The calendar has flipped to 2024, meaning the 2023 regular season is all but over for the NFL. All that remains is one more weekend of games, and for the Seattle Seahawks that means flying South to take on the Ghosts of Glendale in a Week 18 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals.
There’s a lot on the line for the Hawks, including the potential to sneak into the postseason should they win and the Chicago Bears are able to upend the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. However, before the Hawks tune in to watch the Bears-Packers tilt, they need to handle business themselves against a four-win team that will be looking to play spoiler.
Joining Field Gulls to preview this critical matchup is Manager of Revenge of the Birds, Seth Cox, who took the time to answer the five questions posed of him about the Cardinals, their 2023 season and this matchup. So, without wasting further time, here are the answers to the questions asked.
As the first year of the Jonathan Gannon era in Arizona comes to a close, what is the consensus among fans regarding the direction of the team and potential for the future?
I think they are cautiously optimistic that they are heading in the right direction. You are seeing players that are buying in, you are seeing growth in the overall team, you are seeing preparation for a team that is pretty devoid of talent.
So, what he has done to make them competitive in a majority of games, while also somehow winning four games this season has to be applauded.
Now, there needs to be visible growth next year, but for year one, you have to be excited with how things are trending.
In 2023 the Seahawks used a pair of first round picks to add Devon Witherspoon and Jaxon Smith-Njigba as potential difference makers. The Cardinals are set to have two first round picks in 2024, and what will be the highest priorities for the team as it looks to continue to improve in the coming seasons?
You would have to assume that is the plan, and while you know how much offensive tackle is a difference maker, it seems like there are only two options right now in round one for the Cardinals: wide receiver and offensive tackle.
The tackle situation just changed this week, as the Cardinals learned that veteran left tackle D.J. Humphries tore his ACL in the win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
So, now the real question goes back to the season when the Bengals took Ja’Marr Chase… Do you value protection or playmaker?
I think, if Marvin Harrison Jr. gets drafted before the Cardinals are on the board, then it probably swings to Olu Fashanu or Joe Alt. However, I have a hard time seeing anyone passing on drafting MHJ if you are not taking a quarterback, so we will see how that plays out.
Of course, we have to get through free agency first.
Fans knew coming into the season that it was going to be a rebuilding year, but what bright spots have given fans hope to look forward to 2024 and beyond?
I think the offense, especially the rushing attack has to be a huge bright spot moving forward. The win against the Eagles was easily one of the craziest things I have seen, and we are talking about a three win team at the time.
They had the ball for nearly 40 minutes of gametime. When they didn’t have the ball, it was pretty much a guarantee that the Eagles were going to score, so to make sure that didn’t happen, they just held onto the ball.
It was an incredible thing to watch.
James Conner looks like he could be a potential All Pro in the offense, if he can stay healthy for a full season, Trey McBride looks like he could be a top 5-7 tight end and Kyler Murray looks like he is getting comfortable with the new offense.
So, those are the bright spots to look at heading into 2024. Knowing that they need help along the OL, at WR, and basically every non-safety position on defense.
The Cardinals are averaging less than 20 points a game, but have scored 24 or more in three of their last four. Was it something specific that changed that led to more success recently, or was it simply a matter of the pieces finally starting to come together as Kyler Murray returned and gained more comfort in a new system?
The run game. They are controlling their possessions more, not going three and out, getting into scoring positions.
Those things matter when you can’t stop teams and the Cardinals are making an effort to make sure they continue to grind the running game even when they are down.
That goes to what we said earlier about the Eagles game. They were down big, then just continued to run the ball, set up play action situations and grind out yardage. The difference in the second half was they scored instead of kicking field goals or having a bad turnover.
They’re learning and playing towards their strengths on offense and avoiding letting their defense put them in bad situations as much as possible, so growth.
Also, Murray rounding into form in the new offense, starting to get a feel for the situations, the personnel and being able to lean on James Conner and the run game makes things a little easier.
It also gets you a touch excited about next year if they are able to add any talent at the receiving position.
What’s your prediction for the game? Will the Cardinals pull the upset? And will the game be high scoring enough that the two offenses combine to reach the over, which is set at 48 as of right now?
Man, I have gone back and forth on this one, and while the Seahawks have not looked good offensively in a while, they have not played a defense like the Cardinals since the first Cardinals game. I think the talent gap, the desperation of the playoffs and the moment with Pete Carroll will give the Seahawks the win in a highly competitive, highly scored matchup.
Good luck and good health in this one.