5 games to watch in the Seahawks’ Week 18 final against the Cardinals
Hoping to end a disappointing season in a strong way by preventing their rivals from winning an NFC West title, the Seahawks will end the 2021 season by traveling to the wilderness to face the Cardinals in Week 18.
Seattle has some momentum for the final week after beating Detroit 51-29 behind four touchdown passes from Russell Wilson and a 170-yard outing from Rashaad Penny. After a three-game losing streak, Arizona turned the boat around with a 25-22 victory over Dallas to stay alive in the divisional title race.
With a lot on the line for the Cardinals and Seahawks aiming to play the spoiler role, what clashes will dictate who wins the season finale at State Farm Stadium?
– Seahawks take on Duane Brown and Jake Curhan against Cardinals defensive ends Chandler Jones and Markus Golden: By his standards, Jones hasn’t had his best season, producing just 4.5 sacks in his last 13 games after exploding with 5.0 sacks in a season opener win over the Titans. But he’s still got 34 presses and 20 hits in that span and he’s been a lingering nuisance for the Seahawks over the years, racking up 15.5 sacks in 10 career games against them in the regular season, including 1.5. bag in week 11 earlier this year. On his second stint in Arizona, Golden reappeared as a powerful edge forward in his own right, leading the team with 11.0 sacks and producing 40 quarterback presses this season. Both players will be a problem for Seattle tackles, especially undrafted rookie Curhan, whose biggest problem in his four previous starts has been pass protection from athletic and nervous rushers. Beaten with a speed rush, he granted a sack against Golden seven weeks ago. Brown himself also endured his share of wrestling Jones, giving him six pushes and a sack. If the Seahawks intend to surprise, they will need to control every rusher on board to give Russell Wilson time to throw.
– Seahawks safety Josh Jones vs. Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz: At the start of the season, one of the Cardinals’ few question marks in attack remained tight, but the team made an underrated move to address that flaw by dealing for Ertz in October and the veteran has been an exceptional addition. Since joining the team, he’s had 49 catches for 490 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games, which is an important addition to Arizona’s star receiving corps. His best game came in Seattle in Week 11, as the athletic tight end abused the Seahawks high school with eight receptions for 88 yards and two scores. He posted those numbers against a full defense at the time with safety Jamal Adams and backup Ryan Neal available. The two will be inactive for this rematch with Adams on the injured reserve and Neal on the COVID-19 roster. While Jones has over 20 NFL starts under his belt, he has rebounded with four different teams largely because of coverage issues. Size-wise, he’s a pretty good match for Ertz, but issues with change of direction and speed could turn that into a major mismatch that favors the Cardinals.
–Seahawks guards Damien Lewis / Gabe Jackson / Phil Haynes and center Ethan Pocic against Cardinals defensive tackles Corey Peters and Leki Fotu: After a rough start defending the race, the Cardinals have made huge strides, as evidenced by the Cowboys’ limitation to 45 rushing yards and 2.6 yards per carry last weekend. Still, they’ve allowed over 100 rushing yards nine times and opponents are averaging 4.4 yards north per carry this year against them and there’s a chance Arizona will be without Jordan Phillips and Zach Allen, leaving them exhausted in the interior defensive line. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have found their rhythm in football with Rashaad Penny producing over 500 yards in the past five games, pulling explosive runs behind a physical offensive line. Jackson (knee) may not be available in right guard this weekend for Seattle, but Haynes has performed well in Lewis’ absence a week ago and will be ready to step in at the other post of guard if needed, while Pocic has been playing some of his best football lately. Establishing the race between tackles would open up the passing game and help prevent the Arizona edge rushers from being able to pin their ears while chasing Wilson.
– Seahawks cornerbacks DJ Reed, Sidney Jones and Ugo Amadi against Cardinals receivers AJ Green, Antoine Wesley and Christian Kirk: If Arizona were at full power as receiver, it would likely be a match for the home team. But with DeAndre Hopkins on the injured reserve and rookie Rondale Moore ruled out this week, quarterback Kyler Murray will miss two of his best away weapons against a tandem cornerback to Reed and Jones who have been equally good. than anyone else in the league in the second half of the season. Still, Murray has two big receivers at Green and Wesley, who are each 6-foot-4 and have at least a four-inch advantage over Reed and Jones. Green has had a pretty good rebounding season, catching 50 balls for 825 yards and averaging 16.5 yards per catch, while Wesley has received three touchdowns in the last two games and has been a red zone problem. Ultimately, however, Kirk may be the receiver Seattle is most concerned about. He’s caught 22 passes for 201 yards and one score in the last three games and given his ability to do damage from both the outside and the lunge, Murray will likely look for him early and often on Sunday. It should be an intriguing clash across the board for both teams.
– Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson against Cardinals safety Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson: It’s not often that a chess match between a quarterback and safeties deserves attention as a critical clash, but the Cardinals have one of the best safety tandems in the game and Wilson has had their fair share of hiccups at this high school in the past. Baker, a former All-Pro first team, intercepted Wilson last season, famous for being tracked by wide receiver DK Metcalf inside the Seahawks’ 10-yard line. He is currently second on the team behind cornerback Byron Murphy with three interceptions. As for Thompson, as he ceded a 48-yard reception to Tyler Lockett in Week 11, he also recorded a pass breakage against Metcalf and leads the team in that department with four SEBs this year. The two safeties have the ability to line up all field for Arizona and act as ball hawks in cover as well as defend the race. Once in a blue moon, they will also occasionally come in blitz. Wilson will need to know where both players are at all times and be careful not to get caught up in potential interceptions.