Andre Ellington has begun to emerge as a Swiss Army utility-knife player for the Arizona Cardinals. He had 92 yards from scrimmage against a stingy 49ers defense, including a 15 yard touchdown run. He’s averaged 7 yards per carry this season for 176 yards. He’s also added 18o yards through the air, which is only 1 yard shy of Sidney Rice’s season total…not bad value for a rookie beginning to see increased snaps. I am amazed he fell to the 6th round following a very impressive career at Clemson. He averaged over 5 yards per carry every season and amassed over 1,000 yards rushing twice and 36 total touchdowns in 4 seasons. Like Larry Fitzgerald, he should be closely watched by Seattle's defense on Thursday Night.
Defensively, Arizona is already established with Patrick Peterson, Ty Mathieu, Karlos Dansby, etc. They’re 5th against the run and 12th in scoring defense, allowing 21 points per game. We’ve heard a lot said regarding Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis' competition, but Patrick Peterson is among the top defensive backs as well. Ty Mathieu has added an impressive rookie campaign in the Cards defensive secondary, and, like Golden Tate can be very shifty in the return game.
The Cardinals played the 49ers very closely up until 6:36 in the 4th quarter (20-22). A fumble (Fitzgerald), forced by Patrick Willis in 49ers territory may have been the momentum swing that cost the Cardinals a win at Candlestick. They were nearing the red zone, and had a 3rd and 1 if Fitzgerald had held on. Instead, San Francisco regained possession and went on an 18 play, 89 yard-drive, taking 9:32 off the clock, resulting in a 6-yard Kendall Hunter touchdown run.
A career-best 180 yards receiving and two touchdowns by Vernon Davis gave the 49ers the edge in the first half. In the second, Frank Gore knifed through and behind the 49ers offensive line which helped them to control the time of possession. Gore rushed for 101 yards, nearly all of which came in the second half. The Cardinals defense has been stout against the run, and they’re 2-0 in Arizona this season. They have victories against the Lions and Panthers at home. Needless to say, Larry Fitzgerald is still a big play threat, and he had a 75 yard touchdown against San Francisco.
In my opinion, the Arizona Cardinals are a better team than a Jake Locker-less Tennessee Titans. And we may see an eventual log jam of teams within the division vying for playoff opportunities. I think either the Cards or Rams do the Hawks a favor this season, winning against the 49ers. However, the Hawks could drop one later this month to one of the two same teams on the road. I would be surprised if the Rams or Cards contend for the division title, but they may present the NFC North teams (Bears, Lions, and Packers) with a close race for a wild card berth.
Interestingly enough, the Arizona Cardinals signed Darren Fells last week, though he’s still listed as a practice squad member and unlikely to see any action versus the Seahawks. I’m not expecting any 50-plus point trouncing by the Seahawks in this one. The Cardinals have won two of the last three head-to-head, and I imagine this will be a long-fought game in which a turnover or two make for the deciding margin.
The NFC West is currently the only division without a cellar-type team. Both the Rams and Cardinals are at .500 and definitely not pushovers. The next several weeks become quite interesting. The division race can either become much closer, or Seattle can distance itself from the pack and keep that home-field advantage ace up their sleeve for the December push. In conference play, who would have predicted the Vikings and Falcons to be 1-4, and at or near the bottom of their divisions? Following the Rams game on Monday Night, the next Seahawks opponents before the week 12 bye have a combined record of 2-13. While we have witnessed quarterback changes in Minnesota and Tampa Bay it’s seemingly not been enough to turn these organizations around. The task becomes even more daunting for these two teams because they must travel to Century Link to face the Seahawks.
At the risk of sounding pessimistic, I’m going to predict a 9-2 record at week 12, enough for 1st place and setting the table for an epic game between the Saints and Seahawks on December 2nd. The following week, Seattle will again have to defend its heavy-weight status, this time in San Francisco where I predict the 49ers will hold a 9-3 record. The NFC West title may likely be determined in week 17. If the Cardinals can win at home against the 49ers, that could be the difference. Let's hope the Seahawks get back to their form of last December. They have business to tend to this Thursday night in the desert. The Arizona Cardinals are public enemy one for the time being. Go Hawks!