Roundtable: 3 questions before Seahawks-Cardinals clash
Another week, another primetime game for the Arizona Cardinals.
They handled last week’s Monday night game quite well, with a 38-10 win over the defense-inept Dallas Cowboys. This week, on Sunday Night Football, there will expectedly be more resistance from the 5-0 Seattle Seahawks, who visit State Farm Stadium coming off a bye.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson might be the current favorite to win MVP, but the Seahawks aren’t without their flaws, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are led by their rushing attack and an improved defense from last season.
Storylines are aplenty, but here are three questions we posed to the Arizona Sports hosts and ArizonaSports.com editors.
1. What are you expecting from the Cardinals passing game after an uneven performance on Monday night?
Ron Wolfley, co-host of Doug & Wolf: Maybe the only pass defense worse than the Cowboys’ pass defense is that of the Seattle Seahawks. Although I have full confidence in Kyler Murray, his accuracy has been an issue, and it needs to get better. The Mighty needs to be more Danger-Russ than what we’ve seen over the last week.
Dan Bickley, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: If Kyler Murray’s accuracy issues are related to poor technique, I would expect a much better performance than Monday Night.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: I’m expecting better. Though it’s another primetime showcase — you could argue that Sunday Night Football is THE primetime showcase — I think Kyler Murray won’t be so scattered. I’m sure he was battling some nerves and emotions vs. Dallas. He’ll be in a better position to manage them this time around.
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: I expect improvement, not only because what Kyler Murray put out there Monday night wasn’t acceptable, but because the Seahawks’ pass defense has been absolutely abysmal this year. Add in the fact that Jamal Adams won’t play, and we should see some fireworks from the Arizona passing game.
Doug Franz, co-host of Doug & Wolf: A more accurate Kyler due to the lack of ability for the Seahawks defensive line to get pressure. Seattle will have to blitz to bring pressure and I think Kyler will be able to create with his legs while keeping his eyes downfield. He must use Fitz versus the blitz.
John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo: With Seattle’s defensive line being a major weakness, the Cardinals passing attack should have tremendous success Sunday night. Murray is motivated to be better than nine completions and to fix his accuracy issues from last week, and Seattle poses the perfect opponent for that.
Luke Lapinski, host of The Rundown with Luke Lapinski: Well, the Seahawks score a lot, and they allow an average of 370 passing yards per game. To put that in perspective, Kyler Murray has only thrown for 350 yards once in his career. So I’m expecting one of the best passing games of the Kliff Kingsbury era, simply out of opportunity and necessity. There isn’t really anyone on the Seahawks – or any other team we’ve seen, for that matter – who can cover DeAndre Hopkins, so that helps. And the possible emergence (re-emergence?) of Christian Kirk would go a long way to getting Arizona’s aerial attack on track.
Jordan Byrd, host of Arizona Sports Saturday and producer of Burns & Gambo: There’s no question that Kyler Murray has not been the sharpest on his throws as of late, especially Monday night in Dallas. But I think Kyler will be able to take advantage of a Seattle defense that has allowed the second most passing yards of any team this season, allowing the Cards offense to move the ball and score points. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be perfect. Seattle already has seven defensive interceptions through just five games, so while I think Kyler and the Arizona passing attack will look cleaner this week, don’t be surprised if Kyler throws a pick or two.
Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter: I typically wouldn’t expect this to be the game where Murray breaks out. The Seahawks go zone more than any other team except the Panthers, and we know how icky Arizona’s offense looked against Carolina. Plus, Murray finished with a whole 118 yards against Seattle in Arizona’s win last year. But this is a big game for Murray — and coach Kliff Kingsbury — to learn from the past and determine how to pick apart a defense that is allowing not only the fourth-most net yards per passing attempt (7.5) but the most air yards (not including yards after catch) in the NFL with only five games played. The passing game should trend up considerably, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an interception or two.
