The Seattle Seahawks (7-5) and Arizona Cardinals (4-8) both looked like breakout candidates in the season's early going. But lately their ships have sailed in completely opposite directions.
After a surprising 4-0 start, the Cardinals have fizzled to the tune of eight consecutive losses. The untenable quarterback situation, which appeared to have settled itself after Kevin Kolb's auspicious start this year, is actually now just hitting its nadir.
That's the only word that suffices when Ryan Lindley starts under center.
Seattle, on the other hand, is playing some of the most inspiring football in the league. Led by a ferocious defense and their bite-sized rookie quarterback, Russell Wilson, the Seahawks would actually be in the playoffs if they started today. Plus, they still have a very realistic shot at catching the 49ers in the NFC West––a feat that seemed ludicrous three weeks ago.
Riding the strength of their most impressive road win––a nail-biting, overtime triumph over the Bears in Soldier Field––the 'Hawks now get to return to the best home field in football.
The Cardinals actually beat Seattle 20-16 in Week 1, which may seem like a lifetime ago but is still sure to instill confidence in the Arizona players.
Let's take a look at what might be in store:
When: Sunday, Dec. 9, 4:25 p.m. ET
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
TV: FOX (check local listings)
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Spread: Seattle -10.0 (via VegasInsider.com – LVH)
This is a really tough one. On the one hand, how can you bet against the Seahawks? At home. Against the Cardinals!
But on the other hand, 10 is a lot of points. In fact, prior to Denver's 26-13 victory in Oakland, double-digit favorites were 1-21 ATS in their last 22 games. That's a stat-and-a-half!
Then again, Seattle has won three of its five home games by 10 or more points. And the only two they didn't win by double-digits were against Green Bay and New England––two of the best teams in the league.
My head hurts.
I'm an underdog bettor, so the 10 points might be too good to pass up. Especially since the Cardinals have a sneaky-awesome defense.
I'd pass, but if I had to play, I'd take Arizona and the points.
Over/Under: 35.5 (via VegasInsider.com – LVH)
This is a fairly predictable number, but it's also a predictably fair one.
That could be trouble in Seattle, where the Seahawks allow an average of 13.8 points per game. Green Bay scored 12 points at CenturyLink field, and Dallas scored seven. By that logic, an Arizona shutout is within the realm of possibility.
Though they've been under the radar, the Seahawks actually have one of the most balanced, efficient offenses in the NFL. But the Cardinals have a defense capable of keeping them in check.
Between that and the single-digit number Arizona's offense is sure to post, I'd feel safe picking the under.
Arizona Cardinals Injury Report (via USA Today – as of 12/6/12)
|RB Beanie Wells||Knee||Probable|
|S Kerry Rhodes||Quadricep||Questionable|
|DE Ronald Talley||Ankle||Questionable|
|LB Reggie Walker||Knee||Questionable|
|QB Kevin Kolb||Ribs||Questionable|
|DE Calais Campbell||Calf||Questionable|
|WR LaRon Byrd||Head||Questionable|
|WR Andre Roberts||Ankle||Questionable|
|C Lyle Sendlein||Knee||Out For Season|
Seattle Seahawks Injury Report (via USA Today – as of 12/6/12)
|RB Marshawn Lynch||Back||Probable|
|DE Red Bryant||Foot||Questionable|
|WR Sidney Rice||Head||Questionable|
|CB Marcus Trufant||Hamstring||Questionable|
|LB LeRoy Hill||Ankle||Questionable|
|WR James Carpenter||Knee||Out For Season|
|CB Brandon Browner||Suspension||Out|
Fantasy Big Plays
Arizona Cardinals: WR Larry Fitzgerald
Only by process of elimination...
But seriously, though: If anyone on Arizona has a chance of putting up numbers in Seattle, it's Larry. Especially with Brandon Browner––the Seahawks' Pro Bowl corner who specializes in covering tall receivers––conspicuously absent due to suspension.
Richard Sherman will still be in uniform (though his suspension is pending, too), and he's plenty capable of guarding Fitz. But if Larry's on his game, even against a Pro Bowl-caliber corner, there's sometimes nothing a defender can do.
Put Larry in your lineup, close your eyes, and pray for something to happen. It's better than you can do with any other Cardinal.
Seattle Seahawks: RB Marshawn Lynch
"Beast Mode" Lynch has been his usual self in 2012, having already surpassed the 1,000-yard mark. He hasn't reached 100 yards in the past two games, but before that he had in four consecutive performances.
Arizona has Football Outsiders' fourth-ranked defense, but the Cards only rank 12th against the run (as opposed to second against the pass). The best—and sometimes only—way to attack them is on the ground, which the Seahawks will be ready, willing and able to do.
Lynch had 85 yards on 21 carries against Arizona in Week 1. And believe it or not––if this game goes the way I expect it to––he could actually see a substantially bigger workload this weekend.
Start Lynch with confidence.
Key to Victory
Arizona's Big Play Defense
I try my best not to speak in hyperbole, so forgive this one indulgence: There is no way the Cardinals offense will create more than 10 points in this football game.
And as good as Arizona's defense is, there's also no way they're holding the Seahawks second-ranked offense under 10 points.
If Arizona wins this game––nay, if Seattle loses this game––it'll be because Arizona's ball-hawking defense made something big happen. Explosive players like Patrick Peterson are capable of changing the game in an instant with their big-play ability.
If Seattle is careful about not turning the ball over, it's hard to fathom a way the Seahawks lose this game. But if Arizona can create turnovers, get good field position and maybe even score a defensive touchdown?
Let's just say stranger things have happened in Seattle this year.
Here's some uncensored candidness for you: I won't be watching this game. Personally, I recommend that you don't either unless you're a fan of either side.
It won't be pretty and it won't be fun, but Seattle should be able to take care of business on its home field. Look for it to stay low-scoring throughout before Seattle salts it away in the second half.
Predicted Score: Seattle 19, Arizona 10