For the second straight game, the Arizona Cardinals find themselves back home under the lights and in primetime. The first primetime game of the season saw a convincing road victory against the Cowboys on Monday night. This week, the Cardinals return home and host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night football. Interestingly enough, it is the second consecutive primetime game for an NFC West clash. The Seahawks enter undefeated, coming off their bye week. Can the Cardinals hand them their first defeat? Today we take a look at the matchup and focus on three keys for an Arizona victory in primetime.
Prime Time Player
The Seahawks have arguably the best quarterback in the league, in Russell Wilson. It is safe to say that Wilson’s play thus far has given him the early lead for the most valuable player award. Through five games, Wilson has thrown for 19 touchdowns. Seattle’s offense explosive in the passing game with second-year receiver D.K. Metcalf making a case for an All-Pro selection. The Seahawks are playing in their third primetime game this season and are perfect on the season. By comparison, the Cardinals are playing in their third primetime game since the start of last season. Seattle is no stranger to big moments and having a quarterback of Wilson’s caliber is the driving force behind their success. Arizona will need to find a way to rise to the occasion.
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On Monday night, the Cardinals started slow on offense and struggled in the first quarter. Surprisingly, the offense sputtered as a result of inconsistent play from quarterback Kyler Murray. It took a bit of time to get going but Murray eventually used his legs to get his rhythm. Murray will need to start quickly on Sunday night and avoid any prolonged struggles. This game could easily turn into a heavyweight bout in primetime with each team taking big shots on offense. The team that can weather the storm and gets themselves settled in the earliest, will have the upper hand. Arizona’s best chance will be to come out quickly and take control of the game.
Seattle’s defense is suspect. The secondary has not fared well this season, ranked 31st in passing yards allowed, having played one fewer game than the 32nd ranked defense. This should bode well for the Cardinals offense. Arizona found numerous opportunities in the passing game against the Cowboys. The relatively pedestrian passing numbers on Monday night were a result of an inaccurate Murray rather than a lack of open targets. By the numbers, Dallas’ pass defense is marginally better than the Seahawks. The top priority for the Seahawks defense will be DeAndre Hopkins. The talented wide receiver has been a volume machine this season and leads the league in receptions and receiving yards. Following a slow night against the Cowboys, Hopkins will need to be the playmaker against the Seahawks.
— NFL (@NFL) October 20, 2020
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury has utilized Hopkins in an isolation format. This is to remove as many players from that area and allow Hopkins to operate with minimal distraction. Seattle will attempt to slow Hopkins down at the line of scrimmage. Utilizing press coverage, expect the Seahawks to also keep a defender shaded towards Hopkins to offer a loose double-team. It would be wise to take advantage of this and use the numerical advantage to the opposite side of the field and target options such as Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. Expect Arizona to use Hopkins in bunch formations to clear space and let him operate underneath on crossing routes. It could be a big game for the talented wideout.
Minimize the Big Play
It would be foolish to expect the Arizona defense to completely shut down the Seattle offense. However, the defense does match up well against the Seahawks on paper. Arizona’s front seven is stout against the run. Controlling the Seattle ground attack helps to negate the play-action passing. Expect another big game for linebacker Jordan Hicks and safety Budda Baker. Both players are tackling machines and it is common to find Baker near the line of scrimmage. Russell Wilson is a threat on the ground as well and has run circles around the Cardinals defense in the past. Expect Baker or someone else to stay near the line of scrimmage and act as a spy on Wilson to prevent him from scrambling and keeping the play alive.
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The big test will be protecting against D.K. Metcalf. Seattle has used the imposing receiver as a deep threat with great success. There is no single defender on the Arizona roster that can stay with Metcalf. His combination of size, strength, and speed, creates a matchup nightmare. However, the Cardinals have a talented secondary that should minimize the deep ball that has been the calling card for Seattle’s offense. Expect to see help over the top to whichever side Metcalf is on. It will also be wise for Vance Joseph to dial-up blitz packages to expedite the processing time for Wilson and the passing game. The key isn’t shutting down the offense, it is limiting their ability to create big plays.
.@DangeRussWilson wanted it all 💥
A perfect throw to @dkm14 for the touchdown on fourth down!
Q3: SEA 21, ATL 12 pic.twitter.com/gK6r0Nzgqk
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) September 13, 2020
A second consecutive victory in a primetime matchup is sure to put the Cardinals firmly in the playoff picture. Arizona currently sits second in the NFC West, a game and a half behind the Seahawks. A victory puts them in contention for the division title and the early tiebreaker against their rival. The Cardinals have shown glimpses of a team that is ready to take the leap forward and make noise in the playoffs. Now it’s about consistency and a win on Sunday goes a long way to accomplishing that goal. From this point forward, every game brings added pressure, requiring the Cardinals to bring their best. Sunday night promises to be an exciting primetime showdown.
Prediction: Arizona can’t quite seal the deal, 27-17.
– Ryan Adverderada is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Cardinals and covers the San Francisco 49ers for Full Press Coverage. Like and follow on Follow @ryanadverderada