After predicting a 4-4 start, Devon turns his attention to Seattle’s next four matchups in part three of the four-part series.
WEEK TEN: Seahawks at Arizona
(Last year’s record and finish for ARI: 10-6, first place in NFC West)
After being the league’s runner-up in 2008, the Cardinals came back by taking the NFC West crown for a second straight season, a dominance they hope to extend into a third year.
The team’s defense largely remains intact from its 2009 form when it ranked sixth in the NFL in sacks and reports out of Cardinals camp are that defensive end Calais Campbell is in line for a big season. In just his second year in the league, Campbell was tied for the team lead in sacks with seven.
Where Arizona will have the most visible difference is on offense. Kurt Warner retired after throwing 26 touchdowns and over 3,700 yards. One of Warner’s favorite targets, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, now wears a Baltimore Ravens uniform. With Warner and Boldin gone, Arizona will turn to fifth-year quarterback Matt Leinart and wideouts Steve Breaston and Early Doucet to help shoulder the offensive load with Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and second-year running back Chris Wells.
**Result: Arizona beats Seattle**
WEEK ELEVEN: Seahawks at New Orlenas
(Last year’s record and finish for NO: 13-3, first place in NFC South)
Known for the better part of two decades as the ‘Aints, New Orleans cast its alter ego aside with a Super Bowl Championship in 2009.
Shouldering the team’s load to glory was Drew Brees. En route to punching his ticket to a Super Bowl MVP award and a spot on the NFC’s Pro Bowl squad, the quarterback posted career bests in completion percentage (70.6) and quarterback rating (109.6) while tying his career high in touchdown passes with 34.
Without Brees, New Orleans could have experienced a very different ending to its season. The team’s defense frequently got exploited. The unit ranked 25th in average yards allowed per game and 20th in average points allowed.
In 2010 many of the team’s centerpieces remain. Brees is back for his fifth year under center in a Saints uniform with running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas in tow. While Bush will continue his role of the team’s jack-of all-trades and homerun threat, Thomas could see an even larger role in the offense. Former backup Mike Bell is now in Philadelphia and Thomas’ current understudy, Lynell Hamilton, is out for the year with a torn ACL. At wide receiver, New Orleans has more options than most. Fourth-year wideout Marques Colston enters 2010 after recording his third 1,000-yard season as a pro. Behind Colston is an interchangeable corps consisting of Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore and tight end Jeremy Shockey.
**Result: New Orleans beats Seattle**
WEEK TWELVE: Kansas City at Seahawks
(Last year’s record and finish for KC: 4-12, fourth place in AFC West)
The past three years have been agonizingly long for the Chiefs. Going 4-12 in two of those three seasons and 2-14 the other, Kansas City hasn’t experienced a winning season since 2006.
Not helping was the fact that the Chiefs statistically ranked near the back of the pack on both sides of the ball in 2009.
Kansas City allowed over 400 yards to opposing offenses in all but five games last year, placing them 30th in the league average yards allowed. With the opposing teams’ yards came points, lots and lots of points. The Chiefs gave up 424 on the year, an average 26.5 per game.
Frequently playing from behind, the team often struggled to establish its offense. Quarterback Matt Cassel completed 55 percent of his passes and matched his touchdown total (16) with his interceptions. The team’s slated starter at running back coming into the season, Larry Johnson, playing in just seven games averaged less than three yards per rush.
The lone bright spot in a Chiefs uniform last year was the team’s backup running back. Filling in, and eventually taking over, for Johnson was youngster Jamaal Charles. In his second year in the league, Charles averaged 5.9 yards per carry and 8.5 per catch en route to racking up 2,046 total yards from scrimmage and nine total touchdowns.
**Result: Seattle beats Kansas City**
WEEK THIRTEEN: Carolina at Seahawks
(Last year’s record and finish for CAR: 8-8, third place in NFC West)
With its starting quarterback out with a broken finger and the team staring at a record of 4-7, things were going from bad to worse for the Carolina Panthers.
Enter Matt Moore.
In the final five games of the season, the third-year quarterback out of Oregon State took over the team’s signal calling duties and went 4-1. The main factor for the success was his ability to not turn the ball over. Compared to original starter Jake Delhomme’s 18 interceptions in 2009, Moore threw just two.
Finding his targets more than his opponents, Moore revitalized a struggling Steve Smith. In the season’s final five games, Moore and Smith connected for 378 yards or over 38 percent of the wideout’s receiving yards for the season.
Moore’s play also impacted the team’s ground game. A re-emerging aerial attack helped draw attention away from the team’s two-headed monster of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. The two combined for 2,250 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on the season, with 684 yards from two coming while Moore was under center.
**Result: Carolina beats Seattle**
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