Just a few weeks ago, the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks played one of the best and most exciting games of the season.
The Cardinals ended up prevailing, 37-34, in overtime, handing their division rivals the first of what would become three losses in a four-game span. Seattle is riding that streak heading into the rematch against Arizona on Thursday night, looking to rebound from its recent poor stretch and retake the top spot in the NFC West. Arizona, which has now won four of its last five, vaulted into first place with a thrilling, last-second win over the Buffalo Bills last week, and can put some distance between themselves and the Seahawks by sweeping the season series.
How will it all go down on Thursday evening? Let’s break things down.
How to watch
Date: Thursday, Nov. 19 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ETLocation: Lumen Field (Seattle, WA) TV: FOX/NFL | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)Follow: CBS Sports App
When the Cardinals have the ball
Let’s start here: Kyler Murray is playing some incredible football at the moment. He’s on a full-season pace of 4,260 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions … plus 1,086 rushing yards and another 16 scores. Here’s the complete list of players to throw for 4,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards in the same season: Nobody. Here’s the complete list of players to throw for 30-plus scores and run for another 10 or more in the same season: Nobody. Again, Murray is on pace to do all four of those things. It’s outrageous.
With the exception of a bizarrely inefficient game against the Cowboys, Murray has been almost uniformly excellent. He’s established wonderful chemistry with DeAndre Hopkins, found a rhythm with Christian Kirk, continued to work in Larry Fitzgerald, and helped make Chase Edmonds a dangerous weapon out of the backfield. At the same time, Murray has become arguably the most dangerous red zone and open-field runner in the league. He is so small, so fast, so decisive that he often seems to teleport from one spot to another, popping out from behind a group of much larger men and materializing beyond the first-down marker.
The Seahawks had tremendous difficulty containing him last time out, allowing Murray to complete 34 of 48 passes for 340 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception, and run 14 times for 67 yards and another touchdown. Unfortunately for Seattle, that type of performance has become something like the norm against their defense — even after the return of Jamal Adams and debut of Carlos Dunlap. The Seahawks have held up quite well against the run throughout the season, but they simply cannot rush the passer and they cannot cover receivers down the field.
Seattle has repeatedly been victimized by mobile QBs as well, with Murray, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, and Josh Allen finding great success against their defense. The Seahawks really don’t have anyone who can handle Hopkins on the perimeter, as we saw the last time these two teams met, when he went for 10 catches, 103 yards, and a touchdown. But Seattle also struggled to contain Christian Kirk, who turned his eight targets into five catches and two touchdowns, and Chase Edmonds, who caught all seven of his targets for 87 yards. The best coverage players on Seattle’s defense are probably their linebackers, and that’s just not something that’s all that useful against a team like the Cardinals that rarely utilize the tight end, and whose pass-catching running back is such a better athlete than any linebacker with whom you can cover him.
The Seahawks will presumably split the workload between Edmonds and Kenyan Drake as they did last week upon Drake’s return from injury. Drake has been wildly ineffective for much of the season, and has been battling foot and ankle injuries for most of the year as well. He’s not nearly as good a fit for this matchup as is Edmonds, considering Seattle’s strength against the run (ninth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA) and weakness against the pass (26th overall, 23rd against running backs). It’s tough to assume optimal snap distribution, though, considering Drake has played far ahead of Edmonds for most of the year.
Still, so long as the Cardinals do the smart thing and put the game on Murray’s shoulders, they should be able to find great success moving the ball. The Seahawks may elect to use Jamal Adams as kind of a spy on Murray, or at least get him involved in their blitz packages in order to have a more athletic player chasing him, but Murray has shown the ability all season to avoid just about any defenders, and there’s no reason to think that will stop now.
When the Seahawks have the ball
Up until last week against the Rams, the Seahawks offense was rolling. They scored at least 27 points in each of their first eight games, with Russell Wilson lighting defenses up on the regular. Wilson has run into a bit of a turnover streak over the past few weeks, though, throwing seven interceptions and fumbling three times over Seattle’s last four games.
Until the loss to the Rams, it didn’t really affect the Seahawks’ overall output, but that changed last week, when his miscues came at crucial moments, like in the red zone or when the team had just crossed midfield and was approaching scoring territory. Combined with untimely conservative coaching from Pete Carroll, who elected to punt on fourth-and-inches near midfield and cut a potential scoring drive short, that limited the Seahawks’ scoring total to just 16 points.
There’s no real reason to think Seattle won’t go right back to denting scoreboards, though. That’s especially true because Carroll conveyed extreme optimism that Tyler Lockett will suit up for this game despite suffering an injury during the loss to the Rams and getting injury designations during practices this week. Last time these two teams played, Lockett absolutely torched Cardinals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, going off for 15 catches, 200 yards, and three scores. Patrick Peterson mostly held DK Metcalf in check during that game, but Metcalf has shown an ability to dominate anybody and everybody in his path. After being slowed again last week by Jalen Ramsey, it would not be surprising to see Seattle try to get him involved early and often on Thursday night.
Wilson went 33 of 50 for 388 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions the last time these two teams played, with two of those picks being extremely uncharacteristic mistakes for him. As he’s continued turning it over for three more games since then, I’ve wondered if and when Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer might decide to rein in the whole Let Russ Cook movement.
To be clear, I do not think that would be a wise choice. The Seahawks are only able to win games this year because Wilson is as good as he is. But now that Carlos Hyde is reportedly set to return to the lineup — meaning the Seahawks won’t be limited to DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, and Alex Collins — and Chris Carson may soon join him, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Seahawks go back to their more conservative tendencies.
Arizona has a borderline top-10 defense against both the run (11th in DVOA) and the pass (13th), so it’s not like doing one is all that preferable to the other. When that’s the case, it’s best to just put the ball in the hands of your best player. That means Wilson, and that means Lockett and Metcalf, and David Moore and Freddie Swain and the tight ends. Just because the Let Russ Cook movement has hit a bit of a snag over the past few weeks doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right idea in the first place. If the Seahawks want to rediscover their early-season form, they’ll have to use the same formula.
Prediction: Cardinals 31, Seahawks 27
Published: 2020-11-19 23:52:24
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