The Cardinals have a good chance to win in Seattle…if they play a near perfect game. Arizona is a good football team but playing a near perfect game on the road, even for a great team, is not common.
There will always be mistakes made in games because the principles competing are human beings. Players are going to throw interceptions, fumble the ball, jump offsides in a critical situation, get called for pass interference in the end zone, commit mental errors and physically breakdown when it matters most.
So what do the Cardinals have to do to win this game at Century Link Field? Let the perfection begin:
It starts with defense. The onus is on the defense to control the scoreboard. They are the strength of this team, and they need to play like it on Sunday, particularly in the first quarter. Todd Bowles' defense needs to blunt Marshawn Lynch, cover Golden Tate and Zach Miller, be good on first and second down and keep Russell Wilson in third & obvious pass situations. Oh, and generating two or more turnovers would be greatly appreciated.
If the defense can do all of this and more, they should be able to keep Seattle in the 20-24 point range.
Then and only then, provided the defense can mitigate the damage done by Seattle and keep them in the 20-24 point range, I could see the possibility of an upset...if the offense can protect Carson Palmer, run the football well enough to keep Palmer in a three-dimensional offense and not turn the ball over and score touchdowns when they get in the red zone instead of field goals. Doing all of these things well enough to be successful could conceivably yield 20-24 points. There are many things that need to be moved into place by the skill and talent of the Arizona Cardinals' football players in order for them to see this come to fruition.
Do they have the ability to do this? Yes. The problem is the Seattle Seahawks also have the ability to roll over Big Red. The Seahawks defense is goooooooooood. And this defense will be directly opposing the Cards, trying to keep them from doing their jobs.
You can run the ball against the Seahawks. Although they are fairly physical 4-3 front, they are relatively average at the point of attack. Much of this has to do with their edge players and the fact that Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are up the field pass rushers, who often rush first and ask questions later.
Having said this, I do not mean to make their front pedestrian. Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald have done a nice job inside, and the Seahawks are No. 10 in rush defense. That's an impressive ranking when you consider the abandon ship mentality that most offenses have taken in regard to throwing the football against the Seahawks. Teams try to run the ball, fearing the pass rush and ball hawking ways of Seattle's secomdary, but are not having great success in the box either.
How big is the task at hand for Carson Palmer and this offense?
Seattle's defense is:
No. 1 in Total Yards allowed
No. 1 in Yards/Play allowed
No. 1 in Pass Defense
No. 1 in Passing Yards/Play allowed
No. 1 in Interception Rate
No. 1 in Points Allowed
No. 2 in Red Zone Defense
No. 2 in Turnovers
No. 6 in Sacks/Attempt
This defense is a juggernaut, especially at Century Link Field.
So, in summation, the Cardinals could pull off an upset if Todd Bowles' defense marginalizes Marshawn Lynch, covers Golden Tate and Zach Miller, is good on first and second down, keeping Russell Wilson in third and bvious pass situations, and generates two or more turnovers while the offense protects Carson Palmer, runs the football well enough to keep Palmer protected, which in turn will help Palmer protect the football because the Cards are running the football well and protecting him will help...and...yeah...that run-on-sentence says it all.
The Arizona Cardinals are a good football team. They have exceeded every expectation I had for them this season. Steve Keim has done a phenomenal job in bringing talent into the organization, Bruce Arians is 18-8 as a head coach and has proven he is a winner and this team is headed in the right direction. But pulling the upset off in Seattle is a long shot for this developing team. Too many things need to come together.
Creating a perfect storm while in Seattle is not impossible but unlikely, leaving us all fidgety in Phoenix.