Arizona Cardinals: 6 Things to Watch for Versus Seattle Seahawks

Elyssa GutbrodContributor ISeptember 23, 2011

Arizona Cardinals: 6 Things to Watch for Versus Seattle Seahawks

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    As we roll towards Sunday and the start of Week 3 of the 2011 season, the Arizona Cardinals will face off against the Seattle Seahawks.

    This game represents the first of six important matchups against NFC-West opponents for the Cardinals.

    These inter-conference games will be the real keys to whether the Cardinals are able to advance to the postseason this year.

    A win against Seattle will be a step in a good direction, giving Arizona a satisfactory 2-1 record to start the season and helping them to potentially start to push ahead of the rest of the division.

    A loss, on the other hand, will put them at just 1-2—tied with Seattle, and with the possibility of falling behind the St. Louis Rams early in the season.

    Here are six things to watch for at game time that could potentially make or break the game for the Cardinals.

1. Renewed Emphasis on Pass Defense

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    The Seattle Seahawks run a pass-heavy offense, and the Arizona Cardinals have demonstrated a defensive weakness against the passing game.

    Looking for a big game, the Seahawks may try to exploit this weakness in order to finally put some points on the board offensively.

    The Seahawks may be in for a nasty surprise when they test the Cardinals’ secondary.

    Despite the three starting linebackers all making an appearance on the team’s injury report, all three of them look like they will be on the field come Sunday. The addition of Daryl Washington back into the linebacker corps, even in a limited capacity, would be a certain boost to the Cardinals’ struggling secondary.

2. Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald Will Make Plays

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    Wide receiver Jeff King may have been the first to give the Cardinals a big strike last week against the Washington Redskins, but look for Larry Fitzgerald to make a bigger splash this week.

    It is clear that Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald have begun to develop the special relationship that evolves over time between a quarterback and his favorite receivers.

    Expect a repeat of last week’s excellent numbers against Seattle, perhaps with an extra touchdown or two against the weak Seattle pass defense.

3. Turnovers Will Rule the Game

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    The Cardinals have a net 0 turnover ratio so far this year, meaning that they’ve given up the ball as often as they’ve taken it away from the other team. The Seahawks, on the other hand, have a -3 turnover ratio: They’re giving the ball up, but they’re not taking it back defensively.

    Look for the Cardinals to bring the Seahawks’ turnover ratio down even further. They’ll do their best to protect the ball on offense, and to try to force turnovers defensively.

    So far the Cardinals have done an adequate job of intercepting the ball on defense, but chances are good that they will find Tarvaris Jackson easy pickings.

    As long as they can capitalize on the turnovers, their defense will try to generate with points on the board, the Cardinals should be in good shape on Sunday.

4. Special Teams Will Make a Splash

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    LaRod Stephens-Howling was out last Sunday, and the Cardinals really felt his absence with rookie Patrick Peterson returning both punts and kickoffs.

    Stephens-Howling has been working with a limited practice schedule this week, which is an encouraging sign that he might take the field on Sunday. If he does, look to him to help turn the tide of the game with a big play on special teams—those types of plays seem to be his virtuoso specialty.

5. Beanie Wells Will Run the Game

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    The Seahawks have had some struggles defensively against the running game, while Beanie Wells has shown that he has what it takes to be the Cardinals’ first-string running back.

    This matchup should be advantageous for Wells.

    Look for Coach Whisenhunt to take advantage of what will probably be a successful ground game to keep his offense on the field for longer than a few minutes at a time.

    Who knows—Beanie Wells may just be the key to giving the defense enough time to catch their breaths and stay fresh into the fourth quarter.

6. Arizona Will Make a Statement

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    Whether the Cardinals win or lose on Sunday, they’re going to make a statement to the rest of the league.

    A loss will indicate that they, like the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers are doomed to another year of disappointing losses and terrible records.

    On the other hand, a win in Seattle will make great progress towards separating the Cardinals from the rest of the NFC West and give them some momentum to take into their game against the New York Giants next week.

    Sure, it’s a win over the anemic Seahawks, but it in the soft NFC West conference the only real competition this year looks to be the St. Louis Rams.

    With a win on Sunday, the Cardinals will stay atop the division going into Week 4—either alone, or still tied with the St. Louis Rams.