Good morning. I’m headed over to University of Phoenix Stadium in a few hours. It’s expected to reach 100 degrees today here in the desert, with some isolated thunderstorms. But that won’t matter because the Seattle Seahawks will take on Arizona inside the dome, and they seldom open the retractable roof down here.
Here’s five keys for the Seahawks as they ready for their season opener against the Cardinals.
Create some explosive plays: One of the reasons rookie quarterback Russell Wilson won the starting job was his ability to create explosive plays with his arm and his feet. And that needs to be on display today. As a rookie, I think it will be hard for him to string together 11 and 12-play scoring drives. So it will be important to create some chunk plays to make it easier to get into the red zone.
Win the turnover battle: Wilson has to strike a balance between taking risks when he has an opportunity to make a big play, but also managing the game and limiting mistakes so he does not give Arizona’s limited offense easy chances to put points on the board. Defensively, the Seahawks need to ramp up the intensity and be the ball-hawking defense they were in the second half of last season.
Run to win: I expect Marshawn Lynch to play today. But whether it’s Lynch, Robert Turbin, Leon Washington or Kregg Lumpkin, the Seahawks need to establish a consistent running game in order to control the tempo of the contest, and take some pressure off of Wilson.
Limit penalties: One of the things that can make it difficult for team to win on the road is a lot of penalties that stall drives or help the other team get into scoring position. Limiting penalties was a point of emphasis for Seattle head coach Pete Carroll during the preseason, after the Seahawks finished with 138 last year, second-most in the NFL. So controlling those mistakes is important.
Have a plan for Fitzgerald and Skelton: Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald has 102 catches for 1,371 yards and 10 TDs in 16 games against the Hawks. Fitzgerald has five, 100-yard receiving performances against Seattle. So the Seahawks need to have a successful plan on how they will limit Fitzgerald’s touches, whether it’s bracket coverage or just being physical with him at the line of scrimmage. At 6-foot-6 and 244 pounds, Arizona quarterback John Skelton is surprisingly mobile and able to create plays with his feet. So it will be important for Chris Clemons, Jason Jones and Bruce Irvin to put consistent pressure on the passer, and when they have a chance to sack Skelton, get him on the ground.
Dave Boling of The New Tribune offers some indicators the Seahawks can provide against the Cardinals that shows they are ready to be a playoff contender.
Here’s my profile on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who has been visualizing his success as a NFL quarterback since he was a teenager.
Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times writes that Pete Carroll is operating without a net in his team preview for the upcoming season.
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com focuses on how Seattle will contain Fitzgerald.
ESPN’s Mike Sando asks if Russell Wilson can be the exception to the conventional wisdom of rookie quarterback struggling on the road in his Final Word heading into this weekend’s games for the NFC West.
Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com picks Seattle to win the NFC West at 10-6.
Doug Kretz of Scouts Inc. predicts a 21-20 win for Seattle. You must be an ESPN Insider to view this.
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports writes that Fitzgerald against Seattle’s big corners is one of his 10 matchups to watch in Week 1 of the NFL season.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com quotes a source with knowledge of the situation who says Marshawn Lynch will play today despite back spasms.
Sam Rosen and Heath Evans of Fox Sports, who are doing the game this afternoon, preview the Seahawks-Cardinals contest in the video below.