Stephen, Steven or whatever his name is, Hauschka kicked a 44-yard field goal to give the Seattle Seahawks a two-point win over the Atlanta Falcons last week. The comeback win was quarterback Russell Wilson’s 20th, and the Hawks (4-1) opened up a 1.5 game lead in the NFC West. On Sunday night, they’ll head to University of Phoenix Stadium to take on the Arizona Cardinals (3-3) in hopes of further separating themselves from the pack.
The Cardinals are coming in on the rise after winning consecutive games by 37 combined points, even if it was just against the Jets and 49ers. Their defense held a struggling Jets team to jut three points a week ago. But they’ll have a much tougher task in their attempt to cut into Seattle’s division lead.
The league’s top defensive team, the Seahawks, are allowing 284 total yards per game. Holding teams to the fifth-fewest yards through the air and third-fewest on the ground, there isn’t a direct route to success for Arizona. Ranked 15th in the league defensive end Cliff Avril has four sacks on the season. Safety Earl Thomas has a pair of interceptions and defensive back DeShawn Head has eight passes defended to lead Seattle. As a unit, the Seahawks have allowed the second-fewest first downs and fourth-fewest points per game at under 16. It hasn’t been a high-powered offense that’s taken Seattle to the top of the NFC.
They’ve scored just 105 points through five games, and won their season opener with just 12 points. Wilson has been efficient, completing 66 percent of his passes, throwing for a career-best 267 yards per game, but he’s only been able to find the end zone five times. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin and tight end Jimmy Graham have been Wilson’s top targets, combining for 716 of his 1,334 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Running back Christine Michael has done some damage on the ground, though. Averaging 4.4 yards per carry, he’s broken out for 354 yards and crossed the end zone four times. But Arizona has the best back in David Johnson, who’ll have a chance to prove himself against the league’s best defense.
Johnson leads the league with eight rushing touchdowns on the third-most yards at 568, including five rushes of more than 20 yards. He’s really heated up in the past two weeks, raking in 268 yards and five touchdowns. At 95 yards per game, Johnson is averaging 21 more rushing yards per game himself than the Seattle defense is allowing, making this matchup his toughest of the season.
Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has struggled a bit, throwing sevens touchdowns to five interceptions, but has been able to find his ageless star receiver, Larry Fitzgerald. The 33-year-old has 37 receptions for 410 yards and five touchdowns to lead Arizona. The team’s second option, John Brown, is scoreless with 301 yards.
Sunday night should be a low-scoring affair, but the victor will earn full bragging rights as the teams have evenly split their first 34 games, 17-17. Unlike their last matchup in Week 17 of last season, this game matters for both teams chasing playoff spots.
How to Watch
When: 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Az.
Announcers: Al Michaels, Chris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya
Online: Sunday Ticket, NBC Sports