BY Steve Rudman 06:30AM 12/20/2014

Seahawks 8-point picks, but can they score 8?

The Seahawks Sunday night face Ryan Lindley, a quarterback dismissed by handicappers. But the Seahawks still need to score, always a problem against Arizona.

Jordan Hill recorded two sacks in Seattle’s 17-7 win over San Francisco last Sunday. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

After the Seahawks opened as seven-point road favorites over Arizona, the spread increased to eight as soon as Cardinals Coach Bruce (Almighty) Arians named maligned Ryan Lindley as his starting quarterback for Sunday night’s game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Lindley swabbed in relief of the injured Drew Stanton last week in St. Louis. He has quarterbacked only one NFL win on his own, a 38-10 victory over Detroit Dec. 16, 2012.

One handicapper this week called Lindley, who will face the top-rated Seattle defense, “the worst quarterback I’ve ever rated,” and at least one stat bears that out. The San Diego State product owns the worst Total QBR in the NFL over the past three seasons among players with at least 200 plays, and has never thrown a touchdown pass in his career. His backup, Logan Thomas, has never started an NFL game.

So it’s easy to see why oddsmakers are taking such a dim view of the 11-3 Cardinals, who can secure the NFC West title and the NFC’s No. 1 seed with a victory. Question is, how are the Seahawks going to cover the eight points?

They tallied 19 against the Cardinals in the first meeting Nov. 23, but 12 came on four Steve Hauschka field goals after multiple failures by the Seahawks in the red zone, and one unlikely touchdown by Cooper Helfet.

Without busted Arizona coverage that allowed WR Ricardo Lockette to catch a 48-yard pass from QB Russell Wilson, Hauschka would not have been in range to kick his second field goal. And without an out-of-nowhere 40-yard read-option run by Wilson, Hauschka wouldn’t have had a chance at this third.

Seattle’s only touchdown came when Helfet caught a ball at the line of scrimmage and four Cardinals defenders oddly failed to tackle him along the sideline. So 13 of the Seahawks’ 19 points were the result of Arizona’s defensive miscues.

Meanwhile, Arizona missed a field goal, allowed a blocked punt, threw an interception and dropped a touchdown pass (Jaron Brown) in the end zone. Even with all that, the Cardinals played the Seahawks about as well as they can be played at CenturyLink Field.

Now the Cardinals draw the Seahawks in Phoenix, where Arizona is 7-0 and looking for the first perfect home record in franchise history. The Cardinals are not only the only NFL team to allow 20 or fewer points in every home game this season, they lead the league with 12 such games overall (11-1 in those contests) as the following shows:

Team Division No. Ranks / Scoring Differential
Arizona NFC West 12 Off. Rank: 22; Def. Rank: 3rd; Point Diff.: +43
Detroit NFC North 10 Off. Rank: 23rd; Def. Rank: 1st; Point Diff.: +43
Kansas City AFC West 9 Off. Rank: 14th; Def. Rank: 4th; Point Diff.: +68
Seattle NFC West 9 Off. Rank: 11th; Def. Rank: 2nd; Point Diff.: +97
Buffalo AFC East 8 Off. Rank: 18th; Def. Rank: 4th; Point Diff.: +48
Denver AFC West 8 Off. Rank: 5th; Def. Rank: 16th; Point Diff.:+104
Houston AFC South 8 Off. Rank: 13th; Def. Rank: 7th; Point Diff.: +47
Miami AFC East 8 Off. Rank: 12th; Def. Rank: 15th; Point Diff.: +26
Baltimore AFC North 8 Off. Rank: 8th; Def. Rank: 6th; Point Diff.: +109
San Francisco NFC West 8 Off. Rank: 28th; Def. Rank: 9th; Point Diff.: -34

Lindley might not be much, but the 12s should take scant comfort in the eight-point spread. The Cardinals have won 11 games in a variety of ways and last Sunday became the first team to win this season without scoring a touchdown (defeated St. Louis 12-6). They have won a league-high six times against teams that currently hold a winning record, and will have WR Larry Fitzgerald, who missed the first meeting with an injury.

Arians is probably a lock to win the NFL Coach of the Year award in no small part because of the defense he’s built. Arizona ranks second in the turnover margin at +12 and has held opponents scoreless in the fourth quarter a league-high eight times (Arizona’s fourth-quarter scoring margin is +59). The Cardinals also lead in come-from-behind wins with nine and rank No. 1 in the NFC in opponent red-zone efficiency (40.5).

