What: NFC West tilt
When: Sunday, October 24th, 1 pm (PST)
Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona
Cardinals key players:
RB Emmitt Smith: The NFL's all-time leading rusher just continues to put up impressive numbers on an anemic offense. At 35 Smith has put up an impressive 4.2 yard average, running for 358 yards and four touchdowns. Even though he is a good receiver out of the backfield the team rarely uses him, but he is still a threat no matter how he is used. Smith is a leader on and off the field and he has been invaluable to head coach Dennis Green's effort to instill a winning attitude in this moribund franchise.
QB Josh McCown: The youngster from that quarterback factory of Sam Houston State (note the sarcasm) has gone through some tough times so far this season but he has shown the mental fortitude to come back from his mistakes. So far McCown has thrown for 927 yards, while completing over 60% of his passes, with three touchdowns and three interceptions. With his top-three wideouts being nicked-up or injured McCown has continued to grow in Green's offense and his experience early in the season should pay dividends in the second-half of the season.
WR Larry Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald hasn't been as explosive as many thought he would be coming out of Pittsburgh, but that hasn't been his fault. With a young QB going through growing-pains and last year's number one wideout, Anquan Boldin, still on the shelf recovering from a knee-injury, he hasn't had much help. Teams have double-teamed the rookie and he has struggled getting open. Still with all these troubles, Fitzgerald still has 22 receptions for 298 yards and one touchdown. Boldin should be ready soon and with his return Fitzgerald will have less attention sent his way and he should have more room to work his magic.
DE Bertrand Berry: Berry may prove to be the most astute free-agent signing this season. Berry, and the attention he draws, has allowed the other players along the defensive front to benefit from his presence. DE Calvin Pace may be the biggest beneficiary as he leads the team with four sacks and at least ten hurries. Berry is close behind with three sacks, but his contributions aren't that noticeable in the box score. His fire and attitude have been contagious and helped the team to improve their defensive statistics.
SS Adrian Wilson: Wilson's play, like Berry's up front, has been a spark for the deep patrol. He leads the team with 30 tackles and six passes defensed. He also has one interception and one forced fumble. Wilson plays big against the run and he is also solid in coverage.
Seahawks C Robbie Tobeck, RG Chris Gray and LG Steve Hutchinson vs. Cardinals DTs Darnell Dockett and Russell Davis: Dockett has been a very pleasant surprise so far in 2004. The rookie from Florida State is playing the same position he played in college and he has excelled at clogging running lanes up front. Davis uses his quick feet to cause matchup problems for interior lineman trying to block him. Tobeck, Gray and Hutchinson are in their third season together and they are playing well. RB Shaun Alexander must get the running game going so the Hawks can use play-action in their passing-game.
Seahawks FS Ken Hamlin and SS Terrell Bierria vs. McCown: Hamlin and Bierria are big-hitters but they have been fooled several times by play-action. McCown, if he has time, has a strong arm and he is very accurate for a young QB. Bierria has been exposed in coverage the last two weeks and Green likes to use the deep pass to get teams thinking.
LT Walter Jones vs. Berry: Jones has had a solid season so far and he is matching up against one of the better pass-rushers he has faced so far this season. Berry is a disruptor and if he can consistently pressure Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck it will cause problems in the Seahawks passing game.
Fitzgerald vs. Seahawks CBs Ken Lucas and Marcus Trufant: In 2003 the Seahawks surrendered several big plays to wideouts who were able to beat Lucas and Trufant deep. So far this season the two young corners have been solid, if not spectacular, in their coverage and against a playmaker like Fitzgerald they must continue this trend. Lucas especially has is much improved this season, locking down one side of the field with his athleticism and quickness.
News and Notes: The Seahawks and Cardinals have met only 10 times since 1976 with the Cardinals holding a 6-4 advantage in the series; The Seahawks have won the last three meetings; Arizona is trying to avoid starting 1-5 for the second straight season; After allowing a total of 13 points in their first three games, the Seahawks have surrendered 63 the last two weeks; This game will feature the league's all-time leading rusher (Smith) and the league's all-time leading receiver (42 year-old Jerry Rice); Green (receivers), Seattle Head Coach Mike Holmgren (quarterbacks), and Seattle defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes (defensive backs) were assistants together with the San Francisco 49ers during the 1986-1988 seasons.
OUT: WR Anquan Boldin (knee); CB Duane Starks (shoulder); RB Josh Scobey (knee)
PROBABLE: S Ken Hamlin (toe); LB Anthony Simmons (shoulder); P Tom Rouen (right hamstring); DT Cedric Woodard (toe)
OUT: LB Chad Brown (fibula)
Prediction: Seattle 31 – Arizona 17
.NET Reporter Scott
Eklund writes for Seahawks.NET every week. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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