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NFL Preview - Seattle (4-4) at Arizona (3-5)
By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - If the Arizona Cardinals are ever going to break out of their offensive slump, this weekend's matchup with a reeling Seattle Seahawks defense could be their best chance.
The Cardinals aim to halt a three-game losing streak this Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium against a Seahawks club that has been torched for over 1,000 yards of offense over a two-game losing streak.
Arizona has not won since an Oct. 10 home victory over the New Orleans Saints improved the club to 3-2 heading to a bye week. Now at 3-5, the Cardinals are a game back of the co-leading Seahawks and St. Louis Rams for the NFC West's top spot. Arizona has won the division in each of the last two years.
The Cardinals have dropped two straight games by just three points each, including last weekend's 27-24 overtime decision in Minnesota. They blew a 14- point advantage with under five minutes to play -- allowing the game-tying touchdown with just 27 seconds left in regulation -- and got the ball first in overtime before going three-and-out.
Just one of Arizona's three touchdowns came out of the offense, a 30-yard pass by quarterback Derek Anderson to wide receiver Andre Roberts in the second quarter. Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling had a 96-yard kick return for a score and cornerback Michael Adams took a fumble 30 yards for six points.
"We've got to able to put some more points on the board," said Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who had one of his better games this year with seven catches for a season-high 107 yards. "We've got to be able to put some balls in the end zone and give our defense some help. Those guys played well pretty much all day and we put them in some bad positions,"
Anderson and Fitzgerald will try to take advantage of a Seahawks team that has been out-gained by a whopping 1,032-326 margin in total yards over a two-game slide. Seattle's road struggles continued two weekends ago with a 33-3 setback in Oakland before this past Sunday's 41-7 shelling at home to the New York Giants. It marked the Seahawks' first loss in four home games this season.
"For the second week in a row we go out and throw out a miserable performance for us and put us in a situation where at the halfway point of the season, being 4-4, we have seen the upside of our team and we've also seen the downside," said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll.
Seattle is just 1-3 as the visitor this season and has lost 11 of its last 13 on the road dating back to the 2008 season. The club has been outscored 125-27 in its four losses this season.
Carroll is expected to have quarterback Matt Hasselbeck under center this weekend after he missed the Giants game due to a concussion. He was cleared to return to practice on Wednesday, and Carroll said he will start on Sunday.
"He's ready," said Carroll of Hasselbeck. "He's got to go through the week practicing and make it through it just like everybody else does, but I'm anxious to get him back out there and get him back to take over."
Charlie Whitehurst made his first career start in place of Hasselbeck last weekend and threw for 113 yards with two interceptions and a late touchdown throw to wide receiver Ben Obomanu.
Hasselbeck completed a touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Williams when the Seahawks beat the Cardinals, 22-10, in Seattle on Oct. 24. Kicker Olindo Mare matched a franchise record with five field goals for the Seahawks.
Anderson and Max Hall combined to go 12-of-33 passing for 132 yards with an interception in that game, one of five turnovers for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals lead the overall series with the Seahawks by a 13-10 margin and had won the last four clashes between the teams until Seattle's previously- noted 22-10 triumph on Oct. 24. Arizona posted a 31-20 victory over the Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium in 2009 to complete a home-and-home season sweep, and Seattle has lost four in a row as the visitor to the Cardinals since a 33-19 decision at Sun Devil Stadium on Nov. 6, 2005.
Carroll is 2-0 lifetime against the Cardinals, with the first win coming in 1999 while the sideline boss of the New England Patriots. Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt owns a 5-2 record versus the Seahawks and lost his only head-to- head meeting with Carroll last month.
WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL
Without Hasselbeck (1411 passing yards, 6 TD, 7 INT), the Seahawks were limited to just 162 net yards of offense versus the Giants. Seattle's 29th- ranked ground game (83.6 yards per game) managed just 49 yards rushing and has just 96 yards total in two games since posting a season-high 144 versus the Cardinals in Week 7. Running back Marshawn Lynch (188 rushing yards, 1 TD with Seahawks) accounted for 89 of those yards. Williams (35 receptions, 1 TD) set a career high with 11 catches versus the Cardinals earlier in the year, but was limited to a pair of receptions for 25 yards last weekend. Williams leads the Seahawks, who rank 29th in passing offense as well, in catches, with tight end John Carlson (22 receptions, 1 TD) coming in second. Obomanu's touchdown was his second this year on just six catches, tying him with Deon Butler (19 receptions) for the team lead. Rookie left tackle Russell Okung (sprained ankle) and backup Tyler Polumbus (sprained knee) both missed last week's game, forcing Chester Pitts to start there. However, Polumbus is expected to return this weekend and Okung could also be active for the first time in three games, which would allow Pitts to shift to the starting left guard spot.
