Seahawks fans are split, as we enter midweek, about just how confident they feel about this NFC West Championship matchup in Glendale. There are those who look at the quarterback situation for Arizona and can only imagine a sure victory. And there are those who fear the home underdog rising up to bite the Seahawks. History shows both sides have good reason to feel the way they do.
Ryan Lindley is really bad
You have read by now that Bruce Arians has named Ryan Lindley the starter for this game. He is not Carson Palmer. He is not Drew Stanton. Stanton played in the first game against Seattle this year and managed 149 yards, which is the highest total for an opposing quarterback against the Seahawks in the last five weeks. Many of those yards came on miraculous catches by rookie receiver John Brown. Still, had fellow receiver Jeron Brown made an easy touchdown catch to end the first half, Stanton would have had an acceptable day in hostile CenturyLink Field.
There is no evidence to suggest Lindley is capable of an acceptable individual performance. Lindley has started four games in his career, none since 2012, and has yet to break a 60.0 passer rating in any of them. In fact, the highest passer rating he has notched in his eight games is 58.4. That is awful.
Lindley has never thrown a touchdown pass
He has completed less than half his passes in four of his seven games. He has attempted 17+ passes and finished with less than 100 yards passing three times. He has played in seven games, including this last one in St. Louis, and the team is 2-5 in those games, 1-3 when he starts. One positive would be that he has had only one game where he threw multiple interceptions (4 vs St. Louis in 2012), but he has thrown at least one interception in each of his four starts. His only playing time versus Seattle came in a 58-0 loss in 2012.
Nobody is going to argue this guy is a legitimate NFL quarterback.
His weapons are good
Lindley will have a few different weapons to work with than Stanton did in Seattle. Larry Fitzgerald will be back, but equally important is a surging Cardinals run attack. Andre Ellington, their starting running back, was lost for the season since they last faced the Seahawks. Ellington was ineffective running the ball in Seattle (10 car 24 yards), but was their leading receiver (5 rec 39 yards).
Arizona elevated Kerwynn Williams from the practice squad, and he has put up 175 yards on the ground in two games. Stepfan Taylor added 61 yards in his last game as well. The Cardinals are committed to the running game in a way that will be very similar to the Seahawks game plan.
Lindley led three drives against the Rams, but his only scoring drive came in a series when they ran the ball five times, including four straight, and passed just three times for one completion. Williams has not proven he is a threat as a receiver yet, but you can expect other high percentage throws to be mixed in like wide receiver screens to John Brown.
Fitzgerald is doing everything a receiver can to lift the offense. He is making tough catches and fighting for every yard. His production against Seattle has been muted the past two years, but Lindley will definitely be looking his direction.
Arizona beat Seattle with a bad quarterback before
Russell Wilson started his NFL career in Glendale. So did J.R. Sweezy, Bruce Irvin, Robert Turbin and Bobby Wagner. It was a rugged game that Seattle appeared to take control of in the second half before they knocked Arizona starter John Skelton out of the game.
Skelton had been mostly ineffective in totalling 149 yards passing with no touchdowns and one interception. Kevin Kolb entered the game and promptly led what turned out to be a game-winning touchdown drive. That would be the same Kevin Kolb who no longer plays in the NFL. Skelton is out of the league as well.
Arizona won that day by playing phenomenal defense and getting just enough from their offense. They had only 43 yards rushing in that game. It is hard to see them winning this weekend if rushing yards are that hard to come by.
Darnell Dockett abused Sweezy that day, and Wilson missed a number of open receivers. The teams combined for 23 penalties for nearly 200 yards. Both teams had two turnovers.
It was an ugly game. Arizona needs their defense to dominate the Seattle offensive line Sunday the way they did that day to put them in position to win this game. They totalled seven sacks against the Seahawks in Seattle, but were playing against a line that included Patrick Lewis at center. Losing Russell Okung will force Seattle to adjust their protections and possibly get Wilson out of the pocket more.
Points will be hard to come by
The Cardinals defense is the best the Seahawks have faced this year. They are hogs up the middle and speed in the secondary. They are built to stop the run, and Seattle needs to run to score. The Seahawks put up 124 yards rushing in the first matchup, but 73 of those came from Wilson.
Marshawn Lynch had just 39 yards on 15 carries. It was his least productive game of the season. He had fewer yards (36) versus San Diego, but got those on just six carries. Where Seattle found success was spreading the ball to various receivers, including Lynch.
Nine different receivers caught passes against the Cardinals in the first game
Six different players had explosive plays through the air. The tight ends combined for seven receptions and a touchdown. The health of Tony Moeaki will be important to monitor. He led the team in receptions in that game.
Wilson was the key to the offense that day, and finished an efficient 17/22 passing and 9.6 yards per attempt. But it was his escapability and creativity on the run that truly hurt the Cardinals. They will do everything they can to contain him in the pocket this time around. If Wilson has a good game, there is little chance Arizona can win.