The Arizona Cardinals can’t rely on the Seattle Seahawks’ injuries, inexperience and rookie mistakes to win this divisional matchup. It would be a different case if the Cardinals weren’t dealing with the very same issues. Instead, there are several factors that need to come together for a home victory at the University of Phoenix Stadium this week. Easier said than done, but five essentials for the Cardinals to focus on are:
Give Them Fitz
Larry Fitzgerald is on the verge of being the youngest in the NFL to reach 700 career receptions. He’s hungry for it, and the Cardinals need to give it to him. Maybe it won’t happen this game, but Skelton knows he can depend on Fitz, and Whisenhunt says he “marvels” at the wide receiver’s talents. Who doesn’t? Seattle safety Kam Chancellor says #11 has a “wow” factor because “he catches crazy passes–one hand, between the legs, over your head.” The Seahawks are well aware of their need to contain Fitzgerald, and the Cardinals know they need to get him the ball.
Skelton Needs Time
Fitz can only work with what he is given. Newly-named QB John Skelton has confidence that he can deliver wins and knows that Kevin Kolb is not far behind him on the bench. Batiste and Massie will need to settle in and step up to their new starting roles as tackles, although offensive line coach Russ Grimm keeps the O line on their toes by switching it up in practice. Skelton requires more time in the pocket than Seattle rookie QB Russell Wilson, who is 7 inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter. Skelton will have to be solid, more accurate and quicker in his passes.
Run to Score
Running backs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams are expected to produce for the Cardinals this season after overcoming knee injuries. William Powell has been impressive during his first NFL preseason. Patrick Peterson made a name for himself with his record-breaking punt returns last season. The Cardinals have viable options to take weight off of Skelton’s shoulders. They need to create opportunities to score by running the ball.
Pressure Wilson to Mistakes
QB Russell Wilson has promise, according to several NFL sources. He’s being compared across the league to other rookies RGIII and Andrew Luck as a quarterback that could take his team to their first Super Bowl win. Wilson is not to be underestimated by his age and lack of experience. He has a balance of respectful maturity and that youthful confidence that coach Pete Carroll has been looking for to guide the Seahawks to victory. Wilson has been quoted as saying that he expects to make mistakes on Sunday. The Cardinals will have to put the pressure on Wilson, who has been swift at his passing decisions, and break a little of his confidence down to result in those typical rookie mistakes.
Limit Rice & Turbin
WR Sidney Rice almost doubled his receptions when he came to Seattle from Minnesota last year. He should be a consistent target for Wilson. Rice is no Fitzgerald, but he’ll manage to score when given the opportunity. RB Robert Turbin is an up-and-coming talent on the Seahawks roster and will likely be in as a backup to Marshawn Lynch for much of the game. As of Sunday morning, Lynch is active in game one, but it isn’t likely that he will last at full effort. TE Zach Miller and WR Braylon Edwards are also considerable scoring threats to watch for and contain.
Defense can win games. Offense can win games. The key for the Cardinals will be striking a balance between the O and D lines with neither strong enough to fully lean on this early in the season.