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AP expecting shootout with Cardinals, Seahawks

The Associated Press

There is a word that has become taboo in NFL circles in the Pacific Northwest and in the Valley of the Sun.

Defense.

Sure, Seattle has an established megastar in quarterback Russell Wilson and a budding one in receiver DK Metcalf. And yes, the Cardinals have the reverse in QB Kyler Murray throwing prayers to — and having them answered — by veteran DeAndre Hopkins. What neither of these NFC West leaders (along with the Rams, all 6-3) possesses is enough defense.

Which means tonight’s prime-timer should be filled with points that are pleasing to the eye, and defense viewers want to turn away from watching.

The Seahawks rank dead last against the pass, with the Cardinals at the top of the list as a passing threat. And while Arizona is middle of the pack in many defensive statistics, the offense much of the time has to bail out the D.

So yes, both units tend to be Legions of Doom.

This is an absolutely critical contest for both teams in the NFL’s best division. The West members manage to beat up on each other, which could cost all of them the single conference bye in the playoffs. Seattle already lost at Arizona last month, in overtime, and also has fallen to the Rams.

Seattle is a 3-point choice over No. 9 Arizona Upset special: Cardinals, 35-30

Elsewhere:

n The NFL is placing all teams in intensive protocol starting Saturday to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 as the number of cases rises around the country.

Use of masks will be mandatory at all times at team facilities, including during practice and in weight rooms. Meetings must be held either virtually or in the largest indoor space with approval by the league. Meals have to be made available for grab-and-go to avoid players and staff congregating in cafeterias. Time spent in the locker room also has to be limited.

Clubs operating under the intensive protocols have reduced close contacts by more than 50% since the fifth week of the regular season, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press that was sent from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to teams on Wednesday.

n Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule said running back Christian McCaffrey is expected to miss Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions, a big blow for a Carolina team that is looking to snap a five-game losing streak. Rhule said he also expects left tackle quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s status remains unclear after he was limited in practice on Wednesday due to an injury suffered in last weekend’s loss to Tampa Bay.

n Drew Lock’s bruised ribs prevented him from practicing Wednesday when the Denver Broncos installed their game plan for Miami with backup Brett Rypien running their patchwork offense.

Joining Lock on the sideline was Denver’s leading receiver, tight end Noah Fant, who also has sore ribs.

The pair’s status is uncertain for Sunday when the reeling Broncos (3-6) host the surging Dolphins (6-3), who have won three in a row under rookie QB Tua Tungovailoa.

n The New York Giants have fired offensive line coach Marc Colombo.

Coach Joe Judge announced the stunning move on Wednesday without an explanation. Veteran line coach Dave DeGuglielmo will finish the season running the line.

The Giants (3-7) are heading into a bye week with the new offensive line starting to play well. New York has won two straight games to get back in the race for the NFC East title.

Judge and DeGuglielmo worked together on Bill Belichick’s coaching staff in New England in 2014-15. DeGuglielmo interviewed to be the offensive line coach after Judge was hired.

Judge has already spoken with the media on Wednesday and he was not available for questions about the firing. He is not scheduled to talk to the media again until Monday. Colombo was not immediately available for comment.

Some media outlets in New York City were reporting that Judge and Columbo got into a verbal dispute that turned violent and that both coacheshad to be restrained after words were exchanged. The Giants did not comment on those reports.

n The Baltimore Ravens enter Sunday’s pivotal game against the Tennessee Titans with 11 players on injured reserve and several other key contributors too hurt to practice.

Baltimore’s offense line is still trying to adjust to All-Pro tackle Ronnie Stanley’s season-ending ankle injury, and there are four cornerbacks on IR. Defensive linemen Calais Campbell (calf) and Brandon Williams (ankle) missed Wednesday’s workout, as did veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith, who sat out last week’s loss in New England with an ankle injury. To top it all off, Nick Boyle sustained a season-ending knee injury against the Patriots, leaving one tight end on the roster.

The shortage of manpower will test Baltimore’s depth and resilience in a rematch of last January’s AFC divisional playoff, especially with the Ravens trying to remain in striking distance of Pittsburgh (9-0).

Maybe so, but Baltimore (6-3) struggled stopping the run on a wet night in New England with Campbell sidelined and after Williams left in the first quarter. New England amassed 173 yards rushing, often plowing past backups Madubuike and Justin Ellis.

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