Up next: Arizona Cardinals

When: Sunday, 1:15 p.m. PST, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

Record: 3-5 after losing their third in a row on Sunday, when the Vikings scored 14 points in the final 4:39 to tie the game and then won in overtime 27-24

Where they rank: No. 31 on offense (28th rushing, 31st passing); No. 30 on defense (28th rushing, 27th passing)

Series: Cardinals lead 13-10 and have won six of the past eight, including four in a row in Arizona

Star power: Larry Fitzgerald. He is not having a typical season, and had three catches for 30 yards in the Cardinals’ 22-10 loss at Qwest Field on Oct. 24. But he’s still on pace for an 84-catch, 1,020-yard, eight-touchdown season – and still the Cardinals’ marquee attraction. The Seahawks got an assist at Qwest, because rookie QB Max Hall completed only one of six throws to Fitzgerald before being knocked out of the game in the third quarter with a concussion. “Missing” Fitzgerald is difficult to do because of his long arms and sure hands. In Sunday’s loss to the Vikings, he had his first 100-yard performance of the season (seven for 107). Fitzgerald had three last season and seven in 2008, when he tacked on four more in the playoffs. Three of his 10 triple-digit games in the regular season the past two years came against the Seahawks. 

Unsung hero: LaRod Stephens-Howling. As with Fitzgerald, he was the choice in this category before the Week 7 game at Qwest. As with Fitzgerald, nothing has happened to change that. In Sunday’s game against the Vikings, Stephens-Howling returned his second kickoff for a touchdown, joining the Seahawks’ Leon Washington and Patriots’ Brandon Tate as the only players in the league with a pair. He also has a league-leading 38 kickoff returns for a 27.9-yard average, which ranks sixth in the league.  And he had a 71-yarder in the Week 7 game at Qwest. Stephens-Howling also is averaging 5.5 yards on 17 carries, with a 30-yard touchdown; and has caught nine passes.

On the spot: The Cardinals. If they are serious about making a run for their third consecutive NFC West title, this is the week to do something about it. Despite their three-game losing streak, they are only a game behind division co-leaders Seattle and St. Louis. This is the first of four home games in the next five weeks for the Cardinals, who have beaten the Raiders (5-4) and Saints (6-3) in Glendale. The Cardinals play on the road in two of their final three games, but against the 49ers (2-6) and Panthers (1-7).

Burning question: Will Derek Anderson be better in his second stint as the starting QB? The pride of Scappoose, Ore., started the first four games this season, but coach Ken Whisenhunt went to Hall after Anderson threw five interceptions and had problems getting the ball to Fitzgerald. Anderson got the start against the Vikings and was 15 of 26 for 179 yards and a touchdown for a season-best passer rating of 91.7. And Fitzgerald had a season-best seven-for-107 outing Sunday, after catching 18 passes from Anderson for 200 yards in the first month of the season.

Familiar faces: Backup S Hamza Abdullah played at Washington State. Assistant defensive backs coach Rick Courtright also coached at the University of Washington (1991-92). Scout Chris Culmer joined the Cardinals last year after spending nine years with the Seahawks.

The last word: “When you lose a game (in a blowout) like we did in Atlanta and San Diego, that’s bitter. But when you lose like we lost the last two weeks (by three points to the Bucs and Vikings), it makes you sick to your stomach. It sticks with you.” – Whisenhunt


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