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5 Qs, 5 As with Field Gulls: Chris Carson’s season, overcoming defensive injuries and the need to be the one seed

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals are up in the Pacific Northwest and we have you covered for everything you need to know about that game.

Including a nice discussion with Field Gulls on what has changed since the Cardinals first meeting with Seahawks.

Enjoy and thanks to Kenneth Arthur or taking the time to talk with us.

1. Chris Carson got rolling it seems, starting with the Arizona Cardinals game. What has changed for Carson the most?

Overall, I think Carson is the player he’s always been. He’s a very good runner. Having seen a few guys vie for the position after the semi-retirement of Marshawn Lynch, the only Seahawks RB I’ve seen do it better is Thomas Rawls. But Rawls broke his ankle and that ended everything for him. Carson also broke his ankle, but he came back in 2018 as good as he looked to kick off 2017. I think he’s just a very good running back, but he had one major issue: fumbling. Carson fumbled it three times in the first three games, losing all three. Fans were losing their minds, especially because his fumble against the Saints really set a tone that they could not come back from, and they lost what is now a very key game. (And was then, but we didn’t know then that the Seahawks and Saints would both be 11-3.)

Many wanted Carson benched and I believe Pete Carroll said “the competition is open” at that point, so Carson did seem to come with a different edge in Week 4 vs Arizona. Over his next five games, he had 501 rushing yards and 4.4 yards per carry with three total touchdowns. Most importantly, no fumbles. He then fumbled four times in the next three games and lost way to Rashaad Penny. Penny really overtook his snaps and carries for a couple of games, but then Penny tore his ACL and then some. There is no longer any competition for Carson, so he has to be “the guy.” He was dynamite against the Panthers last week, but really, who isn’t? We’re just glad he didn’t fumble the ball again. We’re aware that it could happen at any moment though.

So I wouldn’t say anything has changed. He’s more aware of how close he is to getting pulled, and maybe he’ll grip the ball harder, but perhaps that also saps some of what he’s good at as a runner. I have good expectations for Carson but we are constantly worried about protection.

2. Tyler Lockett has been banged up, but before Carolina it seemed like Russell Wilson hit a bit of a lull. What would you attribute it to?

I wouldn’t attribute it to much. I think any player is going to randomly have some games strung together that weren’t as great as some other games. No player plays to his best abilities every single week because that would be kind of strange. To be that consistent, against a variety of opponents, and millions of different variables, none bigger than perhaps the laws of physics, is unlikely. Few will remember it because Lamar Jackson’s the runaway MVP, but his games 2-8 were not superb as a passer -- 83.7 passer rating, 7 TD, 5 INT, 6.8 yards per attempt. For a guy who also rushed for 631 yards and five touchdowns in that span, it’s not so worrisome, but certainly Lamar’s had a lot more great passing days than he did in the first half of the season, minus the opener vs the wretched Dolphins. Lamar’s numbers are so much better now. Wilson was everyone’s “first half MVP” (I checked the receipts at places like The Ringer and SI and Wilson was consistently the frontrunner) tossing 21 TD and 1 INT in the first nine games. Was he supposed to finish the season with 35 TD and 2 INT? Was that reasonable or a fair expectation? I think he had some regression and he played on the road vs the 49ers and on the road vs the Rams and at home against the Vikings. He had three road games in that span. One of his picks was a hail mary. Wilson had a few ugly throws during that stretch, don’t get me wrong, but I personally don’t attribute anything to those games that would be negatively predictive of the future. It’s not surprising that he excelled against a bad Carolina defense. I expect him to play well this weekend against the Cards and not as well in Week 17 against the Niners. But he’ll always look relatively good compared to an average quarterback.

3. The Seahawks defense beat down the Eagles, then has been a bit up and down the last three games. Is the defense a strength or a weakness heading into the playoffs?

It depends on health, probably. The Seahawks defense was without more than half of its starters against the Panthers. They had Jadeveon Clowney, Ziggy Ansah, Mychal Kendricks, and Shaquill Griffin inactive. Bobby Wagner left the game. Quandre Diggs left the game. Al Woods left the game. Backup safety Lano Hill, filling in for Diggs, left the game. It was not pretty. Ideally, Clowney, Griffin, and Diggs will be ready for the playoffs. Clowney, I expect to return sooner because he was mainly dealing with an illness. Wagner is expected to be ready for Sunday. Diggs, I expect to be out at least two weeks. It would be nice to get the bye, so he has at least three weeks to heal up before the first playoff game.

The defense, as a unit, is not that close to where they were in the heyday. The 2013 Seahawks were completely dominant. The 2019 Seahawks are takeaway machines, but that’s really it. The pass rush sucks. The linebackers are playing below expectations. The run defense isn’t very good. The secondary is maybe the strength, but lost Diggs and I’m not sure how long Griffin is out. Seattle is third in takeaways, and that might work in the playoffs, it has for teams in the past, but they’ll need to make sure the offense is consistently ahead of them. That’s where Russell beating a good defense in the playoffs will come into play the most.

4. The Seahawks have one of the best home field advantages in the NFL, but is it that important to hold the one seed or do you feel confident about this team no matter where they are playing?

It is that important to hold the one seed. Of the last 20 Super Bowl teams, 12 were the 1 seed. The Seahawks are 7-1 on the road this season, a franchise best, but I don’t have confidence in seeing them need to go to New Orleans AND go to San Francisco in order to make the Super Bowl. Same if they have to go to Green Bay, though I don’t think the Packers are that great. But especially if they fall into a wild card spot and have to go to Dallas and then two of those three teams. It’s just a scary prospect and I would like Seattle’s road record this season to stay at 7-1. No more road games. Imagine how ready this team would be if they had two home games to end the season, a bye week, a home divisional game that they won, and then were hosting the 49ers or Saints or Packers or Vikings? They’d have gone over a month without traveling! That’s gotta count for something and Seattle needs everything to count for them that they can get right now. Because we know the defense isn’t super strong. We know that the offensive line is what it is. We know that with Josh Gordon suspended, they’re still searching for another weapon for Russell to throw to. They need every advantage, and homefield is a huge one.

5. Can the Cardinals keep it close, or are the Seahawks locked in and ready for the run to another Super Bowl?

I asked my readers one question this week: How worried are you about the Cardinals? A few people were “worried but confident” but nearly everyone was very worried. I’d say worried is a good way to put it. Arizona has struck the Seahawks at home late in 2017. They did it late in 2016. They did it late in 2015. They did it late in 2013! It’s like revenge for the 58-0 game in 2012. Leave the Seahawks alone, man. My confidence level for the 49ers is maybe even higher than my confidence against the Cardinals and that is totally my heart speaking, not my head. The Cards have a really bad pass defense, from what I can tell, so that’s where almost all my confidence lies. I could see Kyler Murray having a great day and seeing this as his opportunity to go into the 2020 offseason with a badge of honor to wear. This is the badge. Seattle needs to see Arizona make one mistake too many on offense. That’s how I see it playing out. But I’m worried.