Cardinals, Seahawks meet in primetime for second time this season with first place in the NFC West on the line
With their backs against the wall, the Seattle Seahawks will be looking to stop a two-game losing streak when they host the Arizona Cardinals for "Thursday Night Football" to kick off Week 11 of the NFL season. These two teams met earlier in Week 7 with Arizona pulling out a dramatic 37-34 overtime victory at home thanks to a Zane Gonzalez 48-yard field goal with 15 seconds left. Now less than a month later, the Cardinals and Seahawks both sit 6-3 overall, but it's Arizona in first place in the NFC West by virtue of a 2-0 record in divisional play.
Seattle enters this game looking for answers to stop its skid. Last week, it was the inability to take care of the football and handle business at the line of scrimmage that proved costly in a 23-16 road loss to the Rams. Russell Wilson struggled once again, completing 22 of 37 passes for 248 yards with two interceptions. He also lost a fumble and was sacked six times. Jason Myers provided the highlight of the day for the Seahawks by kicking a franchise-record 61-yard field goal before halftime. The defense battled and kept the Rams to 23 points and less than 400 yards of offense, but it was not enough as Seattle dropped its second straight and slipped out of first place in the division (based on tiebreakers).
Arizona continued its ability to display a flair for the dramatic as Kyler Murray connected on a 43-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins with two seconds left to pull out a 32-30 win over Buffalo. The victory was a testament to the Cardinals' resilience on both sides of the ball as they always seem to find a way to give themselves a chance win in the face of adversity. Murray completed 22 of 32 passes for 245 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Kenyan Drake returned from injury to pace the ground game with 100 yards on 11 carries, and Murray added 67 yards and two scores. The defense stepped up and picked off Bills quarterback Josh Allen twice and just as importantly limited Buffalo to 73 rushing yards. A season sweep of Seattle would put Arizona in the driver's seat in the NFC West.
Thursday Night Football: Arizona at Seattle
Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 19 at 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: FOX/NFL Network
Spread: Seahawks -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Which defense will break serve first?
In the previous meeting, these two defenses allowed a combined 1,091 yards, 64 first downs, and 71 points, and this week has the feel of a similar type of wild and wacky shootout. Budda Baker is the type of playmaker in the secondary for Arizona who can swing the game early and often with a big turnover like he almost did in the first meeting if DK Metcalf hadn't made an epic tackle from behind on a 90-yard interception return.
The Seattle secondary could potentially get a boost from the return of Shaquill Griffin if he can recover from his hamstring issues. Unlike the last meeting, the Seahawks will have Jamal Adams, whose presence is just as important for his defense as Baker's is for the Cardinals. This past Sunday against the Rams, Adams had seven tackles, two sacks and he forced a fumble. Adams may be able to come up with a momentum- or game-changing play by creating a turnover. Recent addition Carolos Dunlap II also will be needed to generate pressure on Kyler Murray, something Seattle did not do against him back in Week 7.
2. Line of scrimmage battle
The Seahawks clearly missed Ethan Pocic at center against Los Angeles. Kyle Fuller filled in for Pocic, who was out due to a concussion, and he had his share of struggles snapping the ball and was overmatched up front against the Rams' aggressive defensive line. Wilson was sacked six times, and Los Angeles was credited with 12 QB hits. Pocic has yet to clear from concussion protocol, and Fuller suffered a high-ankle sprain, so this is something to keep an eye on entering this game.
Seattle didn't get much of anything from its running backs against the Rams, and while head coach Pete Carroll thinks Carlos Hyde should be able to return from hamstring tightness, Chris Carson may not be ready as he's still dealing with a foot injury. The Seahawks have been without their top two running backs for the past three games, and their absence has put even more pressure on Wilson's shoulders.
On the other side, Arizona's offensive line just simply needs to hold serve so to speak and minimize the hits against Murray and keep the offense on schedule. Kenyan Drake gave the running game a boost last week and the combination of him, and Chase Edmonds gives head coach Kliff Kingsbury even more options when it comes to play-calling to keep Seattle's defense on its heels.
3. Seahawks wide receivers
Tyler Lockett lit up the Cardinals secondary like the giant Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center during the last meeting with 15 catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns. Lockett doesn't have to do it all by himself though, not with Metcalf on the other side. Metcalf was pretty much locked down this past Sunday when Rams All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey held him to just two catches for 28 yards. Lockett is dealing with a "bit of a knee sprain," according to Carroll, and while he's still expected to play, it will be important for Metcalf to do his part after Arizona limited him to just 23 yards in their first meeting.
As for the Cardinals' secondary, it’s about playing aggressive press coverage and forcing the Seahawks receivers to win one-on-one battles. Arizona's defense came up with some big turnovers in the win over Buffalo but still yielded 369 total yards. The Cardinals made the Bills one-dimensional, something that is entirely possible Thursday night given Seattle's recent issues running the ball and their injury situation. Keep an eye on cornerback Patrick Peterson, who has two interceptions and four pass defenses in the last three games, half of which came against Seattle in Week 7.
There should not be a lack of fireworks once again between these two teams. It’s going to boil down to finishing drives with touchdowns on offense, especially in the red zone. The other big key will be the ability to make the other team pay when the defense breaks serve and gets that all-important stop or turnover. Those seven-to-10-point swings are even more valuable this week. In addition, Seattle's "Win Forever" mentality will be put to a big-time litmus test this week, as head coach Pete Carroll will need to empty the tank to motivate the Seahawk players. The schedule lightens up a lot after this game, so the potential for a December surge is possible. However, Kyler Murray will get the best of Russell Wilson once again since he has the ultimate difference-maker in DeAndre Hopkins, who will go off for about 150 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Arizona will win another entertaining affair between these two clubs to stake its claim to first place in the NFC West.
Prediction: Cardinals 34, Seahawks 27
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Parler @Scottwhittum.