A short week will finally catch up with the Arizona Cardinals, argues Romilly Evans, ahead of tonight's big game
"The Hawks are animals on both sides of the ball and, long story short, the banged-up Cards will do well to repel borders at the line of scrimmage, despite homefield advantage."
I've always demanded a lot from Carson Palmer. Not in needy girlfriend sort of way, you understand. But this former Heisman Trophy winner has been breaking hearts on and off the field since his stud collegiate days, as his career accomplishments struggled to match his towering talents.
A protracted spell at the Cincinnati Bengals ended in more misses than hits and an acrimonious departure. Then came another unhappy spell under the Jolly Roger banner of the Oakland Raiders. However, now more happily housed at the Arizona Cardinals, Palmer has a final opportunity to leave some sort of stamp on the NFL.
Palmer's options at receiver are certainly offer his most productive avenues yet and the unconsidered Cards are already a respectable 3-3 in possibly the toughest division in the league. Even when defeated last week at the San Francisco 49ers, they only lost out in the fourth quarter against one of the toughest teams in the league.
Critics will cite two early picks from Palmer as the root cause. However, in truth, two hapless later fumbles proved the game-changer in an encounter where Palmer sustained a high enough level to rile the early Super Bowl favourites in their own back yard. So don't give up on the Cardinals just yet, especially over the longer course of the season.
Their short-term reliability, though, looks open to greater doubt. Chiefly because the schedulers have not only handed Arizona a short week but have also presented them with possibly the most bruising one-two punch in the game - last Sunday the Niners, this Thursday night the Seattle Seahawks.
After all, the only outfit tougher and more physical that the 49ers is the Hawks. Palmer could not have asked for a harder assignment on offense, while the Cardinals D (possibly without pivotal defensive end Calais Campbell) will have to deal with an onslaught from running man, Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch should be Seattle's wrecking ball once again tonight. The 49ers persevered with the run and the Cards' defensive line finally and repeatedly caved in the final quarter. That physical battering has already taken a toll and while many of their walking wounded will take the field tonight, these are weary troopers who don't need another night in the trenches.
The Hawks are animals on both sides of the ball and, long story short, the banged-up Cards will do well to repel borders at the line of scrimmage, despite homefield advantage. They surely won't have the antidote to an industrial-strength dose of Lynch (the RB ran for two TDs and racked up 155 all-round yards in his most recent outing) who will be champing at the proverbial bit. Mind him in the First Touchdown Scorer markets accordingly. Lynch actually leads the league for rushing and touchdowns since November 2011 and would be even shorter in the betting, were it not for him revealing a hip injury midweek. Don't worry though, he'll play.
Arizona's only hope will be Palmer's connections to wideout Larry Fitzgerald who remains the top touchdown target. Fitzgerald snaffled six catches for 117 yards against San Fran and while he's never been a threat to take lightly, his hamstring continues to cause him discomfort - plus it's only had four days to recover this week.
Seattle, on the other hand, must emerge the fresher and sharper team. They even rebounded from a litany of errors against Tennessee, so they will be keen to keep it tight and bolster their play-off qualifications this evening. Quarterback Russell Wilson has also pledged to play it safe and simple in his post-match press conferences, so expect this to be a clinical performance from the Hawks - or death by a thousand cutbacks from the Cards.
Back Seattle Seahawks (-6.5) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 2.0621/20 or better
Back Seattle Seahawks (-3.5) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 1.84/5 or better
Back M.Lynch to score First Touchdown @ 7.06/1 or better