1. QB Kurt Warner
Warner’s 106.4 passer rating leads the NFL. His success is one of the main reasons the Arizona Cardinals are the league’s second best passing offense. That could spell trouble for a Seattle defense that ranks 31 out of 32 teams when it comes to stopping the pass. Warner should continue to have success this week in Seattle, although expect the Cardinals to try and reestablish the run, much like they did against the Rams. Still 300 yards and three touchdowns isn’t unreasonable.
2. RB Tim Hightower
After a sensational 100 yard rushing effort in his first career start two weeks ago against the Rams, Hightower just never got it going last week against the 49ers. He received the bulk of the workload, carrying the ball 13 times for 22 yards. 1.7 yards per rush wasn’t what Cardinals Nation was expecting Monday night. Hightower did however continue to be effect in the passing game. He pulled in six catches for 28 yards. Expect the Cardinals to give Hightower at least 20 carries to rebuild his confidence after a down week.
Decimated with injuries, the Cardinal’s top tight ends are finally healthy. Week 11 will be the first week, starters Leonard Pope and Ben Patrick have been on the field together since week five. In weeks eight and nine when both were out, third string tight end Jerame Tuman and mid season pick up Stephen Spach carried the load. All four are getting reps in practice and may see time in this Sunday’s game. Whoever has the big game Sunday should see more play time going forward. The way the Cardinals are throwing the ball, expect that guy to be Patrick.
4. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Starting Cornerbacks Eric Green and Roderick Hood are both in danger of sitting out Sunday. Green missed practice Thursday and Hood was limited. With Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck returning to the Seahawk’s line-up after missing the last five weeks, Rodgers-Cromartie will face the tall task of shutting down what should be a re-energized Seattle passing attack. Over the course of the year, Rodgers-Cromartie has put himself in a position to over take Green’s starting job. Sunday can be considered his official tryout.
5. Special Teams
Punter Dirk Johnson averaged just 35.2 yards per punt on five attempts last week against the 49ers. His average of 42.6 yards a game currently ranks twenty fifth in the NFL. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt made it clear earlier in the week that Johnson needs to improve. 35 yards is his worst per punt average of the year and the third time he has failed to average 40 yards a punt this season. Johnson should bounce back. He averages 43.4 yards a punt in weeks after failing to reach an average of 40 yards.
The Cardinals will be favored but kick coverage is going to have to improve if they expect to continue their winning ways. A big kick return this week could energize a struggling team, a lot like last week’s opening kickoff did for the 49ers. Big plays give bad teams a chance.