A glance at five top storylines for Sunday’s Cardinals-Seahawks game in Seattle:
- Making the QB less DangeRuss
Russell Wilson would rather not run. He’s made that pretty clear. But he’s really good at it. He’s really good at throwing (accurate) passes on the move too. The Cardinals can’t let running Marshawn Lynch go off (and Lynch had 91 yards on 21 carries in the first meeting) but it is the Seahawks QB that is the engine that makes Seattle go. Multiple defensive players have said the Cardinals have a better plan for the Seahawks and Wilson this time around. After he had three touchdown passes and a passer rating of 122.1 in October, that will be a key.
- Carson’s cocoon
The first time around, the Cardinals offensive line was still struggling and the coaches were still struggling to figure out how to call the game/give the line help so pass protection wasn’t such a problem. That’s been overcome for the most part.
- Overcoming the emotion of the moment
The noise is an issue at CenturyLink Field, and no one disputes that. But it’s not necessarily the difficulty communicating that is the biggest issue. The Cardinals have to weather the early emotion of the moment, the crowd and the pressure that inevitably comes. There can be no early panic. There can be no silly penalties. Staying calm is easier said than done, but it will be crucial. The Cardinals cannot let the game get away from them.
- Making a point. Or many
The Seahawks have given up more than 17 points just twice at home this season – 20 to Minnesota, 24 to Tampa Bay. Only the Bucs game was close to a loss, when Tampa shockingly took the Seahawks to overtime. The Cardinals have been scoring a lot since they last played Seattle, averaging just about 30 points a game in the seven contests. They will need to score some Sunday. The Cards can’t just leave it up to the defense.
- Stayin’ alive
The Cardinals need help to get into the playoffs. That’s plain. And, as long as the Carolina Panthers lose Sunday, the Cardinals remain alive regardless of their outcome in Seattle. But the Cards will be in much better shape with a win – including fending off elimination even if the Panthers win. It’s a tall task, given that the Seahawks have yet to lose a home game in the nearly two full seasons of Wilson at quarterback. But the Cardinals are a confident team these days, sure they have come a long way. This is not the group that went to Seattle last season and got beat up. For the playoffs to be a reality, the Cardinals have to understand – and they do – this is a virtual playoff game Sunday.