The Seahawks (6-3) host the Cardinals (6-3) at Lumen Field this evening in an all-important NFC West rematch on Thursday Night Football. Seattle sits as -3 home favorites (-150 ML), and the over/under has settled at a whopping 57 points.
The winner of the evening will at least temporarily assume the driver’s seat in the division and perhaps lay claim to the top spot in the NFC power rankings. The Cardinals made headlines in late October when they dealt the Seahawks their first loss of the season in a 37-34 instant classic.
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After that epic contest, Seattle rebounded with a tough win over the injury-ravaged 49ers, but lost its past two games, a 44-34 shootout with the Bills and a 23-16 slugfest with the Rams. Meanwhile, the Cardinals fell to the Dolphins at home 34-31 and pulled off a last-second miracle win over the Bills 32-30.
Tonight’s game could easily break ratings records for Thursday Night Football, as it features two of the better offenses in the league, as well as two front-runners for 2020 NFL MVP in Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Arizona’s Kyler Murray. Let’s dive into the outlook for each team and offer a glimpse of BetQL’s full array of best bets for this crucial prime-time divisional clash.
If not for the upstart Dolphins marching into State Farm Stadium two weeks ago and mounting a huge comeback victory over Arizona, the whole nation would probably be listing the Cardinals as the team to beat in the NFL right now. Regardless, the dominating sports talk of the nation over the course of the last week has been about “Hail Murray.”
There’s no way to adequately describe the Week 10 heroics of the red-hot Murray, who bombed a last-second Hail Mary to elite wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a contested, game-winning touchdown grab over three Bills. If you needed to sum Murray and Hopkins up in two words, you might be wise to take some creative liberties and choose “miraculous super-talents.”
Murray had been angling toward the top of the MVP discussion ever since he outscored then-frontrunner Wilson in an incredible 37-34 Sunday Night Football victory last month. He was already doing unfathomable things with his arm and his legs, but he kicked things up an extra gear when he dealt Seattle its first loss. He passed for 360 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 67 yards and another score, besting Wilson in overtime.
In the two games since then, Murray has completed a combined total of 43-of-58 passes for 528 yards and four scores. He has also rushed for 161 yards and three touchdowns in that span. We get it, these look like numbers you might produce in the easier modes on “Madden,” but don’t adjust your computer or smartphone resolution because they’re real. Murray leads all quarterbacks this season with three fourth-quarter comebacks, and he’s on pace for 5,295 total yards and 48 total touchdowns. He has eight games (out of nine total) with at least one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown—no QB has ever had nine games like that in one season.
Hopkins, already considered a top-three receiver in the NFL before the Cardinals acquired him last spring, has been the primary benefactor to Murray’s emergence. The perennial All-Pro has 67 catches (second best in the NFL) and 861 receiving yards through nine games (95.7 yards per game, also second best), and he’s grabbed four touchdowns. He has snared 76.1 percent of his targets, the best catch rate of his career. He’s also on track to blow away his career-high single-season marks in catches and average receiving yards per target. He matched a season high with 10 catches for 103 yards and a TD against Seattle in Week 7.
There’s more to Arizona’s offense than just Murray and Hopkins, though. Third-year wideout Christian Kirk has six touchdown grabs and a 15.8 yards-per-catch average, both team-highs. Future Hall-of-Famer Larry Fitzgerald has caught 74.5 percent of his 47 targets, remaining relevant for the franchise he’s played 17 seasons with and represented 11 times as a Pro Bowler.
Kenyan Drake, who missed two starts due to injury, has 612 yards rushing and four touchdowns as the lead back, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Incredibly, Murray has just eight fewer total rushing yards despite logging 48 fewer rushing attempts. Murray easily leads the world with 6.9 yards per rushing attempt, and he trails only Vikings running back Dalvin Cook for most rushing TDs (Cook has 12, Murray has 10). Chase Edmonds filled in for Drake admirably, averaging 4.9 yards per tote. Edmonds has also caught 32-of-38 catches for 261 receiving yards, and he averages 6.0 yards per touch on the season.
Take a breath if you have to. This offense, which ranks No. 1 in yardage with 425.4 yards per game, is as overwhelming on paper as it is in person. If Arizona’s defense can get things together, this team could very well be a Super Bowl contender. Vance Joseph’s defensive unit may not be as notorious as Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, but it’s still capable of doing big things.
