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Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Phoenix, Arizona
A pair of teams with unsettled quarterback situations open the season in the desert as the Seattle Seahawks will start rookie Russell Wilson at the Arizona Cardinals, who have their own unproven signal-caller, John Skelton, in an NFC West matchup. Neither team solidified its choice for the starter until the final game of the preseason.
Wilson, clearly viewed as the backup once the Seahawks signed Matt Flynn out of Green Bay, forced Seattle coach Pete Carroll to give him the job after a spectacular preseason. He may have to shoulder the offensive load if running back Marshawn Lynch is unable to go due to a back injury. Skelton, on the other hand, beat out Kevin Kolb in an uninspiring sparring match. The teams split the season series in 2011, with both games decided by a field goal.
ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS (2011: 7-9): Wilson has a lot of experience but it’s all on the collegiate level. He started 50 straight games while playing for Wisconsin and North Carolina State and set the NCAA mark by throwing 379 passes without an interception. But don’t expect Carroll to let the rookie turn this into an aerial assault. The Seahawks have featured Lynch extensively over the past two seasons and “The Beast” set a team record by scoring a touchdown in 11 straight games last season. Over the final nine weeks of 2011, Lynch led the NFL with 941 rushing yards but he is listed as questionable with back spasms that have kept him out of practice for the past two weeks. Wilson completed 40 of 63 passes and five touchdowns in the preseason. The Seahawks won’t have WR Golden Tate (knee) but deep threat Sidney Rice was deemed ready to go after offseason surgery on both shoulders.
ABOUT THE CARDINALS (2011: 8-8): Arizona snapped a three-game skid against the Seahawks, winning 23-20 game in overtime in the final game of the regular season. Larry Fitzgerald torched the Seahawks’ defense in that game, hauling in nine catches for 149 yards. Fitzgerald totaled a career-high 1,411 receiving yards last season despite the Cardinals’ quarterback carousel. He signed a new deal in the offseason and is looking to improve on his eight scoring grabs of last season. The Cardinals went 6-2 in games that Skelton appeared in last season but the third-year pro posted a woeful QB rating of 68.9.
1. Pete Carroll is 4-1 against Arizona in his coaching career.
2. Arizona was minus-13 on takeaways last season.
3. Seattle was ninth in total defense last season