Sunday Night Football Preview: Missing Some Drama
The Arizona Cardinals have truly exceeded expectations this season, racing out to a 9-1 start despite missing Carson Palmer for four of those games, eventually losing him for the season to a torn ACL. The Cardinals currently sit on top of the NFC and have clinched a playoff berth, but they have more to lose than any other team this weekend as they host the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night. If the Cardinals win this game, they will clinch home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs. If they lose, they are a wild-card team playing on the road to make it back home, as the Super Bowl is being played in Glendale this season.
To muddy up the waters even more, Arizona will be without replacement starter Drew Stanton, turning to their fourth different quarterback this season, Ryan Lindley, who has been less than spectacular in his previous appearances. According to numberFire's key metric, Net Expected Points (NEP), which measures how many points an individual players adds or subtracts from his teams final score, Lindley has the 17th-worst Passing NEP season of the 1,038 individual quarterback campaigns accumulated since the 2000 season. He hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in the seven games he has appeared in, versus nine turnovers. His last game against Seattle was one of the all-time blowouts, as the Seahawks dismantled the Cardinals 58-0, forcing eight turnovers, recording three sacks, and scoring twice on defense. Lindley and starter John Skelton combined for five of those turnovers and passed for 133 total yards.
The Seahawks are rolling right now after a sluggish start, winning four straight games by a combined score of 79-27. The defense has gotten healthy with the return of Bobby Wagner, and opponents have been unable to run the ball against Seattle. The Seahawks have a top-five defensive unit against the run according to our Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP metric, while also being the best offensive rushing attack in the league.
Simply put, the Seahawks are peaking at the right time as they move towards defending their title. Russell Wilson continues to impress as a dual-threat quarterback. He's only the 14th-best passer when it comes to Passing NEP, but, perhaps most impressively, has a league high -- among all positions -- Rushing NEP. His 54.25 Rushing NEP is more than double the running back leader, Justin Forsett. When Wilson leaves the pocket, he's among the most dangerous and efficient player in the entire NFL.
The game has the most on the line out of the Week 16 slate, but with Palmer on the shelf and Seattle looking like an unstoppable steamroller, the drama has been squeezed out of this one. Using our advanced metrics, let's see how this one plays out:
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