Thursday Night Football Preview: Can Cardinals Handle the Seahawks' Inconsistent Offense?

When Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense is working, it can be one of the most difficult offenses for which to scheme—but luckily, Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher does it twice a season. Which Seahawks' offense will show up on Thursday night?
Publish date:

Previewing Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals on NFL Week 10 Thursday Night Football...

The Seattle offense is perhaps the most inconsistent in football. Remember, though, inconsistent does not mean bad, it means bad and good.

Much of this stems from Russell Wilson, because he is a difficult quarterback around whom to build plays. Every week on film, including several times last week against Washington, there’s evidence that Wilson can’t see from the pocket—his height is absolutely a factor—and open receivers can go unnoticed. The tradeoff is Wilson has uncanny field vision outside the pocket; he’ll sometimes see those open guys late and make it work, or he’ll run around and get guys open himself. It’s a nightmare for defenses to prepare for (at least Cardinals coordinator James Bettcher has seen it twice a year), but when it’s not working, it can be a nightmare for the Seahawks, too.

Bettcher would be wise to have Patrick Peterson follow Doug Baldwin everywhere. Typically, Peterson travels with No. 1 receivers outside but only follows them into the slot if it’s man coverage. If Bettcher has to, he should play even more pure man coverage. The Cardinals play it frequently, but sometimes it is out of a zone look, which leaves Peterson outside. Going pure man-to-man, Bettcher would have to dedicate a spy for Wilson. Deone Bucannon would be a good fit.

Super Bowl Picks: Who Will Win Patriots-Eagles?

On the offensive side of the ball for Arizona, Drew Stanton is 7–3 as the Cardinals starting quarterback because he knows how to run Bruce Arians’s scheme—granted, the backup QB usually runs a scaled-back version. Last week against the 49ers, the scheme focused on running Adrian Peterson on inside zone. That could be more challenging against a faster Seahawks front seven, even if that front seven, uncharacteristically, ranks near the middle of the pack in run defense.

Stanton will be forced to make plays through the air, so expect to see formations with tight splits, where receivers are aligned close to the ball and to one another. That’ll back off defenders, helping to create early separation and defining throws before Arizona’s improving, but still suspect, offensive line can break down. Those tight splits also set up the man-beater routes that are important against a Seahawks defense that now plays man-to-man more than Cover 3.

Bold Prediction: Dwight Freeney will have two of Seattle’s five sacks. Freeney still has his burst and spin move, which gives young left tackles (like Arizona’s D.J. Humphries) trouble.

Score Prediction: Seahawks 27, Cardinals 18