Seahawks vs Cardinals Preview

The last couple of seasons the Seattle Seahawks have had dominating second halves. The 2015 version of the team needs to also have one of these, and there is no better team to kick off the Seahawks’ second half than the Arizona Cardinals in Seattle on Sunday evening.

Arizona and Seattle, though, play each other twice in the second half. Seattle is still in decent position even after having a mediocre first half. The 6-2 Cardinals currently lead the 4-4 Seahawks by two games for the division lead.

On the positive side, the Seahawks actually trailed the Cardinals last season by three games ten games into the season. Looking at it that way, the current two game lead does not look so bad. Also, the Seahawks swept the two games they played against the Cardinals in 2014, giving up only nine points in the process.

palmer

The negatives to the paragraph above are that 1) Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer missed both of last year’s games, 2) the Cardinals ranked last in rushing last year but rank ninth this season led by running back Chris Johnson. Johnson is having a bounce-back season after struggling the last few with different teams. Arizona running the ball so well has taken pressure off of Palmer and helped him achieve a passer-rating of 110.2 and 20 touchdowns. The Cardinals are a different team than the one that played Seattle in 2014.

The Cardinals, however, have played only one team that currently has a winning record, and that was a Pittsburgh Steelers team that played without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Cardinals lost that game. Not that the Cardinals are not as good as their record indicates; they have beaten most of the teams a good team should defeat. The rest of the Cardinals schedule is fairly brutal, though. After starting the second half at Seattle on Sunday, the Cardinals play several other teams battling for the playoffs. This includes playing the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals in Arizona next week, facing the St. Louis Rams on the road, the Minnesota Vikings at home, then on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles, before finishing the season at home against the Green Bay Packers and Seattle. It would not be surprising to see the Cardinals follow the same path as last season: strong start with a weak finish.

There is no such thing in the National Football League as an easy stretch of games; all teams have the capability of beating another team. Still, the Seahawks schedule is easier on paper in the second half than the Cardinals. The Seahawks must play better offensively to have a chance of overtaking the Cardinals, though. Even the games that Seattle has won they have struggled to score points. Defeating a Dallas team decimated by injury by only scoring 13 points is not going to win a team many games. Obviously, winning a game on the road in the NFL is a very good thing under any condition, but being satisfied with a win like the one in Dallas does not fix an actual on-the-field issue like the inconsistency of the offense.

thomas

The fact that the offense has scored no more than 23 points in any game (in the loss to the Carolina Panthers), and only 20 one other time, needs to be corrected. Relying on the defense and kicker Steven Hauschka to carry the team in each game may have been successful in the past, but in reality the offense was better the last two years. The Seahawks must get more production and more points, and it must start in Sunday’s game.

One hope is that running back Marshawn Lynch will be relatively fresh in the second half. Injuries slowed his production through most of the first six games. Now with the bye week, the Seahawks should be as healthy as possible at this point in the season. This is most likely Lynch’s final season. He is signed through 2016, but it is doubtful he plays next year. The time to unleash Lynch is now. Sure, the Seahawks got tight end Jimmy Graham in the offseason, but that has not translated to more points. Lynch is the weapon the Seahawks must max out. He will tire defenses late in the season. Maybe Seattle will not score 30 points a game, but there might be more games like the San Francisco 49ers game a few weeks ago. The final score was 20-3 Seahawks, but it certainly felt like 45-3.

Defensively this week the line needs to come up with their best performance of 2015. The Cardinals will continue to run the ball even if not initially getting many yards. Johnson ran for 109 yards against the Cleveland Browns in Arizona’s last game, but he did that on 30 carries. The Cardinals did not abandon the run, and they will not this week either. Making the Seahawks accountable to the run, even if the Cardinals are not having much success, allows Palmer more time to complete passes. The Seahawks need to get pressure from their front four this week and not rely on many blitzes. It would not be surprising to see rookie lineman Frank Clark play more downs than he has. If Clark plays well, the Seahawks will win this game.

The Cardinals will play with confidence against the Seahawks. They won in Seattle in 2013 even though Palmer threw four interceptions. They know, unlike most teams, that they can beat the Seahawks at Century Link. The Seahawks also know, however, that if they maintain focus for the entire game and play with discipline, they can dominate anyone with their defense. The Seahawks only seem to know, however, how to play close games, win or lose. Since quarterback Russell Wilson has been Seattle’s starter, only two teams have beaten the Seahawks by more than seven points, and those games were decided by nine and ten points, respectively. That covers three and a half years. Sunday’s contest will probably also be close, but the Seahawks need to win since they are playing at home. Win and that may be the start of yet another dominating second half run for Seattle.