Explosive Opponent Preview: The Arizona Cardinals

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport

The Seahawks are on the precipice of a division title and playoff home-field advantage. Only the resurgent Cardinals stand in their way.

a can of whoopass \ ey-kan-uhv-hwupazz \

noun - the act of a person, as to punish, humiliate, defeat, destroy

verb (used with object), to open up  - to strike violently, or forcefully and repeatedly, to kick one's ass.

I'm willing to bet that whoopass comes in various sizes, flavors and containers. We do know it comes in a 16 ounce can. You could probably open up an entire flat of whoopass if you needed to.

The Seattle Seahawks have opened up their fair share of whoopass cans on their opponents this season. San Francisco, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Atlanta and New Orleans are all witness to the Seahawks can-opening prowess. Please feel free to add the New York Giants to that list.

Seattle Seahawks

Ex. Run

Ex. Pass

Total

Ex. Run Alwd

Ex. Pass Alwd

Total

Season Totals

45

73

118

29

44

73

Avg. per game

3.21

5.21

8.43

2.07

3.29

5.36

Seattle gained a modest 5 big plays against the Giants last weekend; 4 were passes and only 1 was a rush. The updated season totals for the Seahawks are listed in the table above. The offense's struggles to be explosive in the running game the last four weeks have dropped the Seahawks average in big runs per game down to about 3, also knocking the overall per game total near 8. A strong finish in the running game will do well to boost that number.

Result

For

Against

Touchdown

34

15

Field Goal

19

13

Turnover

9

12

Punt

14

11

End of Half

1

1

Season Total

77

52

Score Rate

69%

54%

The Seahawks continue to hold steady in their explosive drive metrics. Seattle's score-rate of 69% barely moved from their rate last week. Their 5 explosive drives ended in a touchdown, two field goals and two punts. Their defensive shutout against the moribund Giants offense brought their defensive score-rate down to 54% on the season. Eli Manning is truly a defense's elixir.

The Arizona Offense

Week

Opponent

Ex. Run

Ex. Pass

Total

1

at STL

0

7

7

2

vs. DET

1

7

8

3

at NO

2

4

6

4

at TB

1

6

7

5

vs. CAR

1

3

4

6

at SF

2

4

6

7

vs. SEA

0

3

3

8

vs. ATL

5

3

8

9

BYE

10

vs. HOU

2

5

7

11

at JAX

0

8

8

12

vs. IND

5

8

13

13

at PHI

2

8

10

14

vs. STL

2

5

7

15

at TEN

4

5

9

Season Totals

27

76

103

Avg. per game

2.08

5.85

7.92

The Arizona Cardinals offense is strikingly similar to the Giants and Saints in terms of big play balance. About three-quarters of the Cardinals' big plays are from the passing game. I would wager that as I further chart the explosive plays of the rest of the league, more teams exhibit this 3-to-1 explosive play ratio. With as pass-happy as the NFL is, that would at least be the expected outcome.

As for the Cardinals, their explosive threats are Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Ellington. Floyd and Fitzgerald both have 19 explosive catches. Floyd has 2 explosive touchdowns while the future Hall-of-Famer Fitzgerald has 4. Ellington has 18 big runs and two big touchdown runs this season. The Seattle defense must again limit these three threats as they did in Glendale in Week 7.

Result

Number

Touchdown

28

Field Goal

15

Turnover

13

Punt

17

End of Half

1

Season Total

74

Score Rate

58%

While Arizona has 15 fewer big plays than Seattle they only have 3 fewer explosive drives on the year. Arizona's score-rate on these drives is lacking, however. A 58% score-rate won't get the job done, even if it is not as bad as the Giants' 50% rate.

The Arizona Defense

Week

Opponent

Ex. Run Alwd

Ex. Pass Alwd

Total

1

at STL

0

4

4

2

vs. DET

1

4

5

3

at NO

3

8

11

4

at TB

3

1

4

5

vs. CAR

1

8

9

6

at SF

3

4

7

7

vs. SEA

2

7

9

8

vs. ATL

1

4

5

9

BYE

10

vs. HOU

1

3

4

11

at JAX

0

3

3

12

vs. IND

2

2

4

13

at PHI

2

9

11

14

vs. STL

1

5

6

15

at TEN

2

9

11

Season Totals

22

71

93

Avg. per game

1.69

5.46

7.15

The Cardinals sport the NFL's best run defense and this chart is further evidence of their quality in that regard. The Cardinals defense gives up fewer than 2 big runs per game on average and has yet to give up more than 3 in any game this season. Last time around, while Seattle was able to rush for 135 yards they were only able to generate 2 big plays in the running game. With Seattle's recent struggles getting Marshawn Lynch rolling, we may see another game where Russell Wilson must do a little bit of everything to keep the offense moving.

Result vs.

Number

Touchdown

25

Field Goal

12

Turnover

11

Punt

12

End of Half

3

Season Total

63

Score Rate

59%

Arizona may give up quite a few big plays, especially in the passing game, but they do limit scores from explosive drives. Their defense has allowed only 37 scores from 63 explosive drives, good for a 59% score-rate. That isn't quite Seahawks or 49ers-good, but it is respectable.

The Verdict

Last week, I was again pretty dead-on with regards to Seattle's defensive performance. I predicted New York would only get 3 big plays, all from the passing game. The Seattle defense decided to call me and raise, only giving up 2 big passes and nothing else. Talk about no mercy. I absolutely undersold the Giants defense, however. They allowed Seattle to gain only 5 big plays when I predicted 10. Bulletin-board material, I guess.

Offensively, I think we see another long day for the Seattle running game, to the tune of only 1 big run. However, Russell Wilson will continue his Seattle mayoral campaign by ringing up 6 big plays with his arm.

On defense, the Seahawks will be able to again stop the Cardinals running game, limiting them to only 1 big run. Seattle absolutely terrorized Carson Palmer in Glendale and I expect a similar story in Seattle, giving up only 3 big passes.

This season is turning out to be a special one in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle can clinch Pete Carroll's second NFC West championship as well as home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. For such a special occasion, Seattle can celebrate in the best way they know how:

Poppin' a bottle of whoopass on the Cardinals.

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