PHOENIX Game day in the desert dawned as most do here: bright, sunny and warm.
The Seahawks have been told the roof will be open tonight at University of Phoenix Stadium down the freeway in suburban Glendale for kickoff against the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL’s showcase Thursday night game.
Earl Thomas is doubtful to play. He hasn’t played or even practiced since he pulled his right hamstring chasing DeAndre Hopkins on the Houston receiver’s long catch and run for a touchdown Oct. 29. That means Bradley McDougald starting at free safety for the second time in four days.
Eddie Lacy won’t play because of a groin strain, so Thomas Rawls has his chance to seize the lead running-back job tonight.
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I will be watching pregame to see how Richard Sherman is moving around. He is listed as questionable to play because of an Achilles-tendon issue for which he’s been on the practice-participation report since the first weeks of the season. In a normal week, Sunday game followed by another Sunday game, Sherman has often taken Wednesday practice off to rest then practiced on Thursday or Friday. So I expect him to play.
Paul Richardson is listed as questionable, too, but coach Pete Carroll said the emerging No.-2 wide receiver should be good to go against the Cardinals.
Dion Jordan will be playing for the first time since Dec. 28, 2014. The former third-overall draft choice by Miami came off the non-football-injury list Wednesday.
Here’s what to watch for in the ninth game of what’s been an uneven season so far for Seattle:
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (5-3) at ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-4)
Thursday, 5:25 p.m., University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Line: Seahawks by 6.
TV: Channel 5 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM
The series: The Cardinals lead the series 18-17 with one tie. That tie came the last time Arizona hosted Seattle, last Oct. 23’s 6-6 overtime deadlock, the most thrilling bad game in Seahawks history. The Cardinals won in Seattle last Christmas Eve 34-31 behind a brilliant day from quarterback Carson Palmer. The Seahawks have not lost to the Cardinals in their last four meetings in the desert. Arizona’s last home win over Seattle was Sept. 9, 2012, 20-16. That was Russell Wilson’s first NFL start.
SEATTLE’S KEYS TO VICTORY
Time for Thomas Rawls to seize: Eddie Lacy hasn’t been yet this season (128 yards in the six games he’s played). And his chance to be the lead back ended after 11 plays and 20 yards last weekend because of a strained groin. Rawls has been shoved away to a healthy inactive for the first time in his career earlier this season. But now the Seahawks need him. He’s the freshest running back, and he needs to get some consistent yards on the ground against Arizona’s 11th-ranked rushing defense, to keep Russell Wilson from getting hit and harassed by Chandler Jones (nine sacks) and friends. Wilson leads Seattle in rushing with 271 yards. If their quarterback is still doing that in December, the Seahawks are going to get where they want to be in January.
Take away Peterson "all day": The former NFL MVP known as "All Day," Adrian Peterson has two 100-yard rushing days in his first three games as a Cardinal. But he’s 32 years old coming off a 37-carry game at San Francisco four days earlier. The Seahawks don’t believe fill-in quarterback Drew Stanton (0-2 and woeful in his previous games against them) can beat them. So they will crowd safety Kam Chancellor, linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright and maybe even the equipment guy at the line of scrimmage to stop Peterson’s running and force Stanton to throw.
Just get through it: Seriously, playing for the second time in four days, on the road, before an 11-day break to host Atlanta on a Monday night, the Seahawks would gladly just take the W and a plane ride home. No need to style points, a dominant offensive performance, a complete shutdown by the defense that’s given up leads late in each of the last two games. Just a victory of any kind to stay within a game of the first-place Rams.
The pick: Seahawks, 17-9. The defense goes after Peterson, putting the game where they want it: in Stanton’s iffy hands. And, hey, Blair Walsh makes a field goal(!) as Seattle gets to 6-3.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
34 Thomas Rawls RB 5-9 215 third
Lacy may have blown his last chance to be the lead back if Rawls can get something going. Absolutely anything going, really.
93 Dwight Freeney DE 6-1 268 16th
3 sacks in his first 2 games. May be time for SEA to give the 37-year old some more chances to keep on truckin’.
89 Doug Baldwin WR 5-10 192 seventh
2 TDs in 12 games, catch rate of 61% (51 rec, 83 targets) are his lowest against any division foe.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
25 Adrian Peterson RB 6-1 217 11th
Former NFL MVP, 32, has been a revelation in 3 games after rescue from Saints. What he can do 4 days after 37 carries?
55 Chandler Jones DE 6-5 265 sixth
Ex-Patriot is third in the NFC with nine sacks. Will move around, likely to fin SEA RT Germain Ifedi.
11 Larry Fitzgerald WR 6-3 218 14th
At age 34 he still has it. Second in NFC with 50 catches. Needs to be huge with Drew Stanton, not Carson Palmer, at QB now.