Jan. 1, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver (11) Larry Fitzgerald runs the ball after a reception against the Seattle Seahawks in the third quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Seahawks 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
This week the Seahawks are in for a division road game and, while they are favored, winning in a rival’s house is never easy. This is exactly the type of game that fans take for granted as a victory when they are looking at the schedule but it will actually be extraordinarily difficult to win. The Cardinals are a fantastic home team and the Seahawks have an awful history playing at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Also Week 1 games tend to be volatile and unpredictable as it’s hard to know exactly how teams will come out of the gate. Today I examine a couple of matchups that will be crucial in determining the outcome of this hard fought battle.
Matchup #1: Chris Clemons vs. D’Anthony Batiste
Chris Clemons has proven himself to be a quality pass rusher during his time in Seattle and on Sunday he gets what looks to be a very favorable matchup. Commentators commonly try to point out that Clemons and other Seahawks pass rushers do much better at home due to crowd noise, in Clemons case this demonstrably false. Last year Clemons got 9 of his 11 sacks on the road and in 2010 he registered 6.5 out of his 11 away from home. The foreign terrain won’t be an obstacle for Seattle’s ace pass rusher and I’m not sure the LT he lines up against will either. D’Anthony Batiste was an undrafted free agent in 2004. He spent some time in both the AFL and the CFL before catching on with the Cowboys in 2006. In his 6 years in the NFL Batiste has played for 6 teams and started only 4 games. I suppose the fact he has stuck around so long mean something but I’m not exactly sure what that something is. Don’t be surprised to see the over-matched 30 year old journeyman allow a sack or two, even with the TE and RB help he’s sure to get. Clemons should, and likely will, have his way in Week 1.
Matchup #2: Richard Sherman vs. Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald is a player to be respected and feared. Even though Arizona’s QB play has been shaky since the departure of Kurt Warner, Fitzgerald continues to produce. He has unbelievable hands and is a monster with the ball in the air. He is the one true threat on a team with a relatively inept offense. Sherman is the type of big corner that, in theory, is meant to combat Fitzgerald’s strengths. However, last year it didn’t work out like that. Fitzgerald compiled 14 receptions, 213 yards and a touchdown in his two games against Seattle in 2011. I think we can give Sherman a rookie mulligan on that one though. Sherman was a revelation as a rookie and Larry Fitzgerald is capable of dominating any corner on any given Sunday. This week I look forward to seeing that if Sherman can make the necessary adjustments to contain Fitzgerald. If he does it’s a good sign that his second season will have him building on his standout year as opposed to regressing into sophomore slump.
Matchup #3: Sidney Rice vs. Patrick Peterson
I have high hopes for Sidney Rice this year and I think that today he has the opportunity to get off to a good start. Patrick Peterson is no pushover though, in fact he’s an elite talent who was drafted 5th overall in 2011.He has excellent size at 6-1 219 and blazing speed (4.34 40 at the Combine). He had an excellent rookie year as a punt returner which overshadowed the work he did as a corner. Peterson started all 16 games for the Cardinals and was fairly average in coverage. At his age, 22 this year, not being an amazing cover corner right away is not at all a huge deal. In fact I’d say the odds of Peterson becoming a star CB in the NFL with his otherworldly athleticism are excellent. I just don’t think he’s there yet. For example, Peterson recorded 13 passes defended and 2 interceptions last year. To put that in perspective Richard Sherman had 17 passes defended and 4 picks in only 10 starts and Browner had 23 passes defended and 6 interceptions. I think this shows that Peterson is not yet adept at making plays on the ball compared to his Seahawks counterparts (who, to be fair, are pretty good). As Rice ages and Peterson improves the Seahawks wide receiver will become more and more unlikely to win this matchup, but this Sunday I like his chances.
Tomorrow is a day that many have been waiting a long time for. Week 1 is always exciting at as fans from all across the league are brimming with optimism about their teams. Hopefully the optimism of Seahawks fans will be rewarded.