Are the Seattle Seahawks finally back to winning form?
Two NFC West powerhouses clash Sunday as the division-leading Arizona Cardinals travel to the home of the Twelfth Man to face Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks.
The 4-4 Seattle Seahawks stumbled out of the gate, but have won their last two games and are looking more like the team that narrowly lost to the New England Patriots in last season’s Super Bowl. And that could be scary for opponents.
The Seahawks' defense, which looked out of sorts at the start of the season without Kam Chancellor, is getting stronger. It has risen to 7th in the NFL in terms of Defense-adjusted Value Above Replacement (DVOA), which is an efficiency measure that accounts for how, when and against who yards and points are accumulated. In their last two wins, the Seahawks have allowed only 15 total points and have looked their dominant selves.
On offense, Seattle has been inconsistent as well, with quarterback Russell Wilson carrying the burden of creating offense with the running game struggling. The once No. 1 ranked rush attack (in terms of efficiency) last season, has started this season at 9th best. Injuries have been partly to blame, as Marshawn Lynch has battled his fair share thus far. His 3.6 yards per carry is significantly below his career average of 4.2, and he has only found the end zone two times. Twice in eight games! Thankfully, his replacement Thomas Rawls has been extremely effective, rushing for one less yard than Lynch on 34 fewer carries.
In Week 10, the Seahawks hope they can put it all together to take down the very formidable Arizona Cardinals. The 6-2 Cardinals are top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and could very easily be undefeated if not for some mental lapses.
The offense is led by a trio of veterans who are getting their second wind late in their career. Quarterback Carson Palmer is having his best season as a pro and warrants MVP consideration with his league best 84.8 QBR. The 35-year old has thrown for 20 touchdowns and 2,386 yards this season, second and fifth in the league respectively. Meanwhile, veterans Larry Fitzgerald and Chris Johnson are in 2009-form, top 10 in yards at their positions.
The Cardinals also feature the 3rd ranked defense which specializes at stopping the run. The unit allows only 90.1 yard per game and 3.8 yards per rush. They have a knack for getting into the backfield and blowing up plays, with four members of the defense in the top 20 in tackles for loss. The secondary takes chances and makes big plays; their 13 interceptions are tied for first in the league with opposing quarterbacks throwing interceptions on 4.44 percent of all pass plays.
The Cardinal defense is keen to show its importance in this game. Safety Tyrann Mathieu told reporters they will not let an opportunity to control the Division slip away. "We were kind of in this position last year. We had a two-game lead on them and we stunk up the joint," Mathieu told reports at the Union Tribune. "So we know how important this game is for us. We know what this game means, not just right now but later on in the season."
This game will likely hinge on Seattle’s ability to dictate the pace of the game with their run. If Arizona can contain Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson will have his hands full trying to deal with Patrick Peterson and the Arizona secondary.
But Seattle is bound to put it all together sometime soon, and it's likely to happen at home this Sunday night. Look for a hard-fought, low-scoring game that Seattle ultimately wins. The game starts at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time on NBC.