If Matt Hasselbeck is healthy, the Seahawks have a chance against the Cardinals.
Seattle's last stand. Catastrophic injuries to the left side of their offensive line prevented the Seahawks from functioning offensively during their 27-3 home defeat to the Cardinals in Week 6. The left side of their line is better equipped to protect Matt Hasselbeck in the rematch Sunday. Arizona should win this game. Unlike last time, however, the Seahawks have a chance, particularly if Hasselbeck was forthcoming when he said his health hasn't been better in weeks. Hasselbeck has five touchdowns without an interception in his last three games at Arizona (injuries prevented him from playing there last season). Hasselbeck is still a good quarterback when reasonably healthy and given enough time to set up in the pocket.
Jackson rested and ready. There's no way the Rams can beat the undefeated Saints, right? A healthy and rested Steven Jackson gives them a chance to keep Drew Brees off the field for long stretches. The Saints' last three opponents averaged 160 yards rushing per game. Jackson is averaging better than 100 yards rushing per game since a rough outing at Seattle in Week 1. He must like his chances. The Rams' offensive line has been gaining momentum in recent weeks, even with right guard Richie Incognito unavailable. Fullback Mike Karney has gotten into more of a rhythm with Jackson. I'll be surprised if the Rams win the game, but not if Jackson tears up the Saints' defense in defeat.
Protecting the nest. The Cardinals' 1-3 record at University of Phoenix Stadium probably bothers coach Ken Whisenhunt more than anything else this season. Arizona has become a competitive team and a playoff team. Connecting with fans in the desert will always be a challenge. Losing at home does not help. Only the Rams, Bucs, Chiefs and Browns have worse home records than the Cardinals this season. With a 4-0 road record, the Cardinals could easily finish this season with double-digit victories -- if only they could start winning again at home. My sense is that Arizona has learned its lesson at home. If falling behind 28-7 to the Panthers didn't get their attention a couple of weeks ago, perhaps nothing will.
About that Seattle defense. Cornerback Marcus Trufant and defensive end Patrick Kerney are healthy. Rookie linebacker Aaron Curry has eight games of experience. New middle linebacker David Hawthorne has shown himself to be a playmaker. The Seattle defense has no excuses, in other words. This group had high hopes entering the season. The Seahawks have allowed 1,172 yards in three road games, an average of 391 yards per game. Keep an eye on defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. The Seahawks expected him to become a more disruptive up-the-field player after tweaking his role in Jim Mora's new defense. The results have not been there consistently enough to this point. He has one sack in seven games, down from 5.5 in 16 games last season.
Cardinals putting it on the line. Seahawks coach Jim Mora probably cries every time he reads about how the Cardinals have started the same five offensive linemen for 28 consecutive games, counting playoffs. The streak could be in jeopardy this week because Mike Gandy, the Cardinals' starting left tackle, has missed practice time while battling an injury to his midsection. Gandy managed to finish Arizona's 41-21 victory at Chicago, but he struggled late in the game. Gandy is not a great tackle, but maintaining continuity on the line has been a priority for the Cardinals. Guard Jeremy Bridges has started 39 NFL games, including 11 with Arizona in 2004 and 2005. But as the Seahawks have learned this season, instability at that position can dramatically affect an offense.