It was a strange game for the Cardinals last week. Arizona allowed 507 yards of offense, including a career-high 446 passing by Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre. However, the unit scored a touchdown on special teams and made a big stop on 4th-and-1 at the goal line late in the fourth quarter. Still, the Cards rank 30th in total defense (390.8 ypg) and 28th in scoring defense (28.1 points per game). The touchdown by Adams (18 tackles) was one of Arizona's NFL-leading eight return scores and both safeties Kerry Rhodes (50 tackles, 2 INT) and Rashad Johnson (26 tackles) came away with interceptions. Johnson's was the first of his career. Rhodes, meanwhile, nearly took his pick for a touchdown, but was caught from behind by a Minnesota wide receiver and had the ball punched loose near the goal line for a touchback. Cornerback Greg Toler (56 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) led Arizona with nine tackles versus the Vikings and linebacker and leading tackler Paris Lenon (61 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INT) had seven. Linebacker Joey Porter (31 tackles, 5 sacks) also had a big game with six tackles and two sacks. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (26 tackles, 1 INT) has three picks and a fumble recovery over his last five games versus the Seahawks.
WHEN THE CARDINALS HAVE THE BALL
Arizona's 31st-ranked offense (256.0 ypg) managed just 225 yards versus the Vikings with Anderson (1159 passing yards, 5 TD, 7 INT) back under center. Reclaiming his starting role from the rookie Hall (360 passing yards, 1 TD, 5 INT), Anderson was 15-of-26 passing for a mere 179 yards, but didn't turn the ball over. Fitzgerald (42 receptions, 4 TD) is Arizona's top offensive weapon no matter who is under center, and he has made 38 catches with four touchdowns in his last five games versus Seattle. Playing for just the second time since knee surgery sidelined him for three games, fellow wideout Steve Breaston (25 receptions, 1 TD) made just three catches for 28 yards last week. The Cardinals have struggled just as bad on the ground, averaging just 87.9 rushing yards per game. Tim Hightower (337 rushing yards, 2 TD) led the team with 13 rush attempts for 39 yards, while Beanie Wells (231 rushing yards, 2 TD) carried the ball just once and lost two yards. Wells had missed two days of practice last week due to swelling caused by an allergic reaction to an injection in his knee. He did not practice early this week, either.
The Seahawks have done a decent job of limiting opponents' ground games, as they rank 19th against the run (112.6 ypg) compared to 30th (270.5 ypg) versus the pass. That didn't apply to last week's game, however, as the Giants racked up 197 rushing yards and scored twice with running backs, while New York quarterback Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes. Seattle came away with just one turnover, a fumble forced by Aaron Curry (28 tackles, 1 sack) that was recovered by fellow linebacker David Hawthorne (39 tackles), who led the team with 12 tackles. Corner Marcus Trufant (44 tackles, 1 INT) ended with nine stops, while defensive end Kentwan Balmer (16 tackles) made eight tackles as he started in the place of Red Bryant, who is out for the season due to a knee injury. Also, starting defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Colin Cole (29 tackles, 1 sack) both missed the game due to injury and were replaced by Junior Siavii (12 tackles) and Craig Terrill. Cole missed his first game of the year due to an ankle ailment, while Mebane has sat out the last four games with a calf injury. Mebane is expected to return this weekend.
Neither team has offered much in fantasy play this year, but given that both teams struggle defensively, there could be some finds to be had in this one. Lynch is probably has the biggest upside given Arizona's struggles on the road, while Williams and Carlson see their value go up if Hasselbeck can play. Arizona's running backs should be avoided at all costs, though Fitzgerald is a must-start each week regardless. Mare had a big game the last time these clubs met and is 10-for-12 on field goal tries this year, while Arizona kicker Jay Feely is 8-for-9. Avoid both defenses.
What happens when two struggling offenses meet a pair of defenses that have had trouble stopping teams all year? Both Arizona and Seattle have had their issues under center and have struggled running the football as well. Both defenses have also allowed their fare share of points, yet the Cardinals could actually create a three-way tie for first place in the division with a win in this one. There is a good chance that this game comes down to who makes the big play on defense, and with Seattle's history on the road, the edge could slip in favor of the Cardinals.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cardinals 23, Seahawks 16
11/11 19:33:35 ET
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