Undefeated Seahawks clash with streaking Cardinals in key NFC West matchup in primetime
After a much-needed bye week, the Seattle Seahawks will head down to the desert to take on the Arizona Cardinals on "Sunday Night Football" once again. This game was moved to primetime due to COVID-19-related concerns with the Raiders; the NFL could ill afford to get caught without a Sunday night game this week. Fans will be in attendance at State Farm Stadium, as up to 1,200 tickets will be sold to Cardinals season-ticket holders, which will be a nice change of pace for both teams in this unique 2020 season.
Seattle (5-0) appears to have survived the toughest week of their season, which in 2020 is the bye week, and avoided a COVID-19 outbreak. Last time out two weeks ago, the Seahawks pulled another Houdini act when Russell Wilson led another game-winning drive in the fourth quarter to beat the Vikings 27-26. It was two games in one, as Seattle was dominated at the line of scrimmage in the first half, which resulted in a 13-0 deficit heading into the locker room. The second half was a different story.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer got the tight end involved more, and his patience with getting the ball to DK Metcalf paid off with six receptions for 93 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner. K.J. Wright stepped up with an interception, and the defensive line rose to the occasion with a stop on fourth down that set up Wilson's 95-yard game-winning drive. Love or hate the Seahawks, they seem destined to give their fans a weekly heart-stopping roller coaster ride for 60 minutes.
Arizona (4-2) is coming off of a dominant defensive performance at Dallas on Monday night when they blew out the Cowboys by a score of 38-10. Kyler Murray settled down after the first couple of series and used his legs effectively in his successful homecoming in front of 25,000-plus fans at AT&T Stadium.
Budda Baker was elevated to captain leading up to this game, and he wound up earning NFC Defensive Player of the week honors. Baker had seven tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and his first career interception to lead an inspired defensive effort. Baker also thought an underlying reason why the Cardinals were so successful on defense was that "this was a game we finally trusted each other." Trust on the defensive side of the football is an invaluable asset, and if it can be carried over to this week and beyond, then watch out for the Cardinals the rest of the way.
Sunday Night Football: Seattle at Arizona
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 25 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Spread: Seahawks -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks offensive line vs. Arizona defense
Seattle's retooled unit will catch a break this week since they will not have to deal with Chandler Jones, who is out for the season with a biceps injury. In the last meeting between these two teams, Jones basically set up permanent residence in the Seahawks backfield, collecting four sacks along with six quarterback hits, so needless to say they won't miss having to deal with Jones on Sunday night. Haason Reddick is a leading candidate to replace Jones as the Cardinals' top pass rusher since he is coming off a two-sack performance last week and now has four sacks on the year.
Bottom line, it will be imperative for the offensive line to play sound football and minimize the negative plays. By minimizing negative plays, the offense can stay on schedule and give Wilson a chance for a clean pocket to throw the ball. Establishing the run early this week will also help a great deal and that is going to start with rookie right guard Damien Lewis, who has done very well as a run-blocker (Pro Football Focus gave him an 87.8 grade in that category).
2. DeAndre Hopkins vs. DK Metcalf
Hopkins and Metcalf will have a great opportunity to put on a show this week. Hopkins is off to a great start with 47 receptions, 601 yards, and two touchdowns but is battling through an ankle injury and did not practice on Wednesday. Shaquill Griffin will more than likely matchup with Hopkins, and that should be an entertaining battle to watch all afternoon, Griffin should be better prepared to deal with Hopkins after a tough battle against Amari Cooper in Week 3.
Metcalf continues to get better, and his connection with Russell Wilson is quickly evolving into one of the best quarterback-wide receiver combinations in the sport. This week will provide a stiff test for Metcalf, as he should see a healthy dose of Patrick Peterson and former Husky cornerback Byron Murphy, who seem like they are ready for the challenge that Metcalf will provide for them this week.
3. Can the Seahawks' front seven contain Kyler Murray and Kenyan Drake?
Wright and Bobby Wagner will have to take control and find a way to keep Murray hemmed in the pocket whenever possible. Murray was not great throwing the ball on Monday night, as he only completed 9-of-24 attempts for 188 yards and a touchdown. Thus, designed quarterback runs could be a potential problem since the Seahawks had their issues with another mobile quarterback in Cam Newton, who had 444 total yards against them.
Moreover, the ability of the defense to play assignment sound football is going to be of utmost importance, as it will limit Murray's ability to bust off long runs and will allow them to keep running back Kenyan Drake in check. Drake rushed for 166 yards and scored two touchdowns in a 27-13 win over Seattle in the last meeting back in December 2019.
Seattle will have to take this game down to the wire in order to stay undefeated since they will miss not having a sea of 12s in the stands down in Glendale. If Jones were healthy, then the Cardinals would be the pick in this game because the Seahawks offensive line would not have been able to slow him down. Wilson and Murray will dominate this game with their legs and connect with Metcalf and Hopkins through the air to keep this back and forth type of game all night long. However, Seattle will create one extra turnover in the second half to secure a narrow victory to improve to 6-0 on the year.
Prediction: Seahawks 27, Cardinals 23
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.