The Arizona Cardinals look to gain some ground in the NFC West standings with a divisional clash against the first-place Seattle Seahawks.
The last time these two teams met up in week six, the Seahawks won at home in a surprisingly low-scoring game of 19-9. The Seahawks seemed to have improved their defense a bit since the beginning of the season, which has played a big role in their current three-game win streak. For a portion of the season early on, they were ranked 31st in the league in points allowed, only ahead of the Detroit Lions.
Now, the Seahawks find themselves tied for 25th, allowing 24.9 points per game. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have been defensively trending in the opposite direction and are now ranked 30th in the league at 26.3 points per game.
Balanced NFC West
Here are the current NFC West standings going into week nine:
Seattle Seahawks: 5-3
San Francisco 49ers: 4-4
Los Angeles Rams: 3-4
Arizona Cardinals: 3-5
This is a pivotal game for the Cardinals if they want to compete for a playoff spot. A 4-5 record seems way more manageable in terms of competing for a playoff spot than 3-6 does, especially in a deep and well-balanced NFC West.
The Seahawks are in the midst of a three-game win streak, the 49ers have one of the league’s best defenses and added running back Christian McCaffrey, and the Rams are the reigning Super Bowl champions that still shouldn’t be counted out regardless of how they have looked recently. If the Cardinals don’t take care of business at home this week, they could quickly find themselves on the outside looking in on a three-way race for the NFC West.
Not to mention, the NFC East has been playing way better than expected going into the season. No team in the NFC East is below .500, meaning that there’s a good chance that they claim one, if not both, of the playoff wildcard spots in the NFC.
Cardinals’ Keys to the Game
Executing in the red zone: The last time these teams played, the Cardinals’ only touchdown came off of a special teams touchdown where they recovered a fumble in the end zone after sacking Seahawks’ punter Michael Dickson. This upcoming game has more of a feel of an impending shootout, meaning it will be crucial for the Cardinals, and Kyler Murray in particular, to execute once they get in the red zone. Kyler Murray is simply too talented to not have a single touchdown.
Limiting the run: The Seahawks seem to have found a gem in the draft with running back Kenneth Walker III, selected in the second round out of Michigan State. Walker has stepped up exceptionally well since Rashaad Penny’s season-ending fibula injury. Last time the Cardinals played the Seahawks, Walker rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Since taking over as the lead back three weeks ago, he has scored at least one touchdown in every game and averaged 105 rushing yards a game. The Cardinals need to make him a point of emphasis on defense.
Getting other weapons involved: DeAndre Hopkins has played two games since returning from his suspension and has looked like his elite self, recording at least ten receptions and 100 yards in both of the matchups. That’s a great sign for the Cardinals’ offense, but they have almost become too reliable and dependent on targeting Hopkins that it has also made the offense a bit too predictable at times. It’s not a sustainable offensive recipe.
In order for Kyler Murray to be at his best, he’ll have to keep the defense honest and spread the ball around a bit more. A big key for this game will be how the receivers outside of Hopkins step up, such as Zach Ertz and Rondale Moore. They also need another weapon to step up and fill the void of Marquise Brown until he returns from injury, whether it’s A.J. Green, Robbie Anderson, Greg Dortch, or some combination of the three.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the over/under total point prop for this game is listed at 49.5. This game should be much higher than these two teams squared off the first time. The Cardinals are also listed as two-point favorites. I’ll take the over and the Cardinals to cover the spread at home.
Seahawks: 24 Cardinals: 28
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