NFC West rivals looking to get back into the win column meet up out in the desert
Redemption Sunday is on tap for the Seattle Seahawks (2-1) will take on the Arizona Cardinals (0-2-1) in a key early-season NFC West matchup. These two teams are in a position where they need to keep pace with the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers who are off to blazing 3-0 starts in 2019.
Seattle was all over the place in their 33-27 loss at home to the New Orleans Saints. The loss to New Orleans was the first at home in the month of September under head coach Pete Carroll. Turnovers and missed tackles on Alvin Kamara ended up costing them dearly. The Saints scored on defense and special teams, which in the NFL is a great way to win on the road. However, for the Seahawks, it's a one-way ticket to lose, which they did despite outgaining New Orleans. Chris Carson continued to have issues with ball security as his fumble in the second quarter resulted in a touchdown for the Saints. Seattle seems set on continuing to rely on Carson but at the end of the day running backs can't fumble the ball and stay employed in the NFL.
Arizona is coming off of a 38-20 loss at home to the Carolina Panthers last Sunday at home. The Cardinals did not have any answers for Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen and the rest of his offense. Allen was 19-for-26 for 261 yards and threw four touchdowns passes in his first start for an injured Cam Newton. Arizona's offensive line had a rough day as Carolina racked up eight sacks, including three by Mario Addison. Kyler Murray had a so-so performance as he was effective using his legs (69 rushing yards), but he finished with just 173 passing yards and tossed a couple of interceptions, If the Cardinals can't consistently protect Murray it will be a challenge for him to get through the season unscathed health-wise.
Seattle at Arizona
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 29 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Seahawks -4
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks secondary vs. Cardinals wide receivers
This week should provide an opportunity for the Seattle secondary to pick up some confidence as they appear to have the advantage talent-wise over the Arizona wide receivers. The Seahawks are currently giving up 250.7 passing yards per game, which ranks 16th in the NFL. They are definitely a secondary that has bent but not broken yet as far as giving up the big pass play on a regular basis. Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk have been Kyler Murray's favorite targets early on and it would help if they could find a way to get open in the middle of the field or on their intermediate routes. The Cardinals' Air Raid offense has been effective in moving the ball between the 20s, using a lot of quick passes and variety of screens. But head coach Kliff Kingsbury has to find a way to stress the Seattle secondary like Cincinnati did back in Week 1. Young receivers like Keesean Johnson will get more of an opportunity to make more plays following the release of veteran Michael Crabtree earlier this week.
2. Russell Wilson vs. Kyler Murray
Wilson is the veteran mobile quarterback who set the standard for future undersized mobile quarterbacks like Murray. Wilson is off to a strong start in 2019, completing 71.4 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Last week, Wilson did all he could to win the game as he completed 32-of-50 passes for 406 yards and two scores, along with 53 rushing yards and two more touchdowns on the ground. Murray is completing 61.3 percent of his passes but has nearly as many interceptions (three) as touchdowns (four) thus far. Consistency is going to be critical for Murray moving forward and he needs to do a better job of getting rid of the football, as his offensive line has had trouble protecting him (16 sacks allowed). Murray has a strong enough arm to take shots downfield. If he's able to connect on a few of those it will force defenses to devote more resources to pass coverage and probably reduce the number of blitzes he sees.
3. Battle of the running games
The Seahawks made their reputation in 2018 by running the ball consistently and ended up ranking first in the NFL in rushing offense. This year has been a different story as opposing defensive coordinators are daring Wilson to beat them throwing the ball. It will be up to Seattle's offensive line to set the tone from the opening series and impose their will on Chandler Jones and the Arizona defensive front. The ability to open up holes should take some pressure of Carson and the rest of the running backs to focus on attacking the holes and moving the chains. For the Cardinals, they need to give David Johnson more of a chance to grind out yardage. He's averaging just 3.7 yards per carry but has totaled just 18 rushing attempts over the last two weeks after getting 18 in Week 1 alone. Running the ball effectively is another way to ease some of the pressure on Murray.
Both teams are going to come out with plenty of urgency as the Seahawks have playoff aspirations in 2019 and can ill afford a loss to Arizona. Meanwhile, the Cardinals simply need to get their first win for their overall peace of mind as the season approaches the quarter pole. Russell Wilson should be able to make enough plays in the passing game to Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, and Will Dissly to propel Seattle to about a seven-point win. These games at State Farm Stadium between these two division rivals are usually a bit unpredictable and this one will not be any different. The Seahawks will win by a touchdown and improve to 3-1 on the season.
Prediction: Seahawks 27, Cardinals 20
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.