THURSDAY NIGHT GAME
Cardinals offense vs. Seahawks defense
Richard Sherman would probably love the challenge of shadowing Larry Fitzgerald on a national stage. But since Brandon Browner returned a few weeks ago, the Seahawks mostly have kept their corners in their usual spots: Sherman along the left boundary, Browner the right boundary and Walter Thurmond inside.
Seattle’s Week 5 opponent, Indianapolis, often overloaded wide receivers to the same side of the field in order to either create mismatches against ancillary pass defenders or force a cornerback to play somewhere he’s not accustomed to playing. Expect Arizona to use the same overload tactics. Bruce Arians already has a lot of these concepts built into his passing attack.
If the Cards go with more trips formations, it would make sense for Sherman to follow Fitzgerald (especially when you consider that Browner has struggled with man concepts the past two weeks and would not thrive in this matchup). It might not matter who guards Fitzgerald anyway; it’s hard to envision Arizona’s O-line keeping Seattle’s increasingly fearsome pass-rush at bay.
Seahawks offense vs. Cardinals defense
Richard Sherman has been the best cornerback in football this season; Patrick Peterson is not far behind him. Whoever Peterson shadows should effectively be removed from this game, as none of Seattle’s wideouts are particularly dynamic. That’s true about the entire passing attack, actually. Russell Wilson has not been awful, but he has not been as sharp as he was at the end of last season.
The Seahawks have overcome aerial mediocrity so far because they’ve committed to a ground-oriented approach. According to Football Outsiders, the Seahawks have run the ball on 53.9 percent of their first-down snaps, second only to the Bills. And they’ve utilized play-action on 35.4 percent of their passes, most in the NFL.
As long as Marshawn Lynch is healthy, Seattle always has a chance to be productive on the ground. Lynch will have to keep creating a lot of his own yards, as this front five is still without starting tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini. Quietly, Arizona’s defensive front is one of the best in the league against the run. It should show why Thursday night, even if stud defensive end Calais Campbell is out (he spent last Sunday night in the hospital after a neck scare but hopes to play). Darnell Dockett, in particular, is a monstrous penetrator against zone-blocking, thanks to his superb initial quickness and violent hands.