COMMENTARY | At 3-3, the Arizona Cardinals are facing a must-win situation as they host the division leading 5-1 Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night. They're not favored to win, but every dog has it's day and this Thursday night is going to the dog.
I'm not going out on a limb to say the Cardinals are going to rout the Seahawks, but it's going to be a tight game decided by field position, with the Cardinals taking care of the ball and coming out on top. Here's five reasons why.
Cardinals are 7-1 against the Seahawks since opening University of Phoenix stadium back in 2006. As a team, the Cardinals posted a losing record at home (3-5) back in 2006, but haven't finished a season with a losing record since. University of Phoenix stadium doesn't compare to the home advantage that CenturyLink Field affords, but the "Red Sea" will rise Thursday night.
MARSHAWN LYNCH VS. CARDINALS RUN DEFENSE
Is there any question that Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson combine to form a terrific rushing attack? They've combined for 781 yards on 167 carries to pace league's second best rushing game. The Cardinals run defense is also stout, giving up over 105 yards just once this season and that was on the road last week against the 49ers (149). The Cardinals are No. 5 in the league against the run and you can bet Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington will be shadowing Lynch and Wilson all night long.
SPECIAL TEAMS ARE THE CARDINALS SPECIALTY
It's really a numbers game when we talk about special teams. If you're consistently having a short field, you're going to take advantage more often than the team facing a longer one. The Cardinals do a very good job of this (they are +5.2 yards in average field position). Consider that teams have been taking Patrick Peterson out of the return game and that number looks even better. Dave Zastudil and Jay Feely have been nearly flawless and will continue the trend.
BETTER MATCHUP AGAINST TE
One of the biggest struggles for the Cardinals this year has been the matchup against faster tight ends. Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis and even Jared Cook torched the Cardinals when they were able to get one-on-one matchups in space. Zach Miller isn't that type of tight end and the fact that he's questionable with a hamstring issue makes it even better for the Cards. This means they can go with more man packages and put pressure on Wilson, which can only be a good thing.
SEAHAWKS MORE HYPE THAN ANYTHING
To be 5-1, you've got to be a good football team and the Seahawks are good. But, they're not that good. They beat the middling Panthers, crushed the 49ers in Seattle, beat a terrible Jaguars team, won in Houston against a totally lost Texans squad, lost in Indianapolis and beat the passing-challenged Titans at home. With the exception of the impressive 49ers win, none of those other wins stand out.
The Cardinals aren't without their flaws, as they love to turn the ball over and they're trending in the wrong direction with that. Still, while the Hawks have Vegas' love (-6.5), it's the Cardinals who right the ship and close the gap in the division.
Look for Palmer to protect the ball, throwing for a modest 210 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The Cardinals run for 105 yards as a team and get a special teams touchdown from Patrick Peterson. With the clock hitting zeroes, Jay Feely knocks down the 45-yard field goal to give the Cardinals a 23-21 win.
Michael Dunlap is an NBA credentialed writer who covers the Phoenix Suns, Arizona Diamondbacks and Arizona Cardinals for the Yahoo Contributor Network. He is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief for the NBA site HoopsHabit.com .
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