A pair of NFC West rivals, looking to get back to the .500 mark, will meet at Lumen Field on Sunday afternoon as the Arizona Cardinals travel up to the Pacific Northwest to face the Seattle Seahawks. These two teams split teams split both meetings last season, with each one winning on the other's home field. The game also will include the induction of former Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander into the team's ring of honor at halftime.
Arizona (2-3) dropped a tough one at home last Sunday to a surging Philadelphia Eagles team by a score of 20-17. The Cardinals had a chance to send the game to overtime but fill-in kicker Matt Ammendola missed a 43-yard field goal. Kyler Murray made a critical mistake leading up to the FG attempt, as he slid just short of the line to gain and then spiked the ball on third down with 22 seconds left. Timeout management by head coach Kliff Kingsbury didn't help, as he didn't have any to work with on those final couple of plays. The defense held up its end of the bargain for the most part by limiting the Eagles to 20 points but didn't force any turnovers and allowed Philadephia to go 6-for-13 on third down.
It was another wild adventure of a game down in New Orleans as the Seahawks (2-3) lost a 39-32 affair to the Saints. The game had six lead changes along with five touchdowns that came on plays of 35 yards or longer. Geno Smith continued to play well as he completed 16-of-25 passes for 268 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. Kenneth Walker III rushed for 88 yards on eight attempts with a touchdown. His emergence is even more critical with Rashaad Penny now lost for the season after breaking his leg. Two key fumbles — by punter Michael Dickson on a botched kick and the other by DK Metcalf — cost the Seahawks a pair of touchdowns. The defense continued to experience growing pains with the new 3-4 alignment, as Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara combined for 215 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Arizona (2-3) at Seattle (2-3)
Three Things to Watch
1. Cardinals' offense ready to take flight?
Kyler Murray has an opportunity staring at him right in the face to have a textbook " get right" game this week. Murray has thrown for 1,241 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions while completing 65.6 percent of his passes. Those are solid numbers, but there is always room for improvement as he's yet to really dominate a game this season. Murray must be patient this week as he will have plenty of opportunities to make plays against a struggling Seattle defense. Running the ball is going to be another key, especially with the Seahawks giving up 170.2 rushing yards per game. James Conner (ribs) and Darrel Williams (knee) have both been ruled out for Sunday, but Eno Benjamin has been able to step up and fill in nicely (4.5 ypc) when called upon. He'll see a larger role against Seattle.
2. Seattle's defensive game plan
The challenge for the Seahawks comes in trying to slow down a quarterback they are pretty familiar with. However, this is the first time trying to do so with the 3-4 alignment which has caused its share of problems to this point. It starts up front by controlling the line of scrimmage and getting pressure on Murray. Al Woods' status is something to keep an eye on after leaving last week's game because of a knee injury. There's optimism that he will be able to play, which is huge for any hopes of slowing down the Cardinals' running game. Former Seahawk Bruce Irvin was re-signed this week as the team looks to boost its pass rush and have Irvin serve as a mentor for younger guys like Uchenna Nwosu, Darrell Taylor and Boye Mafe. One recent bright spot in the defense has been cornerback Tariq Woolen. The rookie now has three interceptions, a fumble recovery, and a blocked field goal that resulted in a touchdown in Week 2 against San Francisco. Woolen has another tough test awaiting him in trying to cover Marquise Brown and Arizona's other pass catchers.
3. Can Geno Smith and the Seahawks keep cooking?
This will be a fun matchup as the Seahawks must get Smith on the move a bit to slow down the aggressiveness of the Cardinals' pass rush. One thing that should help Smith is that he doesn't tend to try to extend plays for too long, as Russell Wilson did at times when he was the quarterback. Smith must be decisive and spread the ball around to Tyler Lockett, who has yet to drop a pass this season and has been a huge help for Smith in the passing game. DK Metcalf and the tight ends will be big factors this week as well, with Arizona ranked 21st against the pass so far. Moving the chains on third down is another storyline to watch, as the Seahawks converted just one of 10 such opportunities against the Saints. That's a glaring stat, considering the game was decided by a single score, and Seattle led by one point with less than seven minutes to go. This also will be Walker's first opportunity to show that he can carry the load by himself. The rookie is averaging 6.3 yards per carry but that was with Rashaad Penny getting the lion's share of the work.
It’s never an easy game for Seattle when Arizona comes to town, as the Cardinals always find a way to make things difficult, especially on offense. But if the Seahawks can limit the self-inflicted mistakes, they should be in a position to win the game in the fourth quarter. Both teams will have their moments on offense when it comes to explosive plays, but this game will be decided by whichever offense grinds out that one key extended drive to put the game away. That team will be Seattle as Geno Smith and the offense will dig deep and find a way to score late to get the Seahawks back to .500 on the season.
Prediction: Seahawks 30, Cardinals 28
– Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Contributor Network.
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