The Seahawks head to Arizona this weekend needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and standing in their way is a Cardinals squad that, despite a losing record, figures to be a tough opponent to close out the regular season. After beating the Eagles on Sunday, Arizona now has victories over Dallas, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Atlanta, all of whom are either in the playoffs or, in the case of Pittsburgh and Atlanta, in playoff contention heading into Week 18.
To help you get ready for this week's game, Seahawks.com reached to AZCardinals.com senior writer Darren Urban with five questions about Seattle's Week 18 opponent:
Safe to say based on Sunday's win over the Eagles that the Cardinals aren't checking out early; how much are they embracing the role of spoiler heading into this game against the Seahawks and/or how important is finishing strong to build momentum going into 2024?
Urban: I don't think playing spoiler has as much to do with their motivation as the finishing-strong part of the equation. The Cardinals do not have a good record, but they are 3-4 since Kyler Murray came back and their four wins have come against three current playoff teams (Cowboys, Steelers, Eagles) and possibly a fourth (Falcons). They had a lot of reasons to let it go sideways this season, and Jonathan Gannon has done a great job making sure that never happened.
With Kyler Murray's future a topic of conversation down there, what has the Cardinals QB shown in the second half of the season since returning from injured reserve?
Urban: It was reasonable to wonder about Murray's future for a while there, but that time has passed. He had his best game of the season against the Eagles, and that's despite still learning this new system, with new teammates. A full offseason of all that will make a big difference. I have thought for a few weeks there was no question about Murray being the Cardinals QB going forward; the game in Philly just underscored that idea. Besides, their best-case scenario for all their draft picks was to use them to build around the QB they already had.
The Cardinals have rushed for more than 200 yards in two of their last three games, including 228 in Sunday's win over the Eagles, what has been the key to such a productive run game?
Urban: Pretty simply, their offensive line has been getting better and better and the coaches are committed to it. It doesn't hurt that James Conner is arguably having his best NFL season, with a shot at 1,000 yards despite missing four games with a knee injury. Michael Carter has given them some good running as Conner's backup, and Kyler remains a running threat. There is no doubt the Cardinals are aware of the Seahawks allowing 200 rush yards to the Steelers; it's fair to say they want to keep up that same rushing efficiency.
Aside from the obvious big names, what player or players could you see being an X-factor in this game?
Urban: Wide receiver Greg Dortch has done nothing but make plays the last couple of years when he was asked to play offense. It wasn't happening when Hollywood Brown was healthy, but the Cardinals turned to Dortch and he again has produced – 7 catches for 82 yards against the Eagles, including the huge catch-and-run with less than two minutes left to set up the winning score. Tight end Trey McBride is Kyler's main target right now and rookie Michael Wilson is making some plays, but Dortch is a guy who produces.
What matchup or matchups are you most looking forward to seeing play out on Sunday?
Urban: Cardinals defensive coordinator Nick Rallis raved about the ability of Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III, calling him "one of the best runners in this league." The Cardinals did a nice job against the run in Philly but part of that was shutting down Jalen Hurts and part was the domination of the Cards' offense (Eagles ran just 49 plays.) In Chicago, the Cardinals gave up 250 yards rushing. They can't let Walker go off on their front seven.
The Seahawks and Cardinals face off on Sunday, Jan 7, 2024. Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Cardinals.