A glance at five top storylines for the Cardinals-Seahawks game Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.:
Run. The. Ball.
It goes without saying, but we'll say it here anyway. The Cardinals must run the ball Sunday night to have a chance to win. Putting Ryan Lindley – or Drew Stanton or Logan Thomas or even Peyton Manning – back to pass play after play isn't a great way to topple the aggressive Seahawks defense. Now, saying you want to run and actually doing it are different things. The Cardinals, behind the emergence of Kerwynn Williams, ran for a season-high 141 yards two games ago and the topped that with 143 yards last week. You figure the Seahawks will stack the box and dare (Insert QB here) to throw. But the Cards have to find a way to make it work at least some of the time.
Contain Wilson at all costs
The Cardinals' defense did a very good job controlling running back Marshawn Lynch in the teams' first meeting. They sacked quarterback Russell Wilson seven times. Overall, it was a good defensive performance. But those seven sacks could have been 10 or 11, and it was a couple of the times when the slippery Wilson escaped that he killed the Cards. There is little question the Cardinals will have a good gameplan defensively, and there is also little question that if the Cardinals can control Lynch, the Seahawks' offense is not one to scare. But Wilson is a playmaker, and the Cards cannot let him get loose.
Don't be afraid to fling it
With Ryan Lindley at quarterback, the first instinct is to be conservative. To avoid chances of sack-fumbles or interceptions. Obviously, turnovers are crucial and the Cardinals can't give the game away. But to handcuff Lindley would be a mistake. It's not what the NFL is about these days, and it's never been what Bruce Arians is about. Lindley doesn't have sparkling passing stats in his career and the Seahawks make it very hard to throw against them. But you have to try, and you have to have some success with it. A chance at a win seems pretty tough otherwise.
Field position is your friend
The first time the Cardinals played the Seahawks, in Seattle, within the first eight Seahawks possessions, they started at the Arizona 49-yard line, the Seattle 39, the Seattle 44, the Arizona 48, the Arizona 48 and the Arizona 24. That's not a recipe for success if you are the Cards. There was an interception and a blocked punt and general offensive malaise that stopped the Cards from being able to flip the field. Points are important, but the Cardinals have to generate enough to at least make the Seahawks go the long way.
Images from the wins which have clinched playoff berths for the Cardinals in Arizona
Protect the nest
A big reason the optimism is high in the Cardinals' locker room going into Sunday's game is because of the chance to play at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cards are 7-0 there this season and they have created a home-field advantage. Playing at home certainly doesn't guarantee anything, but it's a better option than having to play this game in Seattle, especially under the QB circumstances. If there is a way for the Cards to find a win not many expect them to get, it would be in their own friendly confines.