are likely to play.

Quarterback Drew Stanton may be 7-3 as a starter for Arizona, but none of those wins have come against Seattle.  Only 267 yards of Arizona’s fifth ranked passing offense belongs to Stanton.  Among the mile-long list of names scribbled on the Seahawks Tuesday injury report, Cardinal fans certainly noticed the names of free safety Earl Thomas III (hamstring) and cornerback Richard Sherman (achilles).  Thomas will be a true game-time decision whereas Sherman is likely being cautious and resting during the shortened week.  Chandler High School graduate, Dion Jordan (DE), may have a chance to make his Seahawk debut on Thursday.  The third overall pick in the 2013 draft hasn’t played a snap since 2014 and has been labeled a colossal bust with only three sacks in 26 career games played.  Outside of any friends or family Dion may have at the game, don’t expect the Red Sea to show any hometown love.

Kickoff is scheduled for 6:25pm (MT) this Thursday, November 9th, 2017.

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