'Thursday Night Football': Five things to watch


The Seattle Seahawks can make a strong case for being the class of the NFC. The Arizona Cardinals have the look of an also-ran.

Does that mean we're headed toward a mismatch on Thursday night? Not so fast. The Seahawks are nearly unbeatable at home, but they haven't been nearly as dominant on the road. The Seahawks are just 6-7 away from CenturyLink Field since the start of the 2012 season.

Thursday, Dec. 12, 8 p.m. ET
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These two division rivals split their matchups last season, though we'd hardly call the head-to-head battle even. The Cardinals were embarrassed in a 58-0 road loss last December.

But don't worry, Redbird Nation. John Skelton will be far away from the proceedings Thursday night.

Here are five things to watch ahead of tonight's kickoff:

1. We brought up Skelton because, well, Skelton was terrible. But Carson Palmer is having his own problems in the desert. The veteran quarterback is forcing throws and missing too many open receivers. He's an upgrade over what Arizona had last season, but he's not playing nearly well enough. If Palmer takes reckless chances Thursday, you can guarantee Seattle's dynamic secondary will make him pay.

2. The Seahawks are 5-1 despite some legitimately shaky play from their offensive line. Paul McQuistan has been one of the worst left tackles in football since taking over for the injured Russell Okung, and right tackle Breno Giacomini remains on the shelf after knee surgery. Max Unger's return to the lineup this past Sunday was a significant lift, but concerns linger for the unit.

Russell Wilson is running more than ever, which is good in the sense that Wilson is very good at it, but bad in the sense that you don't want The Franchise running for his life every other down. According to ESPN, Wilson has been sacked or put under duress on 37 percent of his dropbacks this season, the third-highest rate in the NFL. No bueno.

3. We're looking forward to Marshawn Lynch versus the Cardinals' run defense. Despite the above-stated concerns on the offensive line, Beast Mode lives on. Lynch enters action as the league's third-leading rusher. Arizona's run D is allowing just 3.5 yards per carry this season, though the Niners ran wild over them on Sunday.

4. Palmer has looked Larry Fitzgerald's way with regularity this season, though results have been mixed. The wide receiver has 30 receptions and four touchdowns, but five of Palmer's 11 picks have come on throws intended for Fitzgerald, according to ESPN. The good news is Fitzgerald's hamstring looked mighty healthy in a 117-yard receiving day against the Niners.

5. Andre Ellington gets his first taste of the national stage. The sixth-round draft pick has been a real find for the Cardinals, and he's eaten into Rashard Mendenhall's backfield workload. Look for the Cardinals to get the ball to the rookie in space. Ellington has the potential to be a difference-maker in what should be a very competitive matchup.

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