Good morning. It’s sunny and pleasant outside here in Phoenix, but the weather doesn’t really matter because this game will be played indoors at University at Phoenix Stadium. And it’s an important one for Seattle, as they try to stop a two-game slide and remain atop the NFC West standings with today’s tilt against the Arizona Cardinals. Here’s five keys to Seattle’s success this afternoon.
Win on third down: The Seahawks are a combined 6 of 25 (24 percent) on third down offensively the past two weeks, and the result has been the defense playing for long stretches of the game. So the Seahawks have to do a better job of converting third down opportunities and extending drives -- and ultimately scoring points.
Big day for Mebane: A lot has been written about the importance of Matt Hasselbeck returning on offense, but the return of defensive tackle Brandon Mebane may be just as important to Seattle defensively. The Seahawks have given up an average of 218 rushing yards a contest the past, two games, and Mebane should help shore up the middle of that defense against the run.More of the same for Williams: Receiver Mike Williams had a career day against Arizona three weeks ago, finishing with 11 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. And he needs to provide more of the same on the outside for Seattle in order to loosen up the defense for Marshawn Lynch running the ball inside. Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said his receivers need to do a better job of creating explosive gains after short catches by making someone miss.
A fast start: Seattle has been outscored 45-0 in the first half of the last two games, so they need to put some points on the board early in the contest in order to take some pressure off of the defense.
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Win the kicking game: This game will likely be a slug fest and battle of field position, so kicker Olindo Mare, punter Jon Ryan, returner Leon Washingon and the kickoff and punt coverage units will play a big role, as always, in the battle for field position today.
Dave Boling of The News Tribune provides some insight on the diverse background of Seahawks offensive lineman Chester Pitts.
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com writes that someone has to win the division.
Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports and Curtis Crabtree of KJR discuss today’s game in this podcast.
Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network has this nugget in his weekly column on the league: “When I watch the Seahawks on tape, I marvel that they have won four games, as their talent level is so bad.”
Pat Kirwan of the NFL Network says we should start to see the NFC West picture clear up with all four teams playing each other on Sunday.
Dan Pompei of the National Football Post outlines the top receivers projected to come out in next year’s draft, which should be a point of emphasis for the Seahawks next year.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic writes that the Cardinals still have hope at 3-5 because they sit just one game out of the division lead.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com quotes Arizona quarterback Derek Anderson using a golf analogy in describing the mediocre NFC West: “You can shoot 75 and still win,” Anderson said.
San Francisco 49ers
David White of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that the St. Louis Rams are using the Niners’ blueprint to perfection.
Scott Barrows of the Sacramento Bee outlines the process Niners head coach Mike Singletary went through in selecting Troy Smith as his starting quarterback.
Gary Graves of USA Today writes that the Niners are hoping Smith can provide a spark for San Francisco offensively against the Rams.St. Louis Rams
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides some keys to the Niners-Rams contest.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes that the Rams are one of six NFL teams winless on the road.