Countdown to kickoff: Seahawks at Cardinals

Posted Oct 17, 2013

The Seahawks and Cardinals meet in a nationally televised game on Thursday night, with each of the NFC West rivals looking to make its own statement.

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Greetings from University of Phoenix Stadium, where the Seahawks are getting ready to play the Arizona Cardinals on “Thursday Night Football.”

After going 3-1 in their just-completed four-game tour of the AFC South, the Seahawks return to their own division in a game where each team has something to prove.

If the Seahawks are the class of the NFC West, and they lead the division by a game at 5-1, then they win this game – as well as their Oct. 28 matchup against the Rams in St. Louis on “Monday Night Football.” As well as the Seahawks play at home, where they’ve won 11 consecutive games, they need to start playing better on the road. Especially against division opponents, and especially here – where they’re 1-6 since the Cardinals moved into their new stadium in 2006.

If the Cardinals are to contend once again in the division they won in 2008 and 2009, then they need to find a way to pull the upset tonight. The last time they won a game in the division was the season opener here last year against the Seahawks. Really. Since then, they’ve lost to the Seahawks in Seattle 58-0; and lost three times each to the Rams and San Francisco 49ers, including their opener this season in St. Louis and last week in San Francisco.

That’s why the Cardinals have a new head coach, Bruce Arians; a new GM, Steve Keim; a new QB, Carson Palmer; and the makings of a new attitude.

That’s also why the Cardinals will be seeing targets when they look at the Seahawks tonight. The best way to prove they’re better is to knock off the division leader.

“They’re on track. They’re fired up. They have high hopes. They have expectations. They want to try and get involved in this division. And they’re right there to do that,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday after what passed for his team’s final practice in this short week to prepare.

“These games in the division are really crucial and the statements will be made. So you can just feel it’s a whole different climate, and Bruce Arians has done a great job to get them ready and to get their attitude on track.”

In Sunday’s 12-point loss to the 49ers at Candlestick Park, the Cardinals turned the ball over four times – including the 10th and 11th interceptions thrown by Palmer in six games. So the Cardinals were left to play the same woulda-coulda-shoulda game that accompanied the Seahawks on their trip back from Indianapolis – and their only loss – 12 days ago.

“I feel like this team is really special,” defensive end Calais Campbell told the Arizona Republic this week. “We just have to start believing it a little bit more. I think (the 49ers game) did give us confidence. The guys who weren’t sure, who weren’t really believing all the way, were kind of getting on board a little bit more.”

Campbell should know. He was around for the 5-11, 8-8 and 5-11 seasons the past three years. And those six consecutive losses to the 49ers and Rams the past two seasons, by an average of 13 points. And that 58-0 loss in Seattle last December, the worst in franchise history and the most points ever surrendered by the Cardinals.

So the line in this one has been drawn in the desert sand.

On one side is a Seahawks team looking to make the latest in a long line of statements about just how good they are and how good they can become. On the other side is a Cardinals team looking to step over that line and show that it is indeed a factor – and not just fodder – in the NFC West.

With all that on the line, sit back and enjoy this first of back-to-back nationally televised road games against division opponents for the Seahawks. Kickoff and TV coverage on NFL Network and Joe TV (channel 22/cable 10 in Western Washington) are set for 5:25 p.m. PT.