Tyler Drake, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter: Kyler Murray gets back-to-back opportunities to burn yet another opposing secondary that is the dungeon of the NFL. His accuracy issues were on display in the team’s MNF victory, and while I believe it won’t be totally remedied against Seattle, that had to be the point of emphasis in this week’s practice for the second-year pro. Could he toss an interception? It’s plausible with the Seahawks sitting third in the NFL in that category with seven picks. But I think K1 completes well over 37.5% (his MNF percentage) of his throws at home against the team that has allowed the most yards per game to opposing signal callers (370.4) in the NFL.
Kellan Olson, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter: More consistency in finding DeAndre Hopkins, thus, more completions for Kyler Murray. Hopkins has only eight catches in his last two games, and I have to say only because he snagged 39 balls in the first four weeks of the season. This might be where Hopkins’ ankle injury is affecting him the most, and if that’s the case, Kliff Kingsbury is going to incorporate more of Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. Even if it’s the dreaded screen passes, getting Murray into a rhythm passing the ball is an obvious key for every Cardinals game. Arizona will have a plan to not let Monday night be a repeat.
2. After multiple Cardinals stepped up to the occasion on MNF, which Arizona player will be a clutch performer on Sunday night?
Wolfley: Kyler Murray. The quarterback that plays better in this game will win this game, and I think Murray is ready to complete more than nine passes.
Bickley: Murray. This game is different than a homecoming in Texas or a matchup against a fellow Heisman Trophy winning teammate at Oklahoma quarterback. This is a showdown against the best quarterback in the NFL, and the one who helped pave the way for the diminutive Murray. I think he’s going to respond very well.
Burns: I’m calling my shot. Larry Fitzgerald. He said Thursday that when his number is called, he always answers, and I bet he provides a big shot in the arm Sunday night.
Marotta: I’m going with Patrick Peterson here. For the second straight week, the Cardinals are going against a talented trio of wide receivers. Most of the yardage by the Cowboys’ group Monday night was well after the game was out of hand. I don’t think that will be the case Sunday, and Peterson will be tested regardless of whom he matches up against. He’s been decent in the last two weeks, but will need to show up big to help slow down Seattle’s attack.
Franz: I think Dan Arnold will surprise. I’m only talking 5 or 6 catches but I think there will be some key third-down conversions to the tight end.
Gambadoro: I’ll go with Hopkins because on any given Sunday he can be the best player on the planet. Last week it was the defense that shined this week it will be the offense and I just don’t see Seattle having anyone that can contain him, especially on third downs.
Lapinski: Budda Baker. He’s from Bellevue, Wash., usually plays well against Seattle and is coming off arguably his best game as a pro on Monday. I’m at the point where I just assume Budda is going to rise to the occasion in big games, and this one has more significance in the standings than any game the Cardinals have played since he got drafted.
Byrd: Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense are at their best when things are going wrong. Wilson is a master of taking broken plays and turning them into huge gains and back-breaking moments for the opposing defenses. I think Haason Reddick has the opportunity to be a game-changing player Sunday night. If Reddick and the rest of the Arizona pass rush can contain Wilson and prevent him from making something out of nothing, the Cardinals should be able to eliminate some of those big chunk plays for Seattle. Reddick has four sacks already on the season and seems rejuvenated to be on the outside once again. His play could be the difference in what type of performance we see from Wilson.
Zimmerman: Let’s jump to the conclusion that, at some point, Russell Wilson will have the ball in the second half and be capable of putting Seattle in a game-winning or game-sealing position. With that very wild guess out there, this is Patrick Peterson’s time to get a key deflection or pick, especially if he sees the lion’s share of his time against Wilson’s favorite deep target, D.K. Metcalf.
Drake: Burnsy got to it first, but this is the game we see Larry Legend step up to the primetime stage. Murray missed the All-Pro on a wide open look in the corner of the end zone in Monday’s win over Dallas. He won’t be making that mistake twice and should be looking to make up for the missed opportunity throughout the night.
Olson: My previous answer gave it away and it looks like a few of my comrades are joining me on Larry Fitzgerald. I think Hopkins is hampered by the ankle a bit in the short-to-intermediate portion of the field, and that’s where Fitzgerald lives as a route runner and possession receiver.
3. Do you expect this to be another whacky SNF game for the Cardinals? Give us your general expectations before a prediction.
