Seahawks-Cardinals: Three Key Matchups

The Arizona Cardinals will stroll into CenturyLink confident in their NFL-best 9-1 record and the fact that on paper they match up very well with the Seahawks. For the Seahawks to get back into the chase for NFC West supremacy, they'll have to win these matchups, which include applying pressure on Drew Stanton and limiting rookie John Brown's ability to stretch the field.

As much as any other professional sport, the NFL is a team game. No one player can be successful without the assistance of others. That said, individual matchups can and do determine winners and losers on a weekly basis. Scout.com brought in greater Seattle resident and NFL scout Rob Rang to help determine the individual matchups that will determine whether the Seahawks will win or lose this week.

Here are his thoughts on the three critical one-on-one matchups for this week's game.

Cardinals OG Ted Larsen, C Lyle Sendlein vs Seahawks DT Michael Bennett

When head coach Bruce Arians announced that the Cardinals could win the Super Bowl with Drew Stanton at quarterback, some brushed it off as coach-speak given the season-ending loss to Carson Palmer. After all, if the Cardinals felt so strongly about Stanton, why had they just rewarded Palmer with a new deal? And if Stanton was so good why hadn't he started a game since 2010?

In reality, Stanton has fared well in Arians' offense, guiding the Cardinals to wins against Detroit following Palmer's ACL tear and against San Francisco when the former No. 1 overall pick initially missed time due to a nerve issue.

Further, Stanton isn't your typical backup quarterback. He was a highly regarded prospect out of Michigan State and knows Arians' offense probably as well as Palmer does, having followed the coach from Indianapolis to Arizona two years ago.

One area in which Stanton is vulnerable, however, is pressure up the middle. While reasonably athletic, the 6-3, 243 pound does not have the speed to escape Seattle's athletic pass rush. The weakness in Arizona's offensive line hasn't also been up the middle with Larsen, the club's left guard, ranking worst on the club in pass protection, according to Pro Football Focus' staff. Expect the Seahawks to attempt to pressure Stanton with Bennett, stunts and occasional linebacker blitzes up the middle. That could take away the deep passing attack that Arians prefers.

Cardinals' WR John Brown vs. Seahawks' CB Jeremy Lane

The Seahawks must get pressure on Stanton because if he has time, he'll look to Brown, the Cardinals' dynamic rookie deep threat.

For years, any conversation about the Cardinals' receiving corps has essentially started and ended with All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald. Never a true speed threat, age has slowed Fitzgerald even more to the point where he is now at his best as a short and intermediate security blanket. He's still deadly in this role but Michael Floyd is steadily assuming the lead role and Brown has emerged as Arians' Arizona-version of T.Y. Hilton (or Antonio Brown) - a speedster with the agility to make defenders miss, as well as the vision and body control to track passes over his shoulder. Brown enters Sunday's showdown with 34 receptions for 468 yards and five touchdowns, which leads the club.

The Seahawks have struggled with quicker, slighter receivers like Brown in the past. Hilton, Odell Beckham, Jr (New York) and Emmanuel Sanders (Denver) are among the slippery speedsters who have wreaked havoc on the Legion of Boom.

Aggressive, fluid and fast, Lane is Seattle's best nickel corner and the man likely responsible for slowing Brown. If he can handle the assignment, All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas can worry about keeping Arizona's other weapons in front of him. If not, Thomas will be forced to play deeper, opening up holes in the intermediate zones for Fitzgerald and Floyd to methodically exploit.

Seahawks C Patrick Lewis, Lemuel Jeanpierre vs. Cardinals NG Dan Williams

The loss of Max Unger last week had a devastating impact on Seattle's offense. With him, the Seahawks were gashing the Chiefs in the running game. Without him, the club struggled to generate any movement at the point of attack. It wasn't just the drop-off in physical talent between Unger and Lewis, it was the ability to communicate line calls to the rest of the blockers attempting to slow a fierce Kansas City pass rush enhanced by a passionate crowd at Arrowhead.

The Cardinals lack the Chiefs' dynamic pass rushing ability but they are stout up front. Williams, 6-2 327 pounds, isn't a dynamic athlete like Kansas City's Dontari Poe, but he is an effective run-plugger in the middle.

The Cardinals are built a lot like the Seahawks. Their secondary of Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie, Tyrann Mathieu and former Washington State superstar (and first round pick) Deone Bucannon boasts every bit the ball-hawking talent as the Legion of Boom. That fact - when combined with Seattle's struggles passing the ball - makes it all the more critical that the Seahawks run the ball effectively against Arizona.

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