It’ll be a battle of birds from the NFC West in Week 4 as the Arizona Cardinals play host the Seattle Seahawks. Game time is scheduled for 4:05 EST on Sunday, September 30, at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The game will be available in local markets on Fox.
According to this week’s NFL betting odds, the Seahawks are 3-point favorites on the road. That line has moved down slightly after Seattle opened as 3.5-point favorites. The over/under for this game is set at 38.5 points.
After losing their first two games of the season, the Seahawks finally picked up their first win of 2018 last week against the Cowboys. Pete Carroll won’t say it, but the Seahawks are clearly going through a rebuild. The normally dominant Seattle defense has slipped to the middle of the pack. Meanwhile, Russell Wilson doesn’t quite have the supporting cast that he’s had in the past, which is why it’s been a struggle for the Seahawks early in the year.
However, the Seahawks will feel good if they can get to 2-2, especially with three of their first four games coming on the road. It may be too late to catch the Rams atop the NFC West, as Los Angeles is already 4-0 this year. But if the Seahawks can get to 2-2, they may be able to factor into the NFC wild-card race.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, could be on the verge of a truly disastrous season. They had a chance to get their first win of the season last week, but they couldn’t hold on against the Bears, especially after turning the ball over four times. It was quite disheartening for Arizona, especially on the heels of two lopsided losses to begin the season.
At 0-3, the Cardinals have made the decision to bench Sam Bradford in favor of rookie Josh Rosen. Arizona is last in the NFL in passing yards, rushing yards, and points, so it’s not as if Rosen can make things worse. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
I have a feeling that it’s going to be tough to lean toward the Cardinals at any point this season, and I’m not going to do it here. To be fair, they only lost to the Bears by two points last week. But giving a rookie his first start and expecting him to change an offense that’s been otherwise dreadful is not going to end well, at least in the short term. The Seahawks are a little better than their record, and I expect them to cover the 3-point spread comfortably.
The biggest key for Seattle in this game is to run the ball effectively. That’s been a problem for them this season. However, Chris Carson was able to eclipse the 100-yard mark against a solid Dallas defense last week, so there’s some hope. If the Seahawks can run the ball, everything becomes much easier for Wilson.
With a running game, Wilson will be able to use play-action and move out of the pocket on his own terms. Last week’s success running the ball allowed Wilson to only get sacked twice, as opposed to six sacks in each of the first two weeks. With the Cardinals giving up over 130 yards rushing per game, there’s a good chance the Seahawks can find some consistency on the ground this week and open up their offense.
The Seahawks are also hoping to get Doug Baldwin back from injury this week. Baldwin will give the Seahawks a steady and consistent receiver, something they’ve missed early in the year. Tyler Lockett has become a constant deep threat while tight end Will Dissly has had a few bright moments. But the Seattle offense needs a player like Baldwin in order to be at their best.
On the other side of the ball, there are still a few things to like about the Seattle defense. Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner, two members of the old guard, both made a massive impact last week. To be fair, that performance came against the one-dimensional Dallas offense. However, the Seahawks are near the top of the league in creating takeaways, which makes them lethal against a rookie quarterback this week.
While starting Rosen this week may be best for the Cardinals in the long run, the young signal-caller isn’t exactly set up for instant success. The Cardinals are lacking in capable receivers outside of rookie Christian Kirk and the aging Larry Fitzgerald. Even more concerning is that they haven’t even been able to get David Johnson going this season. Johnson is averaging less than 40 yards per game. Part of that is due to the Cardinals playing from behind. However, Johnson had just 31 yards on 12 carries last week after the Cards went up 14-0 early in the game.
Ultimately, starting Rosen doesn’t solve enough of Arizona’s short-term problems. Starting him against a defense that has excelled in creating takeaways this season doesn’t bode well for Arizona’s chances on Sunday. The Seahawks have some flaws too. But not enough to convince me that they can’t cover a 3-point spread against a winless team.