Kyler Murray has had a rough ride in his first few weeks as an NFL quarterback. Thrown into the fire by new Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury, the former Oklahoma 2-sport star had a flash of brilliance in Week 1 when he led a furious comeback in an eventual tie with the Detroit Lions.
Since then, the Cardinals are 0-2. But don’t look for the Big Red – an awful team with a ridiculously bad head coach in 2018 – to be a huge betting underdog against the visiting Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon.
Seattle has problems of its own. Despite being 2-1 on the year so far, the ’19-20 Seahawks have wins over the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, perhaps 2 of the poorest teams in the AFC. Last week, the Drew Brees-less New Orleans Saints were able to defeat the ‘Hawks 33-27 at CenturyLink Field.
Still, 2 victories is more than 0, and the gambling public has widened the point spread to (-5.5) for Sunday’s guests at the Big Toaster.
Who: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
When: Sunday, September 29th, 4:05 PM EST
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
Lines: SEA (-5.5) at AZ (+5.5) / O/U Total: (48)
There is good news in Seattle apart from simply the hold-serve wins in Weeks 1 and 2.
Russel Wilson is off to a fantastic start, averaging over 300 yards passing per game, completing over 70% of his passes, and carrying a 7-0 TD-INT ratio. He is also still proving to be a threat with his legs, rushing for 81 yards on 17 carries and scoring 2 times on the ground.
Tyler Lockett has emerged as Wilson’s favorite target as life without retired Doug Baldwin does not appear to be affecting the passing game too badly. Rookie D.K. Metcalf is shaping up to be the deep threat that Pete Carroll sorely needed, and Wilson has another formidable red zone target coming into his own in 23-year-old TE Will Dissly.
Dissly has caught 3 TD’s and confidence in the youngster is soaring. You can’t say the same for confidence in the Seattle defense, but despite the Saints scoring 33 points last week, New Orleans actually didn’t fare that well on offense and scarcely brushed 300 total yards.
Arizona is also putting up points and blocking well for Murray on occasion, but the Cardinals appear to be among the weaker defenses in the NFL through 3 games:
In a recent article posted on For the Win!, Steven Ruiz ranked the Cardinals’ defense as the worst in the NFL. Ruiz graded each team with four categories including coverage, pass rush, coaching and run defense. The categories were weighted based on how important he thought each facet of defense is. Pass coverage was highlighted as being the more important while run defense was the least. The Cardinals’ low ranking was mostly due to depth and lack of experience.
“The Cardinals’ depth is already being tested with projected cornerbacks Patrick Peterson (suspension) and Robert Alford (leg injury) both set to miss the first half of the season, leaving Arizona with two unproven players starting at one of the most important spots on the roster. The pass rush may not be a big help, either. Chandler Jones is coming off a down year, Terrell Suggs might be washed and none of the Cardinals’ interior linemen are capable of producing consistent pressure. There are going to be a lot of shootouts in Arizona this season.”
In June, Pro Football Focus said the Cardinals had the worst overall roster heading into this season. In August, PFF said they had the No. 24 wide receiver corps in the league.
The Ruiz analysis of the Big Red defense is fine – Patrick Peterson is missing with injury and it’s no surprise that pass coverage would struggle without him. The analysis from Pro Football Focus is bunk, comparable to “square” gambling touts on TV, simply a reflection of the terrible coaching in Arizona last season and the fact that no one in major media centers is upset when teams from the desert are ranked last.
On the flip side, the offense seems to be doing enough to keep the Cardinals in games for the most part. Murray had a bad day against Carolina in Week 3, throwing for 173 yards with 2 TD’s and 2 INT’s, but is showing signs of being the franchise QB Arizona is expecting him to be.
Murray and the Cardinals coaching staff have used veteran WR Larry Fitzgerald well in the early going, resurrecting his career after dealing with bad QB play for the last couple of years.
These teams are fierce division rivals and will continue to be, meaning that any line-movement toward a wider point spread should be taken with grains of salt. The outcomes are often very tight.
However, you’ve got to give a huge experience edge to the Seahawks at the 2 most-important positions…QB and head coach. Murray and Kingsbury will have to learn how difficult it is to beat Seattle when chips are down.
Take the Seahawks to cover (-5.5) on Sunday.