The Cardinals don’t have a great offense (No. 22), but are first in the NFL with nine defensive touchdowns, and can be occasionally sneaky good. Since the start of 2013, Arizona has scored six offensive TDs covering 75 or more yards, most in the NFL.

Above all, the Cardinals have solved Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. Arizona sacked Wilson 11 times (seven in the last game) in the last two meetings between the teams while holding Lynch to a total of 110 yards (3.3 yards per carry) and no touchdowns.

To Arians’ credit, the Cardinals have ascended to the top of the NFC West despite sustaining more injuries than any team in the league. A total of 18 players have missed at least one game and, through 15 weeks, Arizona players have lost a combined 90 games to injury. But the Cardinals have been resourceful.

One example: When Lindley steps on the field Sunday, the Cardinals will become only the third team in the past decade to use three starting quarterbacks and win 11 or more games (also the 2005 and 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers).

Going down

Wilson has been sacked multiple times in 11 of Seattle’s 14 games, and is currently working on a streak of six consecutive games suffering at least two sacks that dates to Nov. 9 against the New York Giants. No quarterback in franchise history has ever been taken down two or more times in six consecutive games (over the same six-game span, 12 different Cardinals have recorded at least one sack).

Wilson was also sacked multiple times in five consecutive contests from Sept. 14 through Oct. 19 this year, the second-longest streak in franchise history. But let’s focus strictly on the last six. This is how many times Wilson has been sacked since Week 10 vs. other quarterbacks whose teams have qualified for the playoffs or are in position to do so:

Quarterback Team Total Skinny
Russell Wilson Seahawks 22 18 of the 22 sacks in the last 4 games
Matthew Stafford Lions 15 Sacked 4 times by Arizona, 4 by Bucs
Andrew Luck Colts 12 Sacked 5 times by Jax in Week 12
Tony Romo Cowboys 11 Sacked 4 times by Eagles in Week 13
Drew Brees Saints 11 Ravens sacked him 4 times Week 12
Andy Dalton Bengals 9 Sacked multiple times last 3 weeks
B. Roethlisberger Steelers 9 Went down 5 times (Tenn) Week 11
Aaron Rodgers Packers 7 Sacked 3 times by Patriots Week 11
Drew Stanton Cardinals 6 3 sacks vs. Seahawks Week 12
Peyton Manning Broncos 5 Sacked only once last 2 games
Joe Flacco Ravens 3 Taken down only 16 times all season
Tom Brady Patriots 2 1 sack at Green Bay, 1 at San Diego

“We’ve been practicing to improve things we need to improve,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said this week, addressing Wilson’s pocket woes. “We just have to block better. We have to be able to get the ball out quicker. We got to get open on time.

“I mean, we have the conversation all the time on how they all work together and we have to be on point all the time, particularly against this opponent. They bring tons of pressure. They can bring it on every single down if they so choose, so we have to be prepared for it.”

It’s not likely to come together fast enough for Wilson avoid another major beating Sunday night, but oddsmakers are so down on Lindley they apparently aren’t worried about it.


  • Your analysis of the last game puzzles me. If it wasn’t for this or that or the other thing, Arizona would have won. That’s how sporting competitions work. The victor is the one who makes the second to the last mistake. Seattle made the second to the last mistake against Arizona when the Cardinals had more – and Seattle had fewer – of their first team on the field than they will this week. I expect the Seahawks to slay Arizona’s men and sell their women and children into slavery this Sunday. (figuratively).

  • Matt

    Seahawks 5, Cardinals 3.

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      That would be fitting , wouldnt it? Man, I would take a 2~0 game as long as its the Hawks who are the victor. A win is a win at this stage of the season…well really at any stage.With this nasty brutal schedule they have played any check in the win column is good.

  • PokeyPuffy

    I agree with the game summary here, especially after watching it again. We were dominant in recent matchups with 49ers and eagles but not so much against the cards.

    This was true with cards on offense as well. They moved the ball and were just a few miscues away from scoring tds on a number of occasions. 204 total yards to 293 hawks yards and alot of our rushing yards came with the game out of reach. Toss in the penalties and we were almost even in total yards.

    The blocked punt was huge, as the Cards were winning the field position game at that time, and had some momentum after stuffing the Hawks on the previous drive.

