Seahawks-Cardinals: Three Key Matchups

With the division title and possibly the conference's top seed on the line, the Seahawks travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals, who are undefeated at University of Phoenix Stadium. To beat the Cardinals, the Seahawks will have to contain Calais Campbell, who recorded three sacks in the Seahawks 19-3 victory over Arizona in Week 12.

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.


Seahawks LT Russell Okung/Alvin Bailey vs. Cardinals DE Calais Campbell

The ever-optimistic Pete Carroll has held out hope that Okung might be able to play after suffering a bruised lung in the victory over San Francisco last week but it doesn't look likely. That's a frightening thought considering that Campbell recorded three sacks (and three pressures) in Seattle's Week 12 win over the Cardinals in Seattle.

If there is a silver lining to this matchup for the Seahawks it is that the 6-3, 320 pound Bailey is every bit as physical as Okung. While not as long or balanced in pass protection, he's powerful and aggressive, characteristics necessary for dealing with Campbell, who at 6-8, 300 pounds may just be the league's most physically imposing defender. The fact that left guard James Carpenter will be playing next to Bailey is significant as well. According to Pro Football Focus, Carpenter hasn't allowed a sack all year long. He was unable to play against the Cardinals in Week 12. Given Arizona's 3-4 alignment and the fact that defensive coordinator Todd Bowles frequently sends extra defenders on the blitz, Carpenter could be the one asked to slow down Campbell while Bailey takes on the speedier edge rushers.

Cardinals' WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Seahawks CB Richard Sherman

The pre-game buzz will center on Arizona's third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley but in reality, Seattle's approach to this contest likely wouldn't change much if Drew Stanton was the one starting. Like Stanton, Lindley possesses plenty of arm strength to make every throw. Each, however, struggle with accuracy once they are forced to move their feet.

Therefore, the most significant change in this contest from the one played a month ago isn't the absence of Stanton, it is the return of Fitzgerald. As he's been throughout his brilliant career, Fitzgerald remains one of the league's most reliable pass-catchers. He's a terrific route-runner with incredibly strong hands to pluck the football out of the air. Given the sporadic accuracy Lindley is likely to have Sunday night, Fitzgerald is the receiver that Seattle must contain.

Expect the Cardinals to attempt a few deep shots to rookie John Brown and Michael Floyd. As such, Earl Thomas' ability to cover sideline to sideline will be tested. By doing so, Arizona head coach Bruce Arians will be attempting to open up gaps in the intermediate zones where Fitzgerald is at his most dangerous.

The Seahawks rarely ask Sherman to follow receivers. They may in this contest, however. In a game as close as this one is likely to be, taking away Lindley's most dependable weapon could be the key to victory. Sherman has intercepted six passes against the Cardinals over his career.

Seahawks TEs Cooper Helfet, Luke Willson vs. Cardinals DBs Tyrann Mathieu, Deone Bucannon

The Legion of Boom might be the NFL's best secondary but with the highly athletic Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie at cornerback and versatile safeties Rashad Johnson, Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Bucannon, the Cardinals boast every bit the playmaking ability in their deep patrol.

Comparing Sherman and Peterson was a popular off-season activity for many. Sherman's incredible length, awareness and ball-skills make him the league's most formidable cornerback. Peterson isn't nearly as technically sound, often extending his arms to latch onto receivers and frequently drawing penalties this year. However, he is a dynamic athlete and a threat to score each time the ball is in his hands. Cromartie has excelled this year opposite Peterson and is also terrific on the return.

Given Arizona's length and playmaking ability on the perimeter, the Seahawks would be wise to turn to their tight ends - just as they did in Week 12 when Tony Moeaki led the team with four receptions and Helfet scored the game's only touchdown.

With Moeaki sidelined, Helfet possesses the most reliable hands of Seattle's tight ends. Willson's unique blend of size, agility and speed could make him very effective in gaining separation against Arizona's hyper-aggressive safeties. Mathieu is a natural playmaker but at 5-09, 186 pounds, he's vulnerable to bigger pass-catchers. Bucannon is playing more linebacker than a traditional safety role for the Cardinals. He has great speed and is also a proven ball-hawk but his long legs leave him vulnerable to double-moves.

Given Arizona's aggressive pass rush, Seattle is likely to dump off plenty of passes to Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin and the tight ends. The Seahawks may be able to lull Arizona to sleep with these "safe" plays and then attack over the top.

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