Thursday Night Football Preview: Cardinals at Seahawks

For a second straight week, NFL fans will get a good game to watch on paper for Thursday Night Football. Last week’s game between the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts was expected to be a defensive game. This week’s game between the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks is projected to be a high-scoring shootout between the two top-scoring quarterbacks in fantasy football in Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson. Similar to last week, the division title is on the line in this game. These two teams met in Week 7 where the Cardinals won 37-34 in OT and included this sweet play. Both quarterbacks scored more than 30 fantasy points and are likely heading to another high-scoring duel led by the starting quarterbacks.

– THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL PREVIEW –

Arizona Cardinals (6-3) at Seattle Seahawks (6-3)

Spread: Seahawks -3 | Over/Under 57.5

Vegas Odds

The Arizona Cardinals are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games against the Seattle Seahawks and are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games played on the road against the Seahawks. The Cardinals are 9-2-2 in their last 13 games played on the road. The total has gone UNDER in 6 of the Cardinals’ last 9 games played against an NFC opponent, but the total has gone OVER in each of the last six games played in November.

The Seattle Seahawks are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games. The total has gone OVER in 7 of the Seahawks’ last 10 games. The Seahawks are 4-1 straight up in their last 5 games at home and 6-2 in their last 8 November games. Against NFC opponents, the total has gone OVER in 5 of the Seahawks’ last 7 games.

Quarterbacks

Kyler Murray’s 30.2 fantasy points per game lead everyone in the league this season. It’s 2.5 MORE fantasy points per game than Lamar Jackson averaged last season. Murray’s rushing efficiency is impressive; he’s produced 80 more rushing yards than Jackson this season on three fewer attempts. The key to stopping Murray is to bring pressure and not let him escape the pocket. This is common sense, but the numbers are drastic. When given a clean pocket, Murray’s completion percentage is 77.8-percent (No. 9) and he’s No. 6 in play-action completion percentage (71.4-percent). When pressured, Murray’s completion percentage plummets to 27.1-percent (No. 33). Working in his favor is his underrated offensive line. His protection rate leads the NFL at 92.2-percent. When these teams last met in Week 7, Murray had his best fantasy performance of the season, which included his season-best 393 air yards. Murray has finished as a top-10 fantasy quarterback in EVERY game this season. Murray is positioned to record his fourth-straight 30+ fantasy point performance.

What’s happened to Russell Wilson the last few weeks? In the first five weeks, Wilson had a 19:3 TD-INT ratio. In the four games since his TD-INT ratio has plummeted to 9:7. Wilson had three interceptions against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 7, which was the most he’s thrown in a game since the 2017 season. The increase in interceptions thrown in recent weeks is concerning, but it shouldn’t overshadow Wilson’s throwing excellence on the season. Wilson is hard to stop. Teams have to keep him in the pocket because he’s No. 2 in play-action completion percentage (76.5-percent). If his pocket is kept clean his completion percentage is 76.7-percent (No. 10), but if he’s pressured his completion percentage is 51.1-percent (No. 6). In their last matchup, Wilson had a season-high 432 air yards and his best rushing performance (84 yards).

Running Backs

The Cardinals’ backfield is dependent on Kenyan Drake’s health. Before getting hurt in Week 7, Drake played in 65-percent of the Cardinals’ snaps in all but one game. In his first game back from injury, Drake split the running back snaps evenly with Chase Edmonds (38-36). The two running backs have clear roles in the offense. Drake is an early-down grinder (612 rushing yards, No. 7) with little involvement in the passing game (8 receptions for 38 yards). Meanwhile, Edmonds is top-15 among running backs in all advanced receiving stats. In their last matchup with the Seahawks, Edmonds had a season-best seven receptions and 145 yards from scrimmage. Still recovering from torn ankle ligaments injury, avoid Drake in this game. Edmonds has the higher ceiling among the two Cardinals’ running backs. The Seahawks pass defense allows the third-highest success rate on pass plays to running backs (73-percent) and the third-most yards per pass attempt (9.9) over the past three weeks. The Seahawks’ run defense allows 95.0 yards per game (fourth-fewest) and the Cardinals may split the snaps evenly with a short week of preparation.

The Seahawks’ backfield has been led by a combination of DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, and Alex Collins in their last two games. The good news for the Seahawks is that Chris Carson is trending towards playing in this game (Monday: DNP, Tuesday: Limited) and backup Carlos Hyde got a full practice in on Tuesday. In their last matchup, Carson and Hyde combined for 20 carries and 6 targets. Carson received two targets in the red zone and the duo combined for two red zone carries. Monitor Carson’s health. In five games before his Week 7 injury, Carson scored 19+ fantasy points in four of the five games. Hyde will serve as a breather back for Carson if Carson plays. If Carson doesn’t play, Hyde has sneaky bell-cow upside for Week 11. Hyde took over for an injured Carson in Week 7 against the Cardinals and finished with 18 touches for 76 yards and a touchdown. This allowed Hyde to finish as RB11.

Wide Receivers

Fresh off the top play of the NFL season, DeAndre Hopkins looks to repeat his Week 7 performance against the Seattle Seahawks. On the season, Hopkins is top-10 in both yards per route run (2.65) and fantasy points per route run (0.54). Commanding a 31.4-percent share of the Cardinals’ air yards and a 15.7-percent Hog Rate (No. 17), Hopkins is No. 2 among wide receivers in fantasy points per game (19.5). He has twice as many games (6) as a top-10 wide receiver for the week than he does outside the top-10 (3). Hopkins’ teammate, Christian Kirk, had his three-week stretch of top-15 fantasy performances snapped last week and had his worst game of the season since Week 1. In Weeks 6-9, Kirk outscored Hopkins in two of the three games and scored 20+ fantasy points in each of the three games. The Seahawks’ swiss cheese pass defense allows fantasy managers the ability to safely start Kirk even with Hopkins commanding more targets than Kirk.

