Seattle (-6, 41) at Arizona – (NFL Network, 8:25 p.m. ET)
Last week’s trade for All-Pro left tackle Duane Brown was appropriately greeted with hopeful enthusiasm in Seattle. Although it cost them a 2019 second-rounder and a third and a fifth-round pick in the next draft, players, team officials and fans would’ve stopped just short of dealing their first-born in exchange for some help up front.
Ever since projected left tackle George Fant was lost in the preseason, the Seahawks have been fighting an uphill battle as they’ve looked to protect Russell Wilson. Despite wins in five of seven, the offense looked compromised, so being able to plug that hole with an elite option who hadn’t even put on a lot of miles this season due to a well-publicized holdout that spilled into the season was more than fortunate.
You would’ve imagined the improvement would’ve been immediate given the upgrade, but someone didn’t give head coach Pete Caroll and oft-maligned offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell the memo. In fairness, the improvement up front wasn’t instant, so Wilson was indeed pressured often, but the game plan was typically conservative outside of a gadget play or wrinkle or two. So it was that the depleted ‘Skins managed to hop on their cross-country fresh off a 17-14 comeback win engineered by Kirk Cousins.
Give him all the credit for walking through a door the Seahawks left open via inconsistent offense, but the fact that he solved an Earl Thomas-less defense by driving his team down the field rather quickly through the air in the closing stages means Seattle enters this one with all players feeling the burden of pulling their weight as they open the second half of the season looking up at a Rams team they’ve already beaten in L.A. and will host on Dec. 17.
It will be interesting to see how the Seahawks handle this road test against the desperate Cardinals in a stadium where they haven’t lost since 2012. Last year’s game in Glendale produced an ugly 6-6 tie, which begs the question of whether we’ll see another low-scoring game where Carroll-led Seattle attempts to stall until the other team makes a mistake. We’ve seen this group play down to their opponent’s level in a 12-9 win over lowly San Francisco, which is what you have to weigh when considering laying nearly a touchdown on the road with a team solely interested in the result, not the style points.
The temptation will certainly be there since the Seahawks are likely coming into this one under the assumption that backup Drew Stanton can’t beat them. Although he was effective in his first start in last week’s 20-10 road win over the 49ers that Arizona never trailed in, Stanton is a career backup for a reason and doesn’t appear to pose much of a threat against one of the NFL’s elite defenses. Adrian Peterson has adjusted well to being the focal point of an offense again and brings relatively fresh legs to the table, but he’s coming off a 37-carry game on Sunday. The prospect of him having to carry another heavy workload in a short week situation makes my knees hurt in sympathy for his surgically repaired ones.
The 32-year-old Peterson has only carried the ball 30-plus times in consecutive games only once in his career, but he told reporters in Arizona that he felt “fresh and rejuvenated, ready to roll.” The plan is for the run game to be Stanton’s best friend here, as keepin the ball out of the air appears to be a priority.
Despite losing QB Carson Palmer for the remainder of the season and not expecting All-Pro RB David Johnson back, the Cards have been rejuvenated by Peterson’s arrival and a return to health from a Larry Fitzgerald-led receiving corps that’s healthier than it has been all season. Arizona begins a stretch of four home games in five outings that will realistically decide whether it factors into the playoff race in an injury-plagued season that will end in Seattle on Dec. 31.