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      Offseason we heard analysts lament over and over again what a brutal defensive battle if would be Against all NFC West opponents and certainly when we played each other… their crystal ball was right on.
      AZ has literally led the division wire to wire…their D is up to task. They are irked to have only scored 3 against us up here. Its going to be a bruisefest and why wouldnt it be?They are close to achieving all of their goals too. What a game it will be sunday night.

    • 3brettb3

      I would hardly call 204 yards of total offense “moving the ball.” No, they were not as dominant as they were against the Eagles, but the Hawks were in control of that game the whole way.

  • Long-Time Mariners Fan

    Steve, I am confused. Is this a column about football or a column about gambling? Winning or losing the game is football; covering the spread is gambling. If the Seahawks win 14-13, they still win the game. All of the gamblers who bet on the Seahawks lose their bets, but the Seahawks still win the game.

    Yes, I know a case can be made that the NFL would never be so popular if nobody bet on the games. But “The Spread” is just an artificial yardstick that oddsmakers manipulate to get both sides of their ledgers roughly equal. Lots of people betting on the Seahawks at seven points? Raise the spread to eight and get more people to bet on the Cardinals. When both sides of a bookie’s ledger is roughly equal, they don’t take a bath, no matter what the outcome.

    In short, “The Spread” is just a (rough) measure of how the gambling public PERCEIVES the relative strengths of the two teams. The game still has to be played between the white lines, and that’s the outcome that gets tallied at the end of the week. I know you know this, so my question still stands: Is this a column about football or a column about gambling?

  • 1coolguy

    I would like to see the Hawks go to a 2 TE set with 2 backs in order to max protect RW and Lynch, given how weak the O line is.
    The Patriots recently went with using a third tackle as a tight end for their max set.
    The Hawks need this added blocking against the AZ and rams defenses, who are 2 of the best.

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      the 2 TE set would be advantageous I would think. Of course Carroll factors in how well said Tight end blocks etc etc etc,,,,, offensively it might give them short yardage opps to keep rolling out the 1st downs out and extend the clock . It would be nice to have a wicked scale tipping in time of possession for our offense to keep the Az defense tired. This will be a tough road win if destiny deems it.

    • John M

      I’ve been saying this for over a month. When they have used a tight end and extra lineman to block things have worked much better. I don’t understand the reluctance to modify the plays to accommodate this. If they would do it right away and use play-action, soon AZ would have to move some people off the line to protect against the pass. With the injuries up front now I don’t see how they can expect the patchwork basic line to protect against those guys. We’re lucky to have Russ still vertical.

  • Big

    A defensive score could change the outcome for either team.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Against AZup here the Hawks settled for field goals when a pass or a run here or there could have resulted in 7…and we ran out the clock in the red zone I believe to end the game(and ignore a scoring chance) so the argument could be turned around in the woulda shoulda coulda dept on Seattles side too.
    Each game is different. Look at last year. We whipped their derrieres at home last year….just dominated them. Then AZ comes up here an ecks out a close win to ruin the Hawks undefeated at home hopes. Nobody saw that coming.
    Sunday nights game could be a tale of turnovers. Maybe Wright and Avril are so amped up about their new contracts that each have a fumble recovery to put Seattle in scoring position in the red zone. Perhaps we get TDs this time instead of field goals because their 3rd string QB could only keep ’em on the field about as often as the Eagles offense did a couple of weeks ago.
    It will be fun but my gut feeling says the breaks are due and we will have a couple more scores than a paltry 8 would give us.What do you think we are , Steve?Denver?
    Go Hawks.

  • tomscuba

    Good teams take the best another team has to give, and still squeak out a win. I think we’re playing at the elite level we’ve all hoped for. A bumpy 5 weeks gave us serious reason to gut check. Gotta feel for Arizona fans—best team they’ve had in years and years, and they can’t put a healthy quarterback on the field. Go hawks!!!

  • whoKarez

    I suppose it could be said that all scores come from defensive miscues.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    We scored almost as many on them as we did on Denver in the SuperBowl….while dealing out a similar defensive effort. Amazing that Haush missed 3 field goals… could have been 44~6 no matter… the NFC West title is in sight…….Awesome effort to score a lil more than 8. Congrats Seattle.

  • Mike Barnes

    Both Wilson and Lynch seem to have figured out the Cardinal defense from the look of things, rather than the the way around. As for the NFL Coach of the Year, Capt. Smith had a stellar record over 25 years as a skipper for the Whitestar line–until he helmed the Titanic. Coach Arians, meet the Beast Mode iceberg.