It is Arizona Cardinals vs Seattle Seahawks time.
No matter the circumstances of the season, getting together with the Seahawks is always a big deal.
Kenneth Arthur of Field Gulls was kind enough to stop by and discuss the Seahawks and what is going on in the Pacific Northwest.
1. It's been a battle to stay healthy at the RB spot, and Russell Wilson led the team in attempts and yards against the Skins. Who gets the next shot and how important is it to find an answer this season?
A little background (though I guess because of Fantasy Football, all of your readers are somewhat aware of this) is that rookie seventh rounder Chris Carson had proven to be "the guy" through training camp and preseason. He won the job and was doing what the Seahawks need of a back - break tackles because of a poor offensive line - but then he broke his ankle, just like Thomas Rawls two years before him. The team then turned to Eddie Lacy, but he has often looked slow and then he left the Washington game with a groin injury. He's questionable to play this week and I kind of assume that even if he's active, he'll be the number three option at running back, short yardage situations and whatnot. That means that Rawls will be the number one back, and he played over 40 snaps last week. He showed a little bit of that vision and burst that he had in 2015 when Rawls led the NFL in yards per carry and DYAR, so it's encouraging. I just wonder if he's lost some confidence because of that devastating ankle injury, so the hope is that with each passing week, he gets a little more of that back. He's a really exceptional player when he wants to be, but he's had a rough last two years.
The next options behind him besides Lacy would be J.D. McKissic and C.J. Prosise. The better known guy is Prosise, but the 2016 third round draft pick has basically missed all but eight games of his career and even those were often littered with some sort of restrictions. When he's full-go though, there are few players who can be as dynamic and explosive as Prosise. He's more of a receiver than a back though, so it'll be interesting to see if they can incorporate him this week. I think he's a game-time decision. McKissic has done a nice job as a change-of-pace back and he'll usually be out there to catch a pass or throw a block. He can carry it a bit too, but in those situations, you'll mostly see Rawls. He has the ability to be great but we haven't seen much of it this season or last.
2. Russ is on pace for his best season, statistically, yet the offense seems... up and down. Is there a fix?
I think the offense is mostly "up" right now. The "fix" was meant to come in the form of trading for left tackle Duane Brown just before the deadline. Last week wasn't just his first game in Seattle - with just a week of practice in the offense - but his second game of the season after holding out for two-plus months. I wouldn't be surprised to see him get better and better as the season goes on because Brown is an exceptional offensive lineman. Maybe it does go wrong, we've seen it before with offensive linemen like any other position, but I have a lot of faith that he'll at worst be a significant upgrade over Rees Odhiambo; he was perhaps the worst starting tackle in the league.
But up until the Washington game, Seattle was averaging over 30 points per game in their previous five. Wilson is being asked to do more than ever and he's done it for most of the season with really poor pass protection and some huge drops from players like Jimmy Graham, Prosise, and even Doug Baldwin. He's also had some poor throws, bad decisions -- I think that comes with the growing pains of going from 450 pass attempts to 600 pass attempts over the course of 3-5 years. He's entering that next phase of his career where maybe he gets 4,500-5,000 passing yards (he's the total yardage leader in the NFL right now, passing+rushing combined) and that's a significant change. When you attempt 45 passes in a game, instead of 25, more mistakes are expected. But also sometimes you'll get more big plays, more scores. He had nine "deep throws" in Week 9, the most of any QB in a game this season. Unfortunately only two of those were completed. It's a growing pains process, but an exciting future, I think.
The other potential fix is getting Luke Joeckel back at left guard. He was playing well, had knee surgery, and rookie Ethan Pocic really struggled there last week against Washington. Joeckel is not coming back this week, but maybe by early December.
3. Without Earl Thomas, the Seahawks defense is not the same. Do you expect him to play Thurs and if not, how, if at all does that change your feelings on this game?
I think the defense held up pretty well with Bradley McDougald replacing Thomas on Sunday. There is no substitute for Thomas, that's why he's a Hall of Famer, but McDougald looks to be a huge upgrade over Steven Terrell, the guy who replaced Thomas last year when he broke his leg. Overall, the Seahawks defense completely shut down Kirk Cousins and company for 58 minutes. They blew it at the end, but I'm more encouraged by the 58 minutes than I am heartbroken about the final drive. Rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin is really the up-and-down player right now and I don't think that has much to do with Thomas at this point. Griffin just needs to keep learning on the job and learning how to do it on his own, one-on-one. As far as rookie corners being asked to start, Griffin is doing very well. But that's an area you could target on Thursday if you're the Cardinals. Thomas may also return this week, so it may not matter -- I don't have any expectations whatsoever on if he'll play. That's nothing more than a guess for me as it would be for you, not even an educated guess. But yeah, if he plays, it would change my feelings about the game. How could it not? He's amazing. You'd be crazy to think he wouldn't have an impact, or even that he couldn't have been the difference against Washington, even if the defense played great without him.
4. The Seahawks will likely be favored in this game, and should be. However, with their backhalf of the schedule, how "must win" is this game?
Any divisional game is important. Any conference game is less important, but still more important than an AFC game. Getting a road win is important, because it's less expected, but also not as crucial as taking care of business at home. Losing to Drew Stanton would be concerning, more than anything else. It's not so much that I'd be worried about the win-loss record if the Seahawks lose -- being 5-4 isn't the worst thing in the world -- but I'd be worried about why they lost to a hobbled Arizona team. I mean, they just lost to a hobbled Washington team though, so I guess I should already be worried. My hope is that this game gets them back on track, so if they stay off the track with a loss, that's the only thing "must win" about it. More like, "Must show they're still a team to be feared."
5. Final prediction.
It sucks to try and predict Thursday night games because Thursday night games should not exist. It's not enough time to prepare for a football game. It's also a road divisional game. We saw 6-6 last season. That sucked. For everyone. I think it will be hard for the Cards to win games in general with subpar play at QB, just like that would be hard for any team. I think the Seahawks won't be able to pull away in this game either because of the short week, injuries, figuring themselves out midseason, etc... I still think they'll win, along the lines of 27-19.