These teams have strong defenses.
In a division won by the 49ers last year because of defense, this should come as no surprise.
Teams often wind up mimicking their divisional rivals (the Ravens are built around defense, power running, and a developing quarterback with a big arm and big body, just like the Steelers), and the NFC West is no exception.
Both teams have considerable continuity on defense, so last year's stats should still prove helpful.
Last year, the Seahawks ranked ninth with 332.2 yards allowed per game, and were part of a four-way tie for sixth with only 5.1 yards allowed per play.
The Cardinals were worse in yards allowed per game (18th with 355.1 per) because their defense faced the most plays from scrimmage in the league, but were alone in 10th with only 5.2 yards allowed per play.
However, each team has a weakness. Both of these teams were tied for 10th, along with the 49ers, in yards allowed per passing attempt (at 6.9 yards per). For the Seahawks, this ranking is actually lower than their rushing average allowed (fourth with 3.8 yards per carry).
The Cardinals need to key on the pass. It helps that Larry Fitzgerald is on the field.
Prediction No. 1: John Skelton will throw at least 35 times for at least 300 yards and two TDs, and Fitzgerald will get 100 yards and a TD while opening the field for other receivers.
If the Cardinals are focusing on passing the ball, Skelton will have his fair share of opportunities. Projecting him as a stud this week may be a stretch, but it's a very real possibility for anyone throwing the ball to Fitzgerald.
As for the Cardinals, their pass defense is actually stronger than their run defense (14th, allowed 4.2 yards per carry). The Seahawks are a team built to run, with two stout backs, but they have a weak offensive line, which is why...
Prediction No. 2: Robert Turbin will get 20 carries while starting for Marshawn Lynch (back spasms), but only 60 yards, while Russell Wilson will run for 75 yards.
The fact that Marshawn Lynch was able to average 4.2 yards a carry last year is a testament to his talent. He is well worth the first round pick the Bills spent on him, and has turned out to be a steal for the Seahawks at the cost of a couple of mid-round picks.
Robert Turbin is a big, bruising back, but he does not have the talent or the experience that Lynch has. He is not ready to disguise poor line play the way Lynch did last year (or the way DeMarco Murray did in the season opener).
Without a solid Seahawks run game, the Cardinals should be sending lots of pass blitzes at Russell Wilson, who is very mobile and should be able to break quite a few big gains out of broken plays.
There is one hidden gem in this game though. The Cardinals have not had a true stud running back in a very long time, but they have one sitting on the bench.
Bold Prediction No. 3: Ryan Williams will be the only 100-yard rusher in the game.
Williams has an elite blend of speed and power. His rookie season was turned into a redshirt freshman year by a torn patella tendon in last year's preseason, but he should now be fully recovered and ready to take over from veteran Chris "Beanie" Wells, whose creaky knees and disappointing runs do not match up to the explosiveness of Williams
The Cardinals' offense will perform admirably against a defense that will be in the top 10 at the season's end. With the home crowd at their backs, they will take this game from the Seahawks in what I call an upset with a score of 24-14, and take the first step to returning to the playoffs.
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