What better way is there to get a feel for the Cardinals' next opponent than by chatting with someone who knows the team? Brady Henderson of MyNorthWest.com and 710AM Seattle was nice enough to take some time out of his day to talk about the Seahawks. Click here to see my side of the conversation.
Green: Brady, thanks for taking the time to chat in the midst of what is a very busy (and perhaps a little crazy?) Mariners offseason. I guess with no NBA or NHL teams you may have some time to kill? OK, sorry. I joke because I know the Cardinals have quite a challenge ahead of them this Sunday. The last time these teams played in Seattle, the score was 58-0 Seahawks and it wasn't even that close. Do you think that game will have any impact on what happens this time around?
Henderson: Well played, Adam. That was cold-blooded, like a Darnell Dockett elbow to the throat. I don't think that game will have much bearing on this one. It was a long time ago, and the Seahawks know this isn't the same Cardinals team they played last December -- not even the same one they played back in Week 7. "There's no chance" of the Seahawks overlooking Arizona, coach Pete Carroll said this morning. And while that's something you'd expect a coach to say, it doesn't sound hollow when you hear players talking about treating each week like the Super Bowl. The Seahawks have been the frontrunners for most of this season, and I don't think there's been a game in which you could say they took the opposing team lightly.
Green: In Week 1 of the 2012 season, the Cardinals beat Russell Wilson in his first game as a starter. He's obviously improved quite a bit since then, and seems to have gone from serviceable/good to elite this season. With a seeming lack of premier pass catching options, what's the difference in his game?
Henderson Careful what you say about Seattle's wide receivers or Doug Baldwin will unleash a profanity-laced tirade on you. He did it recently in response to a national writer's column about Seattle's receiver corps potentially being the team's downfall, and I think Baldwin had a point given how well that group (along with the tight ends) has played this season even though some of the stats don't jump out. Wilson makes those guys better, no doubt. He's certainly come a long way since that 2012 opener, when a case could be made that he was hamstrung by a conservative game-plan. He improved throughout that season as the reins were loosened, then he became really dangerous -- and at times unstoppable -- when the Seahawks began incorporating the read-option in their offense. Make no mistake: he's a phenomenal pocket passer -- especially off of play-action -- but this season the Seahawks have been intent on taking advantage of his scrambling ability when the opportunities arise. He has a 105 passer rating and has shown Houdini-esque escapability, so you can imagine how difficult he can be to defend.
Green: The difference in the Cardinals since they last played the Seahawks is clearly an offense that has become more efficient and less turnover prone. Carson Palmer looks reborn and Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Rob Housler have benefited. However, the Seahawks boast what is arguably the game's best defense. How do you see that playing out?
Henderson: Three weeks ago, the news that Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond were each facing suspensions seemed like a potential disaster for a defense that was about to lose its second and third cornerback right before hosting the Saints and their second-ranked passing offense. It wasn't exactly a soft landing for young backups Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane, but the Seahawks had their way with New Orleans, holding Drew Brees to his fewest yards passing since the final week of the 2010 regular season. Maxwell has three interceptions over the last two games while playing opposite Richard Sherman on the outside, and Lane has continued to play well in Seattle's nickel packages. With all due respect to Palmer, Fitzgerald and co., Seattle's defense has faced tougher challenges over the last month and passed with ease.
Green: Alright then, how about a prediction.
Henderson I don't see this game at all resembling the blowout from last December, especially with Seattle struggling to run the ball of late and the Cardinals being so stout against the run. All that pressure Arizona is sure to bring is another potential concern for the Seahawks given their issues in pass protection. But the one matchup that sticks out most is Seattle's pass rush against Arizona's offensive line. The Seahawks sacked Palmer seven times back in Week 7, and now he's dealing with an ankle injury that figures to affect his already-limited mobility. Seattle's pass rush always has an edge at CenturyLink Field, where it's not going to be any quieter this week with the NFC's No. 1 seed on line. Seahawks 24, Cardinals 14.