Tyler Lockett has missed practice on Monday and Tuesday with a knee sprain. The missed practice time may be precautionary, but the injury would explain why Lockett failed to impress last week against the Los Angeles Rams (5-66-0 on 9 targets). If starting Lockett this week, temper expectations. The last time these two teams met, Lockett went off for 15-200-3 on 20 targets. Lockett has more weeks outside the top-50 (4) than he does inside the top-12 (3). D.K. Metcalf’s fantasy football managers were disappointed last week. The bright side is it was only the second performance of the season that Metcalf finished outside the top-24. Unlike his teammate, Metcalf is healthy and positioned to redeem his Week 7 performance against the Cardinals. Metcalf leads the NFL in air yards (1076) and is No. 1 among wide receivers in deep targets with 20. Metcalf, with his deep targets, has a better chance of being the top fantasy wide receiver on the Seahawks this week than his hobbled teammate. The high total of the game (57.5 points from Vegas) and the uncertainty of a running game due to injuries signifies that Metcalf is set to have a huge game against the Cardinals.

Tight Ends

Only three teams in the NFL target the tight end position less than the Arizona Cardinals (11-percent). Dan Arnold ran more than 30 routes in each of his first two games of the season but has run less than 20 routes in every game of the season since. Arnold has failed to score 8 fantasy points in every game this season. Arnold is a fantasy non-factor and doesn’t need to be on fantasy rosters even if he manages to score his first touchdown of the season.

Greg Olsen is a player to avoid in fantasy football too. Last week’s game snapped a four-game streak of failing to score 4 fantasy points in a game. D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett absorb so much of Russell Wilson’s passing volume that Olsen is unable to be fantasy relevant despite running 241 routes (No. 12) and playing in the slot (134 snaps, No. 9). Starting Olsen is not advisable, especially with Jalen Thompson (PFF Grade: 76.1) guarding Olsen. However, Olsen is due for a touchdown soon with his 9 red-zone targets (No. 10). Last week, Olsen ran 35 routes against the Rams. That’s the second-most routes run by Olsen in a game this season. If Lockett ends up missing the game, Wilson could look Olsen’s way to help pick up the slack.

Defense/Special Teams

The Arizona Cardinals’ defense allows 370.0 yards per game, including the 13th-most passing yards (249.8). The 23.3 points allowed per game is the ninth-fewest in the NFL. In 2020, the Cardinals boast a top red-zone defense; the 51.61-percent red zone scoring percentage allowed (touchdowns only) is the third-lowest percentage. However, over their last three games, that percentage is 85.71-percent (second-most). The DVOA defense of the Cardinals paints them as a slightly better defense than the yards they allow through the air and ground. Because of their low red zone scoring allowed, the Cardinals have the ninth-best DVOA defense. The Cardinals’ special teams unit grades out in the bottom-third in the NFL (No. 21). Their kick and punt return units both grade as bottom-five units in the NFL. The Cardinals’ defense loves to pressure quarterbacks. Their 41.7-percent blitz percentage is tied for third in the NFL; however, their 22-percent pressure percentage is 15th. To put this in perspective, the three teams that pressure as much as the Cardinals (Steelers, Buccaneers, Ravens) have the 1st, 2nd, and 7th highest pressure percentages in the NFL.

The Seattle Seahawks’ defense allows more than 30 yards more per game than the next-worst defense. Their pass defense has been shredded this season for a league-worst 353.3 yards allowed per game, while their rush defense has allowed the fourth-fewest yards (95.0). Seattle’s red zone defense is in the bottom-third in the NFL in touchdown scoring percentage allowed (67.57-percent), including allowing a 73.33-percent touchdown scoring percentage over the last three games. Looking at DVOA, the Seahawks’ passing defense is better than advertised (No. 26), while their rushing defense rank (No. 9) reveals that the low rushing yards allowed per game are not solely because of their porous pass defense. Unlike the Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks have an elite special teams unit. Their special teams unit’s DVOA is ranked third in the NFL buoyed by their kicking and punting units. Only the Steelers (17), Buccaneers (17), and Bills’ (16) defenses produce more takeaways than the Seahawks (15). Two of those three teams (Buccaneers and Bills) have played one more game than the Seahawks. Like their NFC West rival, the Seahawks blitz at a high-rate (34.2-percent, No. 9), but fail to produce pressure (20.3-percent, No. 19).

Final Thoughts

The Cardinals have a deceptively good defense and the Seahawks’ defense is good at stopping the run. Overall defense advantage goes to the Cardinals. The special teams’ advantage in this game goes to the Seahawks by a wide margin. Both offenses can move the ball and score. I’ll give a slight advantage to the Seahawks because the Seahawks’ defense can limit the Cardinals’ league-leading 168.9 rushing yards. They held Kyler Murray to his second-lowest yards per carry (4.8) on the season. I can’t bring myself to pick the OVER on an NFL game where the total is set at 57.5 points. So give me the UNDER in this game and I’ll go with Seattle at home to tie up the series 1-1 this season.

SEAHAWKS 28-24.

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