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Seahawks vs Cardinals game preview: Will the Seattle run defense finally show up?

Is James Conner due to eclipse the century mark for a second week in a row?

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks enter Week 18 in a must-win game if they want any shot at the playoffs. They’ve been up and down of late, winning two of their last three games, but that stretch is on the heels of a 4-game losing streak. This weeks opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, have been equally inconsistent. Since their week ten victory over the Atlanta Falcons they’ve won just two of six games games.

Because of the up and down nature and question marks surrounding both teams, this is projected to be a tight game by DraftKings Sportsbook, with Seattle as a 3-point favorite. Down below we will preview the four matchups that will likely dictate this inter-division game.

James Conner vs the Seahawks run defense

The Seattle Seahawks defense has been flat out putrid over the last three months.

James Conner on the other hand has been fantastic this season, averaging 4.91 YPC on 181 totes. Conner isn’t a speedster nor is he a true bruiser. He primarily gets his yards through a combination of patience, burst and ability to get through arm tackles as shown in the video above.

Where this Seattle defense has struggled the most against the run is bringing ball carriers to the ground, something that was seen last Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. If they aren’t able to at least limit their tackling problems, Conner will be well on his way to his fourth 100-rushing yard season of the game.

Trey McBride vs Seahawks pass defense

After a quiet 2022 rookie season that saw McBride rack up just 265 yards, the sophomore has broken out. In 16 games he’s accumulated 791 receiving yards on 78 receptions, both of which are top-7 marks among tight ends. McBride has taken a slight step back of late, totaling just a combined 79 yards over his past two games. Kyler Murray is still targeting him at an extremely high rate, as he has thrown McBride’s way 7+ times in 7 consecutive games.

McBride can be a deep threat for Kyler, as shown in the second video. However, the majority of his damage comes closer to the line of scrimmage. His average depth of target this season is 5.8 yards, whilst he averages 5.2 yards after the catch. A number that indicates McBride might be in line for a massive day against the Seahawks is his ability to break tackles. On the season he has broken 10 tackles, which does not seem like a massive number. Although, for comparison sake, DK Metcalf, who is viewed as one of the hardest receivers to bring down to the ground has never recorded more than 8 broken tackles in a season. Like Conner, if the Seahawks struggle to bring McBride down, look for him to have a strong game.

Seahawks WRs vs Arizona Cardinals secondary

The Seahawks wide receiver room has arguably been the best position group on this Seahawks team in 2023. DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba have combined for 2,514 receiving yards on the season. The Cardinals secondary on the flip side has been one of the worst units in the entire league, allowing the sixth most yards per reception and the highest receptions resulting in first downs at 39.8 percent. Translation: this is a matchup that Metcalf, Lockett and JSN should dominate, something that is especially crucial with Kenneth Walker lll very banged up. Against a defense that consistently cedes first downs through the air, look for Metcalf to move the chains early and often, with a whopping 78.4% of his catches on the season resulting in a first down.

Seahawks pass rush vs Cardinals offensive line

If the Seahawks want to beat the Cardinals come Sunday, their pass rush is going to have to be more disciplined than dominant. If they get out of their pass rush lanes, Kyler Murray will likely rip them apart on the ground. If they stay within themselves and let players like Boye Mafe take over, they will put themselves in a great position to come away with the victory.

Mafe has a golden chance to continue his dominance this season as he is set to go against one of the more vulnerable offensive tackle groups in the league. On 1,202 snaps on the season, starting tackles (RT) Paris Johnson Jr. and (LT) Kelvin Beachum Jr. have allowed a combined ten sacks to go along with 12 penalties. Now whilst that might not seem like a lot, the 8 sacks Johnson Jr. has allowed this season is tied for the 8th highest number among qualified tackles. Look for Mafe to set up Johnson Jr. with more complex moves like the cross chop that we can see above in an attempt to get the rookie tackle consistently moving the wrong way.

The Seattle Seahawks need help in order to get into the postseason as not only do they have to win against Arizona, they also need the Green Bay Packers to lose to the Chicago Bears. However, Green Bay’s matchup will be irrelevant if they are unable to contain James Conner. In my opinion, that is the matchup that is going to decide this game the most. Hold him under 75 yards and Seattle has a great shot, let him get near the century mark and it is difficult to see this team playing an 18th game this season.