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Clayton’s Keys: Seahawks need to keep momentum going through Arizona

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson will get No. 1 WR Doug Baldwin back Sunday vs. Arizona. (AP)

Timing is everything.

NFC West play for the Seahawks begins Sunday with a game against an Arizona Cardinals team that is playing at its worst.

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Sam Bradford was dreadful in the Cardinals’ first three games so he was benched in favor of rookie quarterback Josh Rosen. The defense has been surprisingly overpowered, particularly on the run. As a result, the Cardinals are 0-3 and are being outscored by 18 points per game.

As for the Seahawks, after turning the season around for the moment with a 24-13 victory over Dallas, they can’t take the Cardinals for granted. They have a tough home game next week against the red-hot Los Angeles Rams, and an upset loss to the Cardinals would put them in a deep hole heading into the Rams game.

Here are some things to watch Sunday.

• Chris Carson came out of the Cowboys game with a hip injury that has him listed on the injury report as questionable. He’s expected to play, though, and the Seahawks need him as they are still getting their running game going. Last week they had the commitment to run the ball, but so many of Carson’s runs came after he broke contract behind the line of scrimmage. The Seahawks need to advance more with their run blocking and open up more runs past the line of scrimmage.

• With Ethan Pocic out with an ankle injury, J.R. Sweezy will make his second start at left guard. He might have started anyways even if Pocic were healthy because the interior of the line did well against Dallas even though all the parts were new. Justin Britt will return to his starting center spot in Arizona, while D.J. Fluker will get his second start at right guard. He feels energized by his physical success blocking against the Cowboys.

• Perhaps the biggest story entering Sunday is the return of Doug Baldwin. Baldwin has been fighting one knee problem since training camp and then suffered a separate injury to his other knee in the opener in Denver. Having his favorite target back is going to be a plus for Russell Wilson. He’s completing 60 percent of his passes for 238.6 yards per game, and with Baldwin back, the percentage should improve. Maybe the yards will, too, even though the Seahawks are expected to stay committed to the run.

• Injuries to Rasheem Green and Dion Jordan might thin some pass rush depth, although Jordan still has a chance to play. Frank Clark is gaining momentum and has three sacks in three games. Because they had the lead against the Cowboys, the Seahawks were able to mix in some blitzes and might expand on them against the Cardinals.

• One of the keys for Seattle’s defense will be making sure Rosen doesn’t getting into a comfortable rhythm. When you get a rookie quarterback to start, early expectations aren’t usually great. You usually think that quarterback should throw for around 180 yards, complete around 55 percent of his passes and maybe have one more interception than touchdown passes. That’s what the Seahawks need to hold Rosen to in order to win.

• It will be important to hold down Arizona’s running game. The Seahawks are going through a stretch in which they are playing some of the best runners in the league. Last week it was Ezekiel Elliott. Two weeks ago it was Jordan Howard. Next week it’s Todd Gurley. And Sunday, it’s David Johnson of the Cardinals, who just cashed in on a three-year, $39 million contract and is one of the best backs in the game even though he’s off to a slow start.

Moore: Hawks’ early-season issues on road will continue in Arizona

John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
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