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Saturday before football Sunday: What to watch for in Cardinals-Seahawks

Kliff Kingsbury is 3-3 versus Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals’ performance through five weeks of the 2022 regular season does not exactly inspire the most confidence within their fanbase especially with only two wins during that span of time.

However with Arizona trailing the 49ers by a game for the NFC West lead and the return of DeAndre Hopkins less than week away, the Cardinals could very well turn a corner starting with a win against their divisional rival Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

Even with Russell Wilson departing to the Denver Broncos, the Seahawks still own one of the best offenses in the NFL led by former New York Jets castoff Geno Smith, who leads the NFL in passer rating (113.2) and completion percentage (75.2%).

All of a sudden, what many considered to be an easy win for the Cardinals before the start of the season now looks like a tough matchup against a formidable foe.

Kliff Kingsbury is 3-3 all-time against Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks and won two of those matchups in enemy territory at Lumen Field, formerly known as CenturyLink.

What will come about on Sunday?

Here are three things to watch and consider as the Cardinals visit the Seahawks in Week 6:

Eno Benjamin should run wild as the No. 1 running back for the Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks

With James Conner and Darrel Williams ruled out, Eno Benjamin is slated to serve as the Cardinals No. 1 running back heading into the divisional battle against the Seattle Seahawks.

One reason to be optimistic about Benjamin is the fact that the Seahawks rank last in total run defense, surrendering an average of 170.2 rushing yards per game. Their nine rushing touchdowns allowed is tied with the Bears for the second-most in the NFL. Alvin Kamara, Taysom Hill, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Jamaal Williams gashed the Seahawks for over 100 yards rushing this season. Cardinals have a tendency to rely heavily on the pass game out of the gate but a run-first approach should put them on the fast track to success offensively. If Kliff Kingsbury utilizes Kyler Murray’s athletic ability (and that is a big if) and limit the number of gimmick plays that often halt the Cardinals’ drive, their offense will be difficult to stop. Keaontay Ingram and the recently-signed Corey Clement will serve as the primary backups.

Will the Cardinals’ secondary be able to cover Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf?

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Seahawk’s wide receiver Tyler Lockett has been terrorizing the Cardinals’ secondary for the last two years, hauling in 33 passes for 480 receiving yards and six touchdowns in four games. DK Metcalf on the other hands has never had more than 58 receiving yards against the Cardinals and he only has one career touchdown against that team. Here is how opposing No. 1 receivers performed against the Cardinals this year:

Week 1: JuJu Smith Schuster: 6-79-0

Week 2: Davante Adams: 2-12-1

Week 3: Cooper Kupp: 4-44-0

Week 4: DJ Moore: 6-50-0

Week 5: AJ Brown: 3-32-0

Byron Murphy, Marco Wilson, and the Cardinals’ secondary have limited No. 1 receivers to very minimal production but the latter seems to have more success. Rams’ Ben Skowronek put up 66 yards while the Raiders’ Hunter Renfrow led the team with seven receptions against the Cardinals in recent weeks. Eagles’ No. 2 receiver DeVonta Smith had an impressive 87-yard performance with 10 receptions last week against Arizona. Assuming Metcalf operates as the Seahawks’ No. 1 receiver, Lockett might have himself a field day in his matchup with Marco Wilson, who gave up nearly 100 yards last weekend.

If the Cardinals want to slow down Geno Smith, it starts with getting more pass rush from their edge rushers with Dennis Gardeck and Markus Golden having a combined grand total of one single sack. Zach Allen and J.J. Watt have performed admirably on the defensive line but will face a stout Seahawks’ offensive line that has played an instrumental role in producing the seventh-best scoring offense in the NFL.

A fast start for the Cardinals incoming?

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks have allowed points in the first quarter in each of their five games this season. They own the worst defense in the NFL, allowing the second-most points per game (30.8) and the most yards (430) given up in each contest. A big reason for their struggles is a lack of a pass rush. Aside from Uchenna Nwosu, who leads the Seahawks with two sacks and 15 pressures, they have had a difficult time getting after the quarterback. This should bode well for an Arizona Cardinals football team that has been riddled with slow starts as they have yet to score a point in the first quarter this season.

In the Cardinals’ last contest against the Seahawks in Seattle, Zach Ertz led the Cardinals with 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hollywood Brown has proven to be a No. 1 receiver, leading the Cardinals in receptions (38), receiving yards (417) and touchdowns (3). It is only reasonable to assume both will have a big day considering the struggles of the Seahawks’ defense in what could be a shootout down-to-the-wire game. Despite their woes on pass defense, rookie fifth-round sensation Tariq Woolen has proven himself more than capable of handling starting cornerback duties with three interception in five starts for the Seahawks.

There are so many factors involved that should make this Cardinals-Seahawks tilt a high-scoring matchup. Geno Smith is having a career-year with 10 total touchdowns and his 8.3 yards per pass is tied with Bills’ Josh Allen for third in the NFL which goes to show he is not shy to attack defenses vertically. Rookie second-round pick Kenneth Walker will start as the Seahawks’ primary ball carrier with Rashaad Penny placed on season-ending injured reserve. Cardinals’ defense ranks last in sacks (6) but rank seventh in ESPN’s pass-rush win rate. Kyler Murray’s 5.8 yards per pass is ranked near the bottom in that category but a shift from the horizontal pass game to Rondale Moore should do wonders for that ball club.