Patrick Peterson remains one of the top cornerbacks in football, always answering the bell when he’s pitted against an elite wideout. Safety Budda Baker deserves to be in the Defensive Player of the Year race nearly every year, even if his most noteworthy moment of 2020 was getting chased down by Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf on an interception return. Linebackers Jordan Hicks and De’Vondre Campbell have combined for 140 total tackles. Haason Reddick has done well in place of injured linebacker Chandler Jones, putting together a team-leading five sacks and nine QB hits.
If cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and Byron Murphy can tighten things up a bit and the Cards can continue to work on their pass rush, they might be able to improve upon their pass-defense rankings in the bottom-third of the league. They allow the fewest rushing touchdowns in the NFL and the ninth-fewest points, but they still have a long way to go. Hey, no team is perfect, right?
While the Cardinals have started the second half of the 2020 NFL season blazing hot, the Seahawks opened the season even hotter. Russell Wilson had been playing like the best QB on the planet, seemingly dead-set on bringing home his first MVP (and in unanimous fashion), as well as his second Super Bowl championship. His numbers were remarkable — and downright historic — and so were the numbers of his elite receiving tandem, veteran speedster Tyler Lockett and breakout star DK Metcalf. Running back Chris Carson was having a lot of fun, too. Life was good as the top-ranked team.
But ever since the Cards dealt Seattle its first loss in Week 7, things have looked a bit different for Wilson and the Seahawks. The QB has come back to civilization a bit, throwing two interceptions in each of Seattle’s past two games. His completion percentage (59.4%) and QB rating (57.0) in the 23-16 loss to the Rams last week were his lowest of the season, and it marked the first game all season in which he failed to throw a touchdown.
A few factors have played into this sharp midseason decline. First and foremost, Carson has missed the past three games since spraining his foot in the first meeting with the Cardinals. His dual-threat playmaking ability has been sorely missed, and the simultaneous absence of backup Carlos Hyde due to a hamstring injury has forced coach Pete Carroll to get creative with the depth chart. Additionally, Metcalf and Lockett have faced some of the best cornerbacks in football the past few weeks, taking them out of the weekly receiving leader boards. Metcalf still ranks third in the NFL in receiving yards (816) and fourth in yards per catch (18.1), but he’s dropped to 18th in catches after only hauling in two against LA’s Jalen Ramsey last week.
Despite the hiccups, the Seahawks still lead the league in points per game (32.2) and passing touchdowns (28), and they rank third in total yards per game (405.9). But they also rank dead-last in total yards allowed per game (448.3, 32.7 more than the second-worst defense) and 30th in rushing TDs allowed (14). No team allows more passing yards, first downs, or average yards per drive. This defense, widely presumed to figure it out with the presence of veteran safety Jamal Adams and linebacker Bobby Wagner, has somehow gone from bad to worse as the season has progressed.
If Carson returns this week, that’s a huge plus for the Seahawks. If Lockett (knee sprain) can suit up at or near 100 percent, that’s even more crucial. With Patterson shadowing Metcalf in Seattle’s first showdown with the Cards, Lockett caught 15-of-20 passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns, easily the best receiving game in the NFL this season. But unless the Seahawks straighten out defensively, they don’t stand a chance to beat Murray the way he and the Cardinals are playing, never mind contend for the NFC title.
This game holds so much significance to the playoff picture in the NFC West — and the conference as a whole — that it might as well be the regular-season Super Bowl for these squads. Perhaps favoring experience and coaching, the BetQL NFL Best Bet Model likes the Seahawks across the board, listing their -150 moneyline as a four-star bet. The model also lists Seattle as a three-star bet to cover -3 and a whopping five-star best bet to cover the -0.5 halftime spread.
We also like the OVER for both the half (28) and the full-game total (57), projecting the final score to equal closer to 60 points. Arizona has gone OVER in each of its past three games, and Seattle has gone OVER in six of its nine games this season. The Cardinals-Seahawks matchup in Week 7 went OVER, so don’t be shy with the high number. Final score prediction: Seattle 34-30.
You can find all updated lines, odds, spreads, and NFL picks at BetQL!