Wolfley: No. I expect this game to be physical, competitive and offensive … like it always is against Seattle. The team that executes the fundamentals of the game better, controlling the line-of scrimmage, protecting its quarterback, protecting the football, minimizing penalties and converting red zone possessions into touchdowns will win this game. There’s nothing whacky or wild about that but thinking there will be an upset is weird, whacky and wild — so count me in. Cardinals 31, Seahawks 28.
Bickley: The Seahawks are due for defeat and the Cardinals are ripe for a breakout game on offense. Arizona wins 38-28.
Burns: It will be a close game; Seattle plays in nothing but close games. Both QBs will put up huge numbers. Big plays will come in bunches. Hard to bet against the Seahawks on primetime. I got 31-30, Seattle.
Marotta: I’m not expecting another “you missed a field goal, well watch this” kind of battle between Zane Gonzalez and Jason Myers, if that’s what you mean. This should be a good game between division foes, but I expect it to be close. And having Russell Wilson on your side in a close game is a good thing. Seahawks win 34-31.
Lapinski: Yes. I always expect craziness a) when Arizona’s playing on Sunday Night Football, b) when Russell Wilson is on the field and c) when these two teams are playing each other in general. All I ask is that Kingsbury opts to go up eight with two minutes left if he gets the chance, instead of doing whatever the Vikings were doing when they played the Seahawks two weeks ago. I think these two teams will split the season series, and I want to pick Arizona here with how good they’re feeling after these last two wins. Plus, Seattle is due for a loss. But the schedule makers really didn’t do the Cardinals any favors here, putting them on a short week against a team that hasn’t played since Oct. 11. That’s eight extra days the Seahawks have had to rest and prepare.
Franz: Sorry. If the game is in Seattle, I pick the Cardinals. It’s not, so I’m not.
Gambadoro: I think I will pass on the whacky and go with a basic hard-fought close football game that comes down to a late score. Arizona is better on the defensive line and better on the offensive line so I pick the Cards 28-24.
Byrd: I’m fully expecting this game to be a high-scoring affair, so it will probably be another 6-6 field goal thriller in overtime. This rivalry has always had its memorable moments, both good and bad, for the Cardinals, so I believe that we will have more of those moments Sunday night. I think the memory we take away from this one will be a high-scoring shootout with both teams matching one another, score for score. As much as my heart wants to predict a Cardinals win, my head won’t let me overlook just how amazing the Seahawks and Russell Wilson perform in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks take the final possession and win the game as time expires. Seahawks 34-31.
Zimmerman: I would be surprised if this was a boring game, yes. I just picked P2 to be the key clutch performer, but it very well could be former McDonald’s grill crew member Dennis Gardeck doing a grill crew sack celebration on fourth down of the Seahawks’ final drive. That said, I can’t yet trust the Cardinals’ passing attack, and the only way I see them winning is if they get a reasonable lead early on. If it’s back-and-forth as expected, Seattle has the edge. Call it a 35-31 Seahawks win.
Drake: Scores galore. I have a feeling we will be in a shootout for most of the night. Deep bombs, a ton of YAC and some gassed defenses set the stage for a crazy showing from both sides. Sign me up for the latest installment of the whack attack between these two. Murray isn’t going to let two down passing games happen in consecutive weeks. His arm carries the load, while his legs finish the job in the end. Cardinals eek out an overtime 38-31 win over the NFC West leaders. Let’s get crazy!
Olson: Vegas has seemingly been along with me on the ride of hesitating on the Cardinals’ legitimacy, failing to give them more than a touchdown against Joe Flacco’s Jets and making Andy Dalton’s Cowboys the favorite. So consider me intrigued that they have the Seahawks down for only -3.5 as undefeated and led by the frontrunner for MVP. The spread seems low given the way Arizona’s lines have trended lately, which tells me there’s some concern to Seattle’s legitimacy as well. After all, the only team .500 or above the Seahawks have beat is the Miami Dolphins. I’m still picking Seattle in a fairly convincing win, as the Cardinals haven’t done enough in these six games to convince me they can win a big game like this, but I’m less confident in that take than I thought I would be. 31-20, Seahawks.