The Breakdown: Cardinals @ Seahawks
"False Start" Field is brutal for opposing offenses and with the Cards and Hawks battling for first place in the division, this Sunday should be no different. The Redbirds' offense should benefit from the return of wide receivers Steve Breaston and Early Doucet as well as the steady improvement of rookie quarterback Max Hall. Hall showed flashes in his first career start against New Orleans, but struggled get to put points on the board. If Hall has time to throw, gets production from the running game and protects the ball, the Big Red should be OK on offense.
Standing in their way is a Hawks' defense surrendering just 70 rush yards and 19 points per game. Seattle is paced by safety Lawyer Milloy's 32 tackles and three sacks for the season and the pass rush skills of end Chris Clemons – who's accumulated 4.5 sacks. The young talents of linebacker Aaron Curry and safety Earl Thomas make this a fast, formidable defense to be taken seriously. The hostile conditions of Qwest Field will be a good test for Hall, but the attacking Seattle defense is where the real threat lies.
Cardinals Defense vs. Seahawks Offense
The Cards' defense has struggled on the road this season, surrendering a combined 82 points in two games. However, they came up big with two touchdowns and four turnovers against the Saints, picking up a struggling offense. Containing running backs Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett will be the key for Darnell Dockett and company as Pete Carroll's offense runs through the play of his offensive line. Dominique Rogers-Cromartie's play against resurgent wideout Mike Williams will be another matchup to watch, as well as how much time quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has to throw. Pressure from the likes of Alan Branch and Adrian Wilson will be crucial for the defense to continue improving.
Key Player: Max Hall
Hall had a few lucky breaks and was helped immensely by the play of his defense a week ago. Now Halls needs to demonstrate that he can lead the offense and put points on the board. Seattle's defense has shown vulnerability and getting two quality targets back in the receiving corps will help, but the undrafted rookie still needs to step-up and put a stranglehold on the starter spot. Hall's ability to read defenses and communicate in a deafening environment could be a glimpse of how the rest of the season goes.
Coming off their most complete win of the season, the Cardinals will be looking to make a statement on the road in Seattle. Arizona's offense finally gets going with a quarterback more tailored for the system and the personnel. Seattle has the talent on both sides of the ball to put up a fight, but some shortcomings on offense will set them back as the Redbirds take over sole possession of first place in the NFC West.
Cardinals 24, Seahawks 17
Follow Ryan Knowles on Twitter: @RyKno52
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