A glance at the top storylines for the Cardinals-Seahawks game Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.:
**The legend of David Johnson
He doesn't have a nickname yet – perhaps staying plain old David Johnson might be the best course of action – but don't worry, the Cardinals' running back has been getting plenty of props. He deserves it with eight touchdowns in six games and back-to-back 100-yard games that have spurred the Cards' modest two-game winning streak. But he's going against the third-best rush defense in the league. Yes, the Jets were No. 2 and the Cards piled up 171 yards on the ground, but the Seahawks come in confident and tested. They are also a different kind of front, with more speed on the edges. This will be the No. 1 matchup everyone will watch.
Palmer, rest and the Legion of Boom
QB Carson Palmer took what the Jets gave last week, and had a quietly effective game, not getting sacked or turning the ball over. He's benefitted from some rest. What will he do against the secondary of the Seahawks, still arguably the best in the NFL? We've already covered the idea the Cards would like to run it. But when the Cards knocked off the Seahawks in Seattle last season, Palmer was pretty good flinging the ball around the field. The passing game has not been nearly as explosive this season, but maybe – if the Seahawks stare down the Johnson effect – this is the week to find Palmer's range.
Remembering Bradley Sowell
Russell Wilson is a proven quarterback, able to dissect a defense with his passing or running. But the Seahawks don't run the ball as well as they once did, in part because of the retirement of Marshawn Lynch, and also because their offensive line still has some issues. This isn't new – Seattle has usually left their offensive line to spare parts as it builds up other parts of the roster – but it won't be considered a strength. Their left tackle, for instance, is former Cardinals reserve Bradley Sowell, who had his limitations when he started at left tackle in Arizona back in 2013 and must contend with either Chandler Jones or Markus Golden. In theory, the Cards should have a big advantage in the up front battle. They just can't let Wilson wiggle loose when he has the chance.
Breaking the Lockett on special teams
The special teams play of the Cards has been on the upswing. Aaron Brewer and Ryan Quigley have settled down the long snapping and punting. The return teams have improved, and the coverage teams have looked better. Now they deal with Tyler Lockett, the kind of return man who can crack a long one easily and turn a game. Lockett has become a good receiver too, but it is in special teams that the Cards can't let him loose.
Just whose house is it anyway?
Three times the Cardinals have hosted the Seahawks since Bruce Arians became coach. Three times, the Seahawks have easily won. It hasn't really even been that competitive. The Seahawks usually have a ton of fans in the building (a disappointing reality for the players) and the results have been ugly. The Cards are in a position to change that, given where they are as a team and what is at stake. The Seahawks insist they aren't looking backward, but it would be impossible not to carry confidence from the dominant winning streak. The Cardinals will say a lot about themselves with how this game plays out, win or lose.