The Breakdown: Cardinals vs. Seahawks

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An in-depth preview of the Cardinals' crucial division matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 11/14/10
SURFACE: Natural Grass
TV: FOX, Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Nischelle Turner
PREDICTION: Seahawks 28-23

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Seahawks have been outscored 74-10 in losing two games since their Week 7 victory over Arizona at home. QB Matt Hasselbeck returns from a concussion, but he was sacked five times in the first meeting and the injury-riddled offensive line remains a serious concern. Arizona has a more dangerous vertical passing game with QB Derek Anderson taking over from rookie Max Hall. He's erratic, but Anderson's ability to stretch the field could limit the Seahawks' aggressiveness after SS Lawyer Milloy camped along the line of scrimmage in the first meeting. With RB Beanie Wells still bothered by a knee injury, Tim Hightower will likely lead the effort on the ground.

FAST FACTS: Seahawks WR Mike Williams had a career-high 11 catches in the last meeting. ... The Cardinals have allowed 28 sacks, two more than all of last season.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Seahawks

Matt Hasselbeck knows the road to an NFC West division title likely goes through Arizona.

The Cardinals have won the division the past two years, including a Super Bowl appearance two years ago, taking the throne as the top team in the division, something that the Seahawks had held onto for four seasons before that.

Hasselbeck talked about Arizona's recent run of success, which includes the Cardinals beating Seattle four straight times down in the desert. The Seahawks recently broke a streak of four straight losses to Arizona by beating the Cardinals at Qwest Field.

"They've done a nice job the last few times we've played them down there," Hasselbeck said. "I think I even mentioned after the game I saw (Arizona) Coach (Ken) Whisenhunt after the game at the 50-yard line or whatever, and I think I said, 'Congratulations.' It's just like a programmed response, like I'm used to saying that to him. It was just an accident. I don't know what I was saying.

"He was kind about it, but I felt stupid. They've done a nice job. And the year they beat us I think for the first time it was a big deal to them. We kind of gave the game away at the end, and they took advantage and kicked the field goal. And they had a lot of success after that. They won the division two years in a row, they went to the Super Bowl -- all that stuff. And so it was hurdle for them, and they took advantage of it."

That said, with everyone bunched together in the NFC West right now, Hasselbeck feels like the division is there for the taking for whoever steps up in the second half of the season.

"We feel like right now there is no clear cut leader in the division, and we can affect that," he said. "We have an opportunity to take it back. And I'm sure everybody in our division feels like they're in the hunt. And so it's just one of those things where it's a championship game in a way for us."

Hasselbeck also talked to reporters on Thursday about some of the tests he had to pass in order to be cleared after missing last week's game with lingering concussion symptoms.

"Not only do you have to be cleared by your own team doctor, you've got to see an independent doctor, so that was one big thing," Hasselbeck said. "There were some fitness test-type things. There were some neuro-psychic exams -- stuff like that, that probably would be hard on a regular day. So it was harder on Monday."

One area Seattle needs to get better at offensively is creating better chemistry in the offensive line up front. The Seahawks have used eight different offensive line combinations so far this season. Hasselbeck said there's been so much juggling up front the past two seasons because of injuries that it's almost become the norm, and the team is used to it.

"I think that's just become normal for us," Hasselbeck said. "So it's like we don't really talk about it. It's just almost expected. We've just had the injury bug there a little bit, and that's just normal. It seems like it's been different every week. We practice that way. Everybody plays every position. It very different from the years where we knew who the five were (going to be), every single play, every single practice -- it's not that. We're mixing and maxing and just doing what we can."

Cardinals

Running back Beanie Wells missed the two most significant practice days for the second consecutive week, so it will be a surprise if he's a factor in Sunday's game against the Seahawks.

Wells is still experiencing swelling in his right knee, which coach Ken Whisenhunt said is the result of an adverse reaction to an injection of a lubricating substance.

Last week, Wells missed Wednesday and Thursday practices and had only one carry in the loss to the Vikings.

Wells missed practice on those days this week, too, so it's reasonable to think he won't have much of a role on Sunday.

In his second year, Wells needs all the practice time he can get in order to be the starter. He assumed that role two weeks ago and is still listed as the starting running back.

Tim Hightower, however, started against the Vikings and had 13 of the team's 21 carries.

Whisenhunt said he is hopeful that Wells can practice on Friday and be available for Sunday's game. But Whisenhunt's track record is that he doesn't count much upon younger players who miss significant practice time.

PERSONNEL NEWS

Seahawks

--Offensive tackle Russell Okung did not practice on Thursday after being a limited participant in practice on Wednesday, and is questionable for Sunday's game. Okung has missed the past two weeks with a high ankle sprain.

--Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (calf) was a full participant in practice for a second straight day and looks on target to play on Sunday.

--Safety Earl Thomas missed practice on Thursday, but it was non-injury related.

--Defensive end Colin Cole did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday and will miss his second straight game with a high ankle sprain.

--Offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus (knee) fully participated in practice for a second straight day and will likely be Seattle's starting left tackle if Russell Okung can't go.

--Fullback Michael Robinson (hamstring) missed his second straight practice this week and it appears he will miss his third straight game. The Seahawks have been going with John Carlson at fullback.

Cardinals

--QB Derek Anderson is coming off his most efficient game of the season. He passed for 179 yards against the Vikings with one touchdown and was not intercepted.

--QB Max Hall likely won't start again this season unless there is an injury to Derek Anderson.

--RB Tim Hightower could start for the second consecutive week. Beanie Wells missed practice time again this week with knee swelling.

--RB Beanie Wells missed practice Wednesday and Thursday again this week and it's unlikely he will make much of a contribution on Sunday. Wells is experiencing swelling in his right knee.

--RB LaRod Stephens-Howling has returned two kicks for touchdowns this year and also scored on a 30-yard run.

--RB Jason Wright will play a limited role on offense, but the club will use him on screens and draws.

--WR Steve Breaston continues to make big plays. The Cardinals have six passes of at least 30 yards this season and Breaston has three of them.

--WR Early Doucet is back in the No. 3 role but hasn't been able to produce much yet. That's mostly the fault of the Cardinals' quarterbacks for not managing the offense efficiently.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald is starting to post the numbers expected of him. Derek Anderson is doing a better job of getting the ball to Fitzgerald, who has 13 receptions in the past two weeks.

--TE Ben Patrick isn't a big part of the passing game. With Breaston, Fitzgerald and Doucet healthy, the Cardinals won't use the tight end much.

--TE Stephen Spach is mainly a blocker and will rarely be a target in the passing game.

--K Jay Feely has a strong leg and his only miss this season in nine attempts was from 54 yards.

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