As surprising as last Sunday’s loss to the Redskins was, I don’t think the disappointment will last long for the Seahawks. Maybe we’ll look back at the end of the season and think they could have been 12-4 instead of 11-5, or 11-5 instead of 10-6 if they hadn’t drop-kicked that game in early November.
But Thursday night in Arizona, there are more reasons to think the Seahawks will bounce back than to think the downward trend will continue. It’s a long list of reasons, and let’s start with what the guys in Vegas think – Seattle is favored by 5 1/2 points. Generally speaking, 5 1/2-point favorites win – maybe not by six points or more, but usually they win.
Recent history is also on the Seahawks’ side. Arizona has scored six points in each of the last three games against the Seahawks in Glendale. Six in 2016, six in 2015 and six in 2014. The last time the Seahawks lost in Glendale was in 2012 in Russell Wilson’s first game. And as you’ll recall, the Seahawks were inside the Arizona 10-yard line at the end of the game with a shot to win that one too.
Last year was the forgettable (memorable?) 6-6 tie that featured two sputtering offenses and two kickers who couldn’t make chip-shot game-winning field goals. If there’s one game where you have to like Blair Walsh’s chances better than Stephen Hauschka’s, it’s this one. At Arizona, Hauschka had a mind block or something going on that got in his way of being a normally proficient kicker. I think he mentioned that the condition of the grass at University of Phoenix Stadium bothered him.
Then again, Walsh missed three field goals in Sunday’s 17-14 loss to the Redskins, and his mental state is a major storyline going into this game. The last time he kicked at Arizona for the Vikings (in 2015), he made all four of his kicks, two field goals and two extra points, . I suspect he’ll be fine Thursday night, and if he isn’t, the Seahawks will have a new kicker for the Monday night game against Atlanta on Nov. 20. (By the way, the Cardinals have a kicker, 42-year-old Phil Dawson, who missed a field goal last Sunday himself, a 38-yarder that clanked off the upright at San Francisco.)
The biggest difference in Thursday night’s game is at quarterback, where we can all agree that Russell Wilson is a lot better than Drew Stanton. Wilson is on a pace to throw for more yards than he ever has, and Stanton is on a pace to do not much of anything. There are reasons why he’s been a career backup. When you’re a career backup, you’ve never been good enough to be called a career starter unless the starter goes down, like Carson Palmer did, and then you’re thrown in there because the team has no other choice.
Arizona coach Bruce Arians knows this, so he’ll try to rely on Adrian Peterson like he did in the Cardinals’ 20-10 win over San Francisco last Sunday. Peterson ran for 159 yards on 37 carries and figures to carry it 25 times or more against the Seahawks. Can a 32-year-old running back, even a future Hall of Famer like Peterson, be ready to go four days after carrying such a big load in an NFL game? I suspect he won’t be as effective as he was against the 49ers, but I’d set the over-under at around 70 yards for A.P. given that the Seahawks’ run defense is so-so at best this year.
Eddie Lacy won’t play because of a groin injury suffered against the Redskins, and I know that Dave Wyman saw one play in particular that he liked with him that caused him to think that Lacy might be on the verge of breaking out of his season-long slump. And in Lacy’s defense, he’s running behind a sub-par offensive line and might be tearing it up somewhere else, like Alex Collins is in Baltimore.
But I won’t miss him against the Cardinals. I thought Thomas Rawls looked better against the Redskins, and he’ll get his chance to carry it over against the Cardinals. I’d also like to see more of J.D. McKissic – he leads the running backs with a 4.1-yard average. C.J. Prosise is expected back from his ankle sprain, and I know, we’ll all believe it when we see it, but he could give the running game a spark too.
In this never-ending attempt to try to establish the running game, I have some advice for the play-calling of Darrell Bevell. If you can’t get it going against the Cardinals, scrap those scripted plays of yours and have Wilson chuck it all over the lot. I say this because I looked at the stats. The Seahawks, believe it or not, are second only to the Patriots in passing offense, averaging 274 yards through the air. The Cardinals are 24th in pass defense, so why not take advantage of a strength against a weakness? Makes sense to me, but I’m guessing we’ll see a bunch of handoffs to Rawls anyway.
Ultimately in this matchup, you’ve got one team that’s going places and one team that’s not with a backup quarterback. We’ll see how big that difference is Thursday night.
Seahawks (-5 1/2) at Cardinals: Seattle 31, Arizona 10.
Washington (-6) at Stanford: The Huskies and their best defense in the country should handle a Cardinal team that struggles with quarterback issues. But running back Bryce Love is one week farther down the road from a sprained ankle and should be more effective than he was against the Cougars. If the Dawgs win, they’ll move up in the College Football Playoff rankings and improve their chances of making it back to the final four. But after they lose, we can stop the nonsense – their offense isn’t good enough to be a national championship contender this year. Cardinal 24, Huskies 14.
Washington State (-1) at Utah: If the Cougs win, it will set up an Apple Cup for the ages. Wins over Utah and Washington would put Washington State in the Pac-12 championship game. It’s not a pipedream anymore. Utah’s an average team this season, and right when I think the Utes are pretty tough at home, I remember that they were clobbered by Arizona State in Salt Lake City last month. The Cougs are 8-2 and about to go to 9-2, setting up the dream Apple Cup scenario. Cougars 34, Utes 20.