Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks
The NFC West is definitely living up to its billing as the most competitive division in the NFL, with the Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks equal top at 6-3. The Week 11 slate has some great games and the curtain-raiser should be a corker between two of these closely matched rivals. While it won’t make or break either’s season, the game could at least decide tiebreakers and define bragging rights.
Pete Carroll’s Seahawks were finding the 2020 campaign plain sailing but they’ve hit choppier waters of late. Narrow losses to the Bills and Rams have seen them slip to third in the table, while quarterback Russell Wilson has fallen behind in the MVP race after two below-par outings. The six sacks he sustained against the Rams, and the lack of a touchdown throw, were both worrying developments.
With a win tonight, Pete Carroll’s would be back in first place (the Rams don’t play till Monday) while a Cards victory would give them what amounts to a two-game advantage, as they currently hold the tiebreaker. Three-and-a-bit weeks ago, they beat Seattle 37-34 in an overtime thriller. Russell Wilson led his offence to 572 total yards, the third-most in franchise history, but still lost, crucially throwing three interceptions. That started a four-game stretch in which the ‘Hawks have gone 1-3, and Wilson has turned the ball over seven times and taken 15 sacks.
Despite last Sunday’s 23-16 loss to the Rams, Wilson still leads the NFL with 28 touchdown passes and ranks second in passing yards (2,789) and yards per game (309.9). The main recipient of Wilson’s distribution, DK Metcalf, already has eight TDs (4th in the league) and ranks second among all WRs with 816 receiving yards, helping to put his offence third in the NFL in both passing (289.4) and total (405.9) yards.
Seattle’s run defence is holding teams to 3.7 yards per carry and 95 yards per game (both 4th best in the league) but their pass defence is a different matter. They gave up over 300 yards to Jared Goff last week and their 353.3 yards per game allowed is the league’s worst. Yikes.
Even though Seattle need to end their slump, this clash at CenturyLink Field doesn’t feel like a must-win game. Arizona are just one of two teams with winning records left on their schedule; they also face the Jets, Giants, Washington, Eagles and 49ers, which should give them ample opportunity to rack up the wins they need to play January football.
For their part, Arizona also face the Giants, Eagles and 49ers, along with the unpredictable Patriots and two divisional games with the Rams, so they are very much masters of their own destiny from here on in. With their last-gasp, Hail Mary win over the Bills last week, it seems fate wants them to win. In throwing THAT touchdown, second-year QB Kyler Murray extended his streak to 13 straight games with at least one.
DeAndre Hopkins added to his already-substantial highlight reel, beating three defenders in a sea of hands to come down with the pigskin for a final-second, game-winning 43-yard TD. Nuk, who enters this contest second in the NFL receiving yards (861), now has five 100+ yard receiving games, of which one was in Week 7 against the Seahawks. Murray also went ‘Nuk-lear’ (360 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT in the air, 67 yards and 1 TD on the ground) that day.
While Arizona are effective on both sides of the ball, they lead the NFL in total offence (425.4 yards per game) and in rushing (168.9 yards per game, 5.3 yards per carry, 15 rushing touchdowns). Last week, Kenyan Drake returned from injury and is now seventh in the league with 612 yards, just 8 yards ahead of his own QB.
Defensively, ‘Zona have crept into the top 10 for scoring allowed (23.3 points per game), yards per pass attempt allowed (6.9) and rushing touchdowns allowed (five).
Writer’s Pick (Sean Tyler)
So how do these two 6-3 teams differ? The Seahawks are coming off a disappointing loss while the Cardinals are high after their spectacular win. The Seahawks have lost three from four since their bye week, while the Cards have won four of their last five. And Seattle still has injury concerns (Chris Carson and Tyler Lockett are both listed as questionable) and a quarterback out of sorts, while D-Hop and Murray are on fire for a largely fit-and healthy-Arizona.
And the difference maker? In Murray, Arizona have the best dual-threat QB in the game right now. He has thrown for 2,375 yards, rushed for 604 and has 27 total touchdowns. Seattle didn’t have any answers for K1 in their first meeting, and I doubt they’ve found the secret formula since then.
Meanwhile, Dange’Russ has never lost three games in a row in the NFL, and hasn’t gone consecutive contests without a touchdown pass since 2016 – and I doubt he’s planning on doing either tonight. His team lead the league with 32.2 points per game but they need a healthy Carson and a DK Metcalf in top form – neither of which they’ve had lately – to take the pressure off him.
As the 3-point favourites, the bookies think Seattle will bounce back and many tipsters are echoing those sentiments, but they are only 1-3 against teams with winning records in 2020. If the Arizona D can stifle the Wilson–Metcalf connection, I can see the Cards outscoring their hosts to repeat the close victory from a few weeks ago.
Prediction: Cardinals 28-27 Seahawks