The three biggest things to watch for Sunday when the Cardinals play the Seahawks at State Farm Stadium:
Cardinals Must Come Off Defensive
The first two weeks, Vance Joseph's defense was … fine. It wasn't lockdown, and neither week did it start particularly well. But in both games it came around, slowed the opposition to the point where the Cardinals had the ball with a chance to win the game. Last week, against the Panthers, not so much. They were run over between the tackles, and shredded by a backup QB. A bad day. The question is, how does the defense respond? Russell Wilson is playing as well as he ever has, even as he tries to work with some new receivers. Top running back Chris Carson has had fumble issues, but the Seahawks have been able to score. Will Dissly is a solid tight end, but probably not at the same level as the three tight ends that have feasted against the Cardinals. Can the Cards find a way to stop him? No matter how the Cards have played in the recent past, they always have seemed to up their game against the Seahawks (including both matchups last season.) Defensively, they need find that motivation again.
Kyler May Just Be DangeRuss
Before Kyler there was Russell, and even if the Cardinals rookie hasn't earned the right to be considered a carbon copy of the Seahawks' signal-caller, the similarities are undeniable. Certainly, the Cardinals would take a career for Murray that echoes Wilson's. Wilson is playing the best football of his career – and that's saying something – as he has grown since his 2012 debut at State Farm Stadium (coincidentally, the last time the Cardinals beat the Seahawks in Arizona.) The Cards know what they are dealing with in Wilson. Do the Seahawks know what they are yet dealing with in Murray? Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has acknowledged he has talked to college teams about dealing with Murray and Kliff Kingsbury's offense (he played coy when asked if he had talked to the University of Washington, which has shut down an otherwise explosive Mike Leach Air Raid at Washington State.) Murray has much to learn. But the Cards hope this – like Wilson's 2012 start portended for the Seahawks, a close Cardinals win – is only just the beginning of the Seahawks having to worry twice a year about Murray.
Where is the rivalry going?
In the Bruce Arians era, the games between the Seahawks and Cardinals were hard-hitting affairs and there is little question the winning team took great pleasure in coming away with a victory. Even last season, with Steve Wilks as coach and with the Cardinals struggling mightily, the Cardinals lost by only a field goal both games, including a year-ender in Seattle in which it felt like the Seahawks would have a giant advantage. The Cards have gone through another significant change at coach and quarterback, and are trying to rebuild. How might that impact the era of hard feelings? There are still players left on both sides that remember the battles. Maybe the Russell Wilson-Kyler Murray comparisons can generate a vibe.