Four matchups to watch: Seahawks at Cardinals

Posted Oct 17, 2013

The Seahawks play their second game in five days when they travel to Arizona to meet the NFC West rival Cardinals on Thursday night.

A look at the Seahawks’ Week 7 game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium, including four matchups that could impact the outcome:

When: Thursday, 5:25 p.m. PT, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

Records: The Seahawks are 5-1 for the second time in franchise history and first in the NFC West after Sunday’s 20-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans; the Cardinals are 3-3 and tied for third in the NFC West after Sunday’s 32-20 loss to the 49ers in San Francisco

TV: NFL Network and Joe TV (KZJO channel 22/cable 10 in Western Washington), with Brad Nessler, Mike Mayock and Alex Flanagan

Radio: 710 ESPN and 97.3 FM, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller

Rest of the West: 49ers (4-2) at Titans; Rams (3-3) at Panthers on Sunday

Matchup microscope

Cardinals DT Darnell Dockett and ILB Karlos Dansby vs. Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch: The Cardinals are allowing averages of 85.7 rushing yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry, which rank No. 5 and No. 4 in the league. And it’s the tandem of Dockett and Dansby that starts most of the Cardinals’ stops against the run. Dansby leads the unit with 60 tackles, while Dockett is among the league leaders in disruptiveness. Lynch rarely goes down on first contact, and he’ll need to continue that trend on Thursday night. He is third in the league with 487 rushing yards and fifth with 661 yards rushing and receiving. More importantly, he has boosted his per-carry average from 3.4 yards after three games to 4.2 yards over the past three games – when he’s rushed for 98, 102 and 77 yards.

One to watch

Seahawks All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas vs. Cardinals QB Carson Palmer: Thomas is on it, and has been all season. He leads the Seahawks with 41 tackles and his 36 solo stops are more than twice the number of the next-best solo tacklers on the No. 2-ranked defense in the NFL. He has three interceptions to share the team lead with Richard Sherman, and helped dupe the QB into throwing two of the picks Sherman has had. Palmer was acquired in an offseason trade with the Oakland Raiders to be everything Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Max Hall, Kevin Kolb, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Lindley weren’t the past three seasons. Palmer has been an improvement, but he’s also thrown 11 interceptions. He takes shots even when it’s ill-advised, and Thomas should be able to bait Palmer into padding his stats.

Fun to watch

Seahawks CBs Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner vs. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald: The Seahawks are one of the only teams in the league with a coverage tandem that can match Fitzgerald’s size (6-3, 218). Fitzgerald isn’t having a typical season (30 catches for a 13.5-yard average and four touchdowns) because he’s been playing with sore hamstrings. But he is, as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll put it, still capable of taking over a game. Sherman (6-3, 195) lives for these kinds of matchups and even Fitzgerald admits that the Seahawks’ All-Pro cornerback got the best of him last season, when Sherman had three of his eight interceptions against the Cardinals. Browner (6-4, 221), meanwhile, will have an even bigger chip on his shoulder in this one after being replaced by Walter Thurmond in the first half of Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans before returning in the second half.

One tough task

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and RG J.R. Sweezy vs. the ghosts of their first NFL starts: Wilson and Sweezy made their NFL regular-season debuts against the Cardinals in Arizona in the opener last season. Neither had the kind of performance they care to remember. Wilson was 18 of 34 for 153 yards, including 0 for 5 from inside the Cardinals’ 13-yard line in the final minute of the 20-16 loss. Sweezy reacted to some of the Cardinals’ stunts and combo rushes as if he’d never seen them before – because he hadn’t, as he was making the quantum leap from college defensive lineman to NFL guard. The Cardinals have a new defensive coordinator, but they still feature multiple fronts and looks. So Wilson and Sweezy will have to handle the pressure better than they did the last time they played in this stadium.

Worth noting

The Cardinals lead the series 15-13 and have won eight of the 12 games played in the desert. … Wilson has a four-game winning streak against NFC West opponents, and a 110.4 passer rating in those wins against the 49ers (twice), Rams and Cardinals – with all four games played at CenturyLink Field. … Lynch ran for 128 yards and three TDs in his last game against the Cardinals – a 58-0 victory at CenturyLink Field last December. … Thomas is the only player in the NFL with at least 40 tackles, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. … Palmer passed for 342 yards in his only start against the Seahawks, but that was in 2007 while playing for the Bengals – and in a 24-21 loss. … Cardinals DT Calais Campbell has six sacks in his past eight games against the Seahawks. … Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson has 12 passes defensed, Dansby 10 and CB Jerrud Powers eight. … Dockett has four sacks to lead the Cardinals. … DL Michael Bennett has 3.5 sacks to lead the Seahawks