Thursday Night Preview: Cardinals at Seahawks

Week 10 of the 2020 NFL season brought very different outcomes for the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. While the Cardinals were able to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat due to a miraculous “Hail Murray” pass to DeAndre Hopkins with only two seconds to go, Seattle lost its division lead after the Rams were able to prevent the Seahawks from “letting Russ cook.” It is only Week 11, yet this game could very well decide who has the inside track to potentially winning perhaps the most competitive division in the NFL. Here’s what both of these teams need to do in order to prevail in this one:

Keys to the game for the Arizona Cardinals:

1. Make sure Kyler Murray’s running abilities are on full display

Arizona’s offense got off to a slow start in the first half against Buffalo, only scoring nine points through two quarters off three Zane Gonzalez field goals. Much of this was due to Arizona’s inability to move the ball downfield, especially with Kyler Murray’s legs. Aside from a 13-yard scramble late in the first half, Murray had five other first-half rushes for just six yards. Murray was much better at scrambling in the second half, with five rushes for 42 yards and two touchdowns. This was huge for Arizona in the second half as they struggled to complete passes and to get a lot of yards on the ground with Kenyan Drake. In the first matchup between these two teams, Murray was the leading rusher for Arizona with 67 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Kliff Kingsbury should come out with some more designed runs with Murray, especially if Arizona’s offense stalls often early on like it did in Week 10 against Buffalo.

2. Get after Russell Wilson

Seattle’s offensive line has not been tremendous throughout the course of this season, fourth in the league in sacks given up with 30, fourth in QB hits given up with 38, and fourth in pressures allowed with 104. In Seattle’s Week 10 loss to the Rams alone, the Seahawks’ offensive line surrendered 6 sacks and 12 QB hits to the Rams’ defense. This is certainly not a winning formula for the Seahawks moving forward, and this increased amount of pressure recently has forced Russell Wilson to make some questionable decisions that have resulted in turnovers. Last time against Seattle, the Cardinals did a good job of getting after Wilson as they were able to compile two sacks and hit him nine times en route to three interceptions by Wilson. This must be a point of emphasis once again because the Cardinals still needed to overcome a 10-point deficit despite the fact they got after Wilson. Seattle is out of sync currently, and Arizona must be able to force Wilson into more questionable decisions in order to not get burned as often as they did last time against Seattle.

3. Stop Tyler Lockett or whoever his replacement is

Last time out against Seattle, Arizona did a tremendous job of stopping DK Metcalf (2 catches, 23 yards). Patrick Peterson appears to be Metcalf’s kryptonite through the early part of the bright star’s career. Metcalf wasn’t an issue for Arizona the last time around due to how well Peterson played against him. The problem was Tyler Lockett, who had a career game against them in Week 7 that saw Lockett make insane plays on whoever was covering him en route to 200 yards and three touchdowns on 15 receptions. Those are massive numbers to give up, and Arizona was very lucky to not lose that game the first time around despite giving up so many yards to Lockett. With the former Kansas State receiver’s health in question ahead of the Week 11 matchup, Arizona will have to make sure they stop either Lockett, if he plays, or whoever ends up replacing Lockett as the go-to guy if Metcalf can’t solve Peterson once again. Freddie Swain and David Moore have flashed potential of being capable receivers this season, and they may be in the spotlight if Lockett is unable to go in Week 11. Even though neither of these guys has been able to play at a high level consistently, they are certainly capable of busting out a big play when the Seattle offense needs it. This has to be the biggest point of emphasis for Arizona.

The keys to the game for the Seattle Seahawks:

1. Take some of the load off Russell Wilson

It is getting clearer and clearer through Seattle’s past three games that the pass-heavy offense is going to need some modifications in order to keep defenses on their toes. With Russell Wilson turning the ball over more his past few games — he has thrown seven interceptions in Seattle’s past four games — it is becoming increasingly evident that something needs to be done in order to get Seattle’s offense rolling again. This might mean relying a little more on the run game. Currently, Seattle is 13th in rushing yards per game with 116.4 and sixth in rushing yards per attempt with 4.9. However, Seattle is 28th in the league in both total rushing attempts and carries per game with 215 and 23.9, respectively. This is a major point of concern as more and more teams are starting to figure out how to defend what looked like an unstoppable passing attack. Regardless of whether Chris Carson is able to play, Seattle did a pretty good job of running the ball with Carlos Hyde in the first matchup against Arizona, as he had 15 rushes for 68 yards and a touchdown on 4.5 yards per carry. Alex Collins was decent against a stout Rams front seven in Week 10, and Deejay Dallas has looked pretty good when given carries. Overall, something has to be done to make sure Wilson is able to make some good plays without having the defense know that he is dropping back to pass on most downs. The offense is just too predictable as of late.

2. Limit the damage from DeAndre Hopkins and Chase Edmonds

Part of the reason why Seattle was unable to hang on against Arizona in the first matchup between these teams was due to the fact that Seattle did not do a good job stopping DeAndre Hopkins and Chase Edmonds in the passing game. These two players combined for 190 yards and a touchdown on 17 receptions in Arizona’s 37-34 overtime victory. It is not a secret that the key to beating Seattle this season has been through the air; the Seahawks are currently giving up 353.3 passing yards per game. This is the worst in the league, and it is 43 more yards given up per game than the next worst team (Atlanta). Hopkins played a huge role in the Cardinals’ early passing offense, but Edmonds had almost as big a role later in the game, especially when Drake left the game with an injury. Seattle did not have many answers for these two players with the exception of a forced fumble on Hopkins early in the game. In order for Seattle to prevent another letdown if they get up by 10 or more points again, they will have to make sure they limit the amount of yards they give up to these two. Buffalo, in the first half, and Miami seemed to have figured out a formula for guarding Hopkins with a very physical corner, and Seattle may want to do the same. As for Edmonds, Seattle will have to play more man-to-man coverage with Jordyn Brooks or one of the other linebackers in order to make sure he is not wide open like he was on a lot of his passes.

3. Solve the puzzle to Patrick Peterson

DK Metcalf is a star in the making if he is not one already. He is a physical freak who will be one of the best wide receivers in the league at some point; however, he has struggled mightily against the Cardinals, mainly Patrick Peterson, in his short career. It was evident that Peterson was very good in the first matchup between these two teams, as mentioned earlier. With Lockett potentially out for this game, it will most likely be up to Metcalf to figure out how to get some separation from Peterson. In the first matchup, Peterson was able to stick with Metcalf step for step for the most part, which is a major issue considering how fast of a receiver Metcalf is. If the Seahawks are unable to get the ball to Metcalf, and nobody steps up for Lockett if he does not play, then the Seahawks could face very similar troubles to their Week 10 loss against the Rams. In that matchup, Metcalf did not have a single catch when lined up against Jalen Ramsey, another very good corner. It is clear that if Seattle wants to prevail in this one, it is going to have to do a better job of getting the ball to its best receiver.

Stats from: ESPN, Pro-Football-Reference

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