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Week 11 Key Matchups: Seahawks vs. Cardinals

Taking a look at three key matchups that could make the difference in Seattle’s Week 11 game vs. Arizona.

As tough as a quick turnaround can be, Thursday night provides an opportunity for the Seahawks to regain a lead in the NFC West. Sunday's loss in Los Angeles and Arizona's win against Buffalo created a three-way tie atop the standings, with the Cardinals and Rams owning tiebreakers over Seattle.

"I know that we're all tied right now so that just makes the point of every game being a championship opportunity more clear," coach Pete Carroll said.

These three key matchups that could help Seattle reestablish their lead in the division.

Russell Wilson vs. Aggressive Arizona Defense

The Seahawks have lost three of the last four games going back to the Week 7 matchup in Arizona. Those losses were marked by uncharacteristic mistakes and turnovers, including seven interceptions and three fumbles by Russell Wilson. It won't get easier against an aggressive Arizona team.

"They've continued to be a high-pressure group, particularly the last couple games. They're getting after it," Carroll said. "They're not going to change their ways. We have to do right. We've got to make our identifications, make our calls and everything has to work together. It's all phases. It's not just the guys up front. It's Russ fixing the protection, making the right decisions and the receivers adjusting properly."

Arizona ranks among the highest blitzing teams in the league. Their 34.9% rate on drop backs is one thing, but it's also looks and the pressure they dial up even without bringing the extra blitzer. It created confusion in Week 7 and led to Wilson's third interception of the game when Arizona showed blitz on 3rd and 14 then dropped out. The pass intended for David Moore was picked off by Isaiah Simmons and ended the Seahawks scoring opportunities in overtime.

"They do a great job of mixing all the different guys with pressure," Wilson said. "They bring a lot of confusion in different things they try to do, but there's a lot of things that can happen because of it in a good way for us. That's the biggest thing we need to be really clear on, identifying stuff and making sure we're crisp."

Seahawks front seven vs. Kyler Murray

Much was made of the inability to record a sack or quarterback hit on Kyler Murray in Week 7, but very few teams are getting to Murray this year. He's been sacked just 13 times. At this pace, he'll suffer less than half of the 48 sacks endured his rookie season. According to linebacker Bobby Wagner, Murray's ability to run is a big reason for the turnaround.

"When he first got into the league you watched him on film and he was making the runs but he would just run out of bounds," Wagner said. "As the season went on he got a little more confidence and you're seeing that even more now. They're running the QB running plays and he's not going out of bounds. You see the confidence he has in his ability to make the right decisions with the ball in his hands." 

The Cardinals made it a priority to get Murray more involved in the ground game it's paid off. He's fueling the best ground game in the NFL accounting for 39.7% of Arizona's rushing yards and 10 of their 15 rushing touchdowns.

He'll be facing a Seahawks defense that's allowