By Jim Moore
For several reasons, the Seahawks are favored over the Cardinals by 2 1/2 points.
Arizona has a supposedly sub-par quarterback in John Skelton, who beat out Kevin Kolb by default. Arizona also has two starting tackles that have never started at their respective positions before.
This leads you to believe that the Seahawks, with an improved pass rush, should be in the Cardinals' back field all game long, disrupting and harassing when they're not sacking Skelton.
The Seahawks are projected by many to have a top-5 defense this year. They're expected to stifle good offenses and shouldn't have any problems with one as bad as Arizona's with its makeshift line and erratic quarterback.
Flip it around, and it's not like Seattle's offense should have its way with Arizona's defense either, but you still like to think that Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch (if he plays) and an array of receivers will do enough damage to win the game.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson will have a hard time repeating his stellar preseason performances when he makes his first regular-season start at Arizona. (AP)
But I'm not so sure of that. There's an assumption that Arizona's supposed to have a down season, and I'm not sure where that comes from, but it's there in most of the football magazines. Most experts are picking the Cardinals to finish third in the NFC West.
This team went 8-8 last year after beating the Seahawks in overtime in the last game. Aside from the injuries on the offensive line, has Arizona changed that much to warrant being a home underdog to Seattle?
I don't think so. As much as you can point to the positives, there are potential negatives – or at least caution signs – that need to be considered.
Most of us feel that Wilson will be just fine in his first game. Maybe he won't be as scintillating as he was in the preseason, but he should be good enough in his debut to lead the Seahawks past the Cardinals.
But I think this is going to be a drastically different situation. The Cardinals are game-planning for him. It's the regular season vs. the preseason. If I had to bet – and Lord knows that oftentimes I do – I'd bet that Wilson is more apt to struggle than shine in his first game.
As much as we like to think that he's an exceptional player, it's crazy to think that he'll be exceptional in his first start. He's a rookie. He's a player who was drafted in the third round, not the first. Plus he's not even 5-feet-11.
Granted, Wilson appears to be a break-the-mold kind of guy, but until he proves it, history tells us that first-year quarterbacks, particularly those who were drafted in the third round or later, sputter in their first start.
This happens in optimum conditions, and Wilson could be faced with less than ideal conditions because back spasms might prevent Lynch from playing. If that's the case, rookie Robert Turbin steps in to take the majority of the carries.
The Seahawks also have a rookie starting at right guard in J.R. Sweezy, a seventh-round pick who was a defensive lineman at North Carolina State. He hasn't played on the offensive line since he was 8 years old, and he's making his first start in an NFL game?!
Maybe Sweezy will be fine. Maybe Wilson and Turbin will be, too. Maybe Doug Baldwin will be up and running and good as new even though he hasn't played all preseason because of a hamstring injury. Maybe Golden Tate will play with a sprained knee. Maybe Zach Miller will play like he did at Oakland. Maybe Sidney Rice will be a game-breaking receiver.
The point is, for me, there seem to be too many maybes and not enough certainties with Seattle's offense to justify the favorites role in a road game.
On the other side of the ball, are we conveniently forgetting that Skelton is 6-0 as a starter at home? Or that the far-and-away best player on the field, Larry Fitzgerald, will be in an Arizona uniform? I haven't.
If I'm trying to look at this game objectively and not through the hometown Seahawks lens, I see a Cardinals' win in a low-scoring game on Sunday.
My prediction: Cardinals 20, Seahawks 13