A glance at the top storylines for the Cardinals-Seahawks game Sunday at CenturyLink Field in Seattle:
When the Cardinals last left the Seahawks, Marshawn Lynch was pounding his way down the field for an epic touchdown run on which the Cards couldn't tackle him. It's not the first time a team has had trouble tackling Lynch, but that's where beating the Seahawks begins and ends – the ability to make sure Lynch doesn't go off on the ground. The Seahawks' offense isn't that scary, unless Lynch starts to dominate.
Contain Wilson's wayward ways
Russell Wilson can be sacked. He can be sacked a lot. Some of that is his offensive line issues, some of that is his insistence to hold the ball looking for big plays. It's one thing to get him off his spot, it's another to then leave him running lanes with which to kill you with his legs. Wilson's ability to gain big yardage running usually translates directly to the Seahawks' ability to win. The Cardinals have seen it plenty. Now they have to make sure they do something about it.
Balance on offense
When the Cardinals won in Seattle in 2013 despite four turnovers, it was in part because of a conservative game plan. The Cards ran the ball often, and while they did not dominate on the ground, it kept the Seahawks' defense off-balance, chewed clock and prevented a nasty Seattle pass rush from causing havoc. The Cards have a better passing offense now and definitely a better run game. If they can make headway on the ground and stick with it, it will change the dynamic on that side of the ball.
A quick start, less of a crowd
It is not easy to play in Seattle. The crowd is impossible to ignore. But again, one of the reasons it's tough to play in Seattle is because the Seahawks are good – not necessarily the crowd. The crowd didn't help back in 2002, when the Cardinals opened the stadium for the first time in the regular season with a win. It didn't help in 2009, when Kurt Warner piloted a 27-3 win there. The crowd is in play because they are rooting for a good team. If the Cards can make their move early and not let the crowd become a 12th man, they will be ahead of the curve.
A chance to control the NFC West
The math is pretty simple. If the Cardinals win, the Seahawks will be 4-5, will have lost yet again to an above-.500 team, and will be three games behind the Cards with seven to play and the one remaining matchup at University of Phoenix Stadium. If the Seahawks win, the Cards will only be a game ahead in the standings, the Seahawks will again be comfortable in believing they will have a second-half rally to the division, and the second half of the season starts poorly. So much rides on the outcome – for both teams.