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December 16, 2014 at 9:15 AM

First Look: Arizona Cardinals

Here’s our First Look at Sunday’s opponent:

Seahawks opponent: Arizona Cardinals

Game time: Sunday, 5:30 p.m.

TV: NBC

Coach: Bruce Arians, 21-9 in two years at Arizona (also 9-3 as interim coach for the Colts in 2012).

2014 record: 11-3

Last game: Beat St. Louis, 12-6.

The series: 32nd all-time meeting. Arizona leads it 16-15, including three wins when the team was the St. Louis Cardinals. In fact, Seattle’s first game in 1976 was against the Cardinals, a 30-24 defeat at the Kingdome. Seattle has won six of the last nine including a 19-3 win at CenturyLink Field last month.

The early line: Seahawks by 7.

Key players:

QB Ryan Lindley: The third-year quarterback from San Diego State was named as the starter for the Cardinals on Monday. He will replace Drew Stanton, who suffered a knee injury in Thursday’s win at St. Louis and will be the third different starting quarterback for the Cardinals this year — Stanton had replaced Carson Palmer, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Lindley has made just four career starts, all coming in 2012, going 1-3 (he also played as a reserve in a 58-0 Arizona loss at Seattle). Lindley is 93-181 for 782 yards in his career with seven interceptions and no touchdowns.

WR Larry Fitzgerald: The future Hall of Famer did not play in Seattle’s win over Arizona last month due to a knee injury. That was one of two games he missed, each of which Arizona lost. He has played the last two games, making 11 catches for 64 yards. Arizona is 11-1 in the games he has played this season.

DE Frostee Rucker: The ninth-year veteran, who played for Pete Carroll at USC, has been a key for the Arizona defense in the team’s wins the last two weeks against Kansas City and St. Louis, with three sacks and a forced fumble. He has four sacks for the season, tying a career-high.

S Tyrann Mathieu: The former LSU star, nicknamed “The Honey Badger,’’ has missed Arizona’s last two games with a broken left thumb. But he said Monday he expects to play with a cast on the thumb, quoted by the team’s official web site as saying “I wasn’t going to miss this one.’’ Mathieu also suffered an ACL last season from which he was still recovering when the season began. He has 29 tackles and one interception this season.

Arizona’s keys to success: Arizona’s overall key to success is similar to Seattle’s — play lights-out defense and try to get just enough from the offense to make it work. Arizona has allowed 17 or fewer points nine times this season and has won all nine games. Arizona has allowed just 17.4 points per game for the season, third in the NFL, despite ranking 14th in total defense at 350 per game. The Cardinals are particularly strong against the run, allowing 90.4 per game (sixth in the NFL) and in creating turnovers, with 25, tied for fourth in the NFL, including 18 interceptions. Arizona’s plus-12 turnover ratio is tied for second in the NFL. Arizona’s offense is now harder to figure with Lindley at quarterback. With Palmer and Stanton, the Cardinals liked to throw deep as much as any team in the NFL, averaging 11.9 yards per pass attempt, tied for fourth in the NFL Lindley has a similar profile so that strategy may not change. Arizona ranks among the worst rushing teams in the NFL at 84.4 yards per game, 28th in the league. But the Cardinals have had two of their better running games the last two weeks with 141 yards against the Chiefs and 143 against the Rams.  Second-year player Kerwynn Williams of Utah State, helping fill in for the injured Andre Ellington, has 175 yards in the last two games, including 100 against the Chiefs. Former Stanford star Stepfan Taylor has had 80 yards the last two games. With Lindley making his first start since 2012, the running of Williams and Taylor figures to be a key to Sunday’s game.

BY THE NUMBERS

43 — Arizona’s point differential this season having scored 287 points while giving up 244, 12th-highest in the NFL and behind the likes of Houston (47) and Buffalo (48).

18-3 — Bruce Arians’ record in games decided by one possession or less as an NFL head coach, 5-0 this season.

6 — Consecutive quarters without a touchdown allowed by the Arizona defense.

 

 

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