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Seahawks vs Cardinals preview: Highlighting 4 key matchups in Sunday’s game

Arizona Cardinals v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks just keep winning.

They’ve now won three straight after their 27-13 win over the then 6-1 New York Giants. Despite the game being close up until the middle of the fourth quarter, it never felt like a game Seattle was in true danger of losing.

Seattle’s defense played great, their special teams forced two turnovers and the offense did its job when they needed to, which is a recipe for winning football. Geno Smith and co. hope to keep that recipe cooking heading into week 9 as they travel to Arizona to take on the 3-5 Cardinals. Seattle currently sits as a 2-point underdog on DraftKings Sportsbook despite comfortably beating the Cardinals 19-9 three weeks ago. Seattle won the key matchups the first time around and if they can do it again, they should have similar success in this one as well.


Zach Ertz vs the linebackers

Since the return of DeAndre Hopkins two weeks ago Zach Ertz has taken a backseat. The three time Pro Bowler saw 51 targets in the Cardinals first 6 games, but has only seen 9 in the last two.

Despite that though Ertz is still a key cog in this offense as he is a safety valve that Murray can target underneath. What Ertz lacks in suddenness and after the catch ability he makes up for with reliable hands and a strong feel for zone coverage. We see both of those abilities on the first play. Ertz is running a slant and he does a great job of not telegraphing that the route is going to be in-breaking. He quickly snaps it off at the stem, allowing him to beat the zone defender to the inside and then presents Kyler Murray with a catchable target. Notably as well we can see Ertz slow it down once he gets to the inside of the defender which allows him to stay in the soft spot of the zone just long enough for Murray to be able to squeeze the ball into the window.

The Super Bowl champ is also able to hold onto the ball through contact in a crucial moment in the game. The second play highlights something that is going to be key against this Cardinals offense which is setting the edge. Arizona likes running the ball to the outside with Kyler and their running backs in order to utilize their speed. As a result, defeating blockers like Ertz on the edge is going to be key in keeping this Cardinals rushing attack at bay on Sunday. If Seattle can control the running game and force the Arizona’s offense to become one dimensional through Kyler’s arm it will likely be a long day for the home team.

Predicted edge - Zach Ertz

This one is tight, but Ertz is a savvy veteran who should be able to take advantage of the Seattle linebacking unit. Seattle’s starting interior linebackers, Cody Barton and Jordyn Brooks have both struggled in pass coverage throughout their careers. Barton, who only played in 33 defensive snaps against the Giants has allowed a passer rating of 117.4 this season on 24 targets. Throughout the year Brooks has allowed a passer rating of 121.2 on 33 targets which is worse than the 118.1 he allowed last season. Seattle does not employ a linebacker who is good enough in zone coverage to eliminate Ertz which makes me believe that he will come up with one or two key catches giving him the slight edge.

Arizona front 7 vs Kenneth Walker lll

The Cardinals front 7 has been inconsistent against the run this season. They held Josh Jacobs and Miles Sanders to 3.9 yards per carry each. They also allowed Dalvin Cook to pick up over 100 yards on 5.5 YPC last Sunday and Kenneth Walker lll to get 4.6 YPC. The key cog in the Cardinals rushing defense is Zaven Collins, which is who we are going to highlight in this section. The Cardinals 2021 first-round pick is slowly starting to find his footing in the league after an up and down rookie season. We saw the impact that he is capable of making in a game when he registered 8 combined tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks and a pass defensed whilst also playing every defensive snap against Seattle earlier this year. Keeping Collins contained in this one is going to be key for the Seahawks if they want to establish the run after coming off of a week where rookie Kenneth Walker lll averaged a measly 2.8 yards per carry.

The first play highlights the quickness and overall athleticism that Collins has. He beats the offensive lineman to the spot giving him a free lane right into the backfield where he makes the easy tackle for loss. The second tweet shows three plays on it, but I am going to be focusing on the third play which is the only running play. Collins takes a slide step due to the jet motion but does not lose eye discipline as he stays focused on the football and staying sound in his gap. The backfield penetration on the play certainly helps former Tulsa Golden Hurricane as it forces Charles Cross to over pursue rather than sealing off the running lane. Collins certainly deserves some credit as he stays disciplined, swipes Cross’ inside arm and forces Walker to stop his momentum which allows multiple defenders to come up and make the tackle.

Predicted edge - Walker lll

Despite Collins coming on strong in recent weeks and Walker lll coming off of his worst game as a pro, I have to give the edge to the former Michigan State Spartan. Collins and co. are likely going to get into the backfield a few running plays, but Walker lll carries the elusiveness necessary to make defenders miss with frequency which I think we will see once again on Sunday. Walker lll should have another big game against the Cardinals this weekend which gives him the edge for me.


Tariq Woolen vs Deandre Hopkins

Tariq Woolen keeps looking better and better on a weekly basis. The former UTSA Roadrunner entered the league as a very raw cornerback, but he has been playing like a seasoned veteran over the last few weeks. Both plays highlight Woolen’s overall athleticism and ability to come up and make a play on the ball and receiver. On the first play Woolen is in man coverage but is giving 2022 2nd round pick Wan’Dale Robinson about 10 yards of space. He does this because he knows he has the talent and IQ necessary to read and react to what is happening in front of him. He mirrors Robinson well in off coverage flowing outside with him and then sticking his foot in the ground to tail him inside. Importantly, Woolen stayed disciplined, rather than charging upfield and guessing an outbreaking route he stayed back and made the correct read, resulting in a pass breakup at the catchpoint.

Had he been overaggressive, flipped his hips outside and simply misread the route the pass very well may result in a first down and potentially more. The second play is largely similar to the first, but Woolen is playing in zone coverage instead of man. The rookie does a good job of not gaining too much depth on the play despite being one of the outer third corner in a cover 3 zone. He reads exactly where Herbert’s eyes go off of the play fake, comes up and once again is able to make a play on the football.

Predicted edge - Hopkins

Despite Woolen breaking out over the past few weeks, I have to go with Hopkins here who is one of the best receivers in the league. There are only a handful of corners who might have an edge on Hopkins and Woolen is not one of them, yet. Hopkins is one of those receivers who even when he is covered, he is open. I do not expect him to come close to the 159 receiving yards and a touchdown that he posted against the Vikings last week, however I do expect him to hover around the century mark in this one giving him the edge.

DK Metcalf vs Byron Murphy

We know what DK Metcalf brings to the table as a receiver. He is one of the most physically gifted and dangerous after the catch threats in the league. He is not one of the best route runners in the league which is shown in the first video as he is a little stiff and choppy coming in and out of his breaks on the double move. The first play does shows us how athletic the former second rounder is. This was a poorly thrown ball by Geno Smith and should have resulted in an interception as Byron Murphy was right behind Metcalf ready to make a pick. The Ole Miss alum was able to utilize his athleticism to go up and make a play on the ball keeping it with the Seahawks. The second video showcases Metcalf’s athleticism as well as his ability to get open when the play breaks down. Once he sees Geno Smith escape the pocket, he breaks up field to give him an easier throw. After the catch Metcalf is able to make a man miss and work his way into the endzone.

Predicted edge - Byron Murphy

Despite Metcalf being one of the best overall athletes in the league, I do have to give the edge to Murphy. The former Washington Husky held Metcalf to 34 yards in their week 6 bout and has done a great job of holding opposing top receivers in check. Against the Cardinals this season Cooper Kupp only got 44 yards, Davante Adams posted 12 and A.J. Brown had 32. This is a trend I expect to continue in this one with Murphy having the edge over Metcalf.

Score prediction - Seahawks 27 Cardinals 20

Week 8 recap

Andrew Thomas vs Uchenna Nwosu

Predicted edge - Thomas - Actual edge - Thomas

Nwosu had a strong game in this one registering 2 sacks. However, both of those came away from Thomas who turned in a really strong game giving him the edge.

Dexter Lawrence vs the IOL

Predicted edge - Lawrence - Actual edge - Lawrence

Despite registering zero tackles for loss Lawrence was able to help the Giants defensive front move the interior of the Seahawks offensive line resulting in multiple short yardage runs for Seattle. His internal push was key in limiting the Seahawks running game giving him the edge.

Kenneth Walker lll vs Tae Crowder

Predicted edge - Walker lll - Actual edge - Draw

Neither had a truly impactful day in terms of the box score which makes it difficult to declare a winner. Walker lll only rushed for 51 yards whilst Crowder only registered 2 tackles. There certainly may have been plays where Crowder impacted the play without registering a stat but there were not enough of those plays to declare him the winner.

Cody Barton/Jordyn Brooks vs Saquon Barkley

Predicted edge- Saquon - Actual edge - Draw

Like the matchup above there was no decisive edge in this one. Saquon was only able to rush for 53 yards whilst Brooks only picked up five tackles and Barton only played on 51% of the defensive snaps. Brooks almost always has his nose around the football making it likely he impacted plenty of plays without getting a counting stat, but I have to chalk this one up as another draw. If anything, both the Giants and Seahawks defensive lines won the matchups against the running backs than the second-level players.

Score prediction

Seahawks 27 Giants 17

Right result and I think close enough to the actual score.

(All advanced stats cited provided by Pro Football Reference)