‘Thursday Night Football’ time, schedule, picks: Your need to know for Seahawks-Cardinals
Since Russell Wilson arrived in Seattle before the 2012 season, the Seahawks have either finished first or second in the NFC West and always qualified for the playoffs — including a Super Bowl win in February 2014. And while quarterback wins are mocked as an indicator for success, it’s at least instructive to note that Wilson is 61-26-1 in the regular season and 8-4 in the postseason.
Through the first two months of the 2017 season, the Seahawks are 5-3, which is usually where they’ve been this time of year during the Wilson era. (In 2016, Seattle was 5-2-1; 2015: 4-4; 2014: 5-3; 2013: 7-1; 2012: 4-4.) But recent developments have changed Wilson’s job description — and the way the Seahawks’ offense functions.
In 2015, Seattle ranked first in offensive efficiency, according to Football Outsiders’ metrics, which included the second-best passing offense and the third-best rushing offense. By 2016, the offense had fallen to replacement level; 16th overall, 14th in passing and 22nd in rushing. And through eight games in 2017 the offense is only slightly better: 15th overall, 12th in passing, 20th in rushing.
So what has changed? Marshawn Lynch, for starters, but he’s not the driving force behind this; Lynch only played in seven games in 2015 and ran for 417 yards (3.8 YPC). In fact, Thomas Rawls (830 yards, 5.6 YPC) and Wilson (553 yards, 5.4 YPC) were the team’s leading rushers.
Last season, after Lynch retired, no one stepped in to fill the void; Christine Michael led the team in rushing with just 469 yards (4.0 YPC). And Wilson, who was hobbled by an ankle injury for much of the season, finished with a career-low 259 rushing yards. This season has been even more problematic for Seattle’s running game; Wilson, with 271 yards, is the leading rusher, 63 yards clear of Chris Carson who was placed in injured reserve after four games. Behind Carson is Eddie Lacy, who has 128 yards (2.7 YPC) but is also battling a groin injury.
There’s more: In 2015, the Seahawks’ offensive line ranked fourth in run blocking. The unit dropped to 26th in 2016 and is 27th this season. With no running game to speak of, the Seahawks are basically Wilson dropping back to pass and either making a remarkable throw or having to scramble for his life. His athleticism masks a lot of Seattle’s offensive woes — here’s a perfect example from Sunday’s loss to the Redskins:
But is this sustainable? That is: How long can the Seahawks continue to win this way?
The good news is that Wilson is one of the NFL‘s best players, and despite no real running game to speak of (outside, of course, Wilson himself), the Seahawks’ defense remains formidable. The unit ranks seventh overall, via Football Outsiders (sixth against the pass, 19th against the run). And this little nugget brings us to the 4-4 Cardinals, who despite injuries up and down the roster, remain in the playoff mix.
Expect to see a lot of Adrian Peterson
Back in June, weeks after the Saints signed 32-year-old Adrian Peterson, his New Orleans teammates couldn’t talk enough about how good he looked. It felt like people were trying too hard, trying to convince themselves — and Peterson — that he really wasn’t over the hill. The first month of the season told another story — that Peterson was, in fact, done. He appeared, well, old in the few carries he got in those four games, before the Saints dumped him on the Cardinals.
But something changed when Peterson arrived in Phoenix. Like many a geriatric that preceded him to the Valley of the Sun, the old-by-NFL-standards running back rediscovered himself. Two weeks after rushing four times for four yards in his final game with the Saints, Peterson went wild in his Cardinals debut. He finished with 26 carries for 134 yards and two scores, including this 27-yard run during his first drive with the team:
Peterson had just 21 yards the next week, a 33-0 drubbing at the hands of the resurgent Rams, but ran all over the 49ers last Sunday, carrying the ball 37 times for 159 yards.
The Seahawks have struggled against the run this season (they rank 19th). Unfortunately, the Cardinals are 31st in rushing efficiency, according to Football Outsiders. But given the alternative — namely, Drew Stanton, who is replacing the injured Carson Palmer — don’t expect a pass-happy game plan.
Seattle has a penalty problem
The Seahawks had a whopping 16 penalties against the Redskins, just one off the franchise record. This isn’t a new development; the team led the league in penalties in 2013 and 2014 — which coincided with back-to-back Super Bowl appearances — but the difference between now and then is that the 2017 version of this team isn’t nearly as good as the ones that made deep playoff runs.
“That’s kind of the way we have been raised in this program and it’s been the way that I’ve coached for a long time,” coach Pete Carroll said this week, via ESPN.com. “This is not unusual for us to have penalties, but we’re over the top and we’re in a bad mode right now.”
Right tackle Germain Ifedi, who was ignominiously highlighted in the embedded tweet above, has an NFL-high 10 penalties this season.
“[Ifedi]’s one that hasn’t really nailed the sense of, when Russell is getting out on his side, he’s got to release,” Carroll explained. “But he’s had his share and it’s definitely a point of emphasis that’s been there for some time now. It’s disappointing that we aren’t fixing this faster.”
The solution involves preaching discipline and if things don’t improve, putting the worst offenders on the bench.
“We’ve been on the topic and obviously we’re not doing the right stuff to get that done,” the coach said. “This has never felt like such a big problem. It’s always been some issue, but I’m anxious to go get this thing fixed and get us turned so that we can just go play against the other team instead of ourselves.”
Dispatches from Fantasy Island
Chris Carson is done for the season and Eddie Lacy is battling a groin injury. Which means Thomas Rawls will get the bulk of the carries against the Cardinals..
This is two bits of news in one, it seems. Rawls was named the team’s starting running back Tuesday, but that didn’t come in a vacuum. With Eddie Lacy struggling with a groin injury that forced him out of Sunday’s game and kept him on the sidelines for Monday and Tuesday’s practice sessions, Rawls is the default option to start Thursday’s game against the Cardinals. The question Fantasy owners have is, does it matter?
As bad as Lacy has been this season, it was he, not Rawls, who was named the starter in Week 9. Lacy’s injury pushed Rawls into a larger role, and he responded with his best game of the season, picking up 70 all-purpose yards on 11 touches. Rawls is still averaging just 2.5 yards per carry for the season, and is at 3.0 yards per carry over the last two combined. We remember how good Rawls was as a rookie, but injuries have derailed his career since. He will get a chance to redeem himself beginning Thursday, but it’s hard to view him as much more than a low-end starting running back option; he’s only in your lineup if you’re desperate.
- Arizona is 0-3-1 at home against Seattle under coach Bruce Arians;
- Arizona is 3-1 in Seattle under Arians;
- According to Pro Football Focus, Patrick Peterson is the NFL’s best cover cornerback. Out 316 defensive snaps, quarterbacks have thrown in his direction just 30 times. Of those, only 10 were completions for a passer rating of 63.1.
They said these words
“Drew’s the biggest smartass I know. You got to love that about Drew, though. That’s his personality. That’s who he is. He’s not just being a smartass. That’s who he is.” — Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries on Carson Palmer’s replacement, quarterback Drew Stanton
Who ya got?
“The Cardinals won with Drew Stanton last Sunday at San Francisco, but it’s going to be a lot tougher here. The Seattle defense is much better and playing well – except for a late-game touchdown last week to the Redskins. Russell Wilson and the offense need to get back on track here. I think they do. It will be ugly, but Seattle takes it.” — Pete Prisco, who has the Seahawks winning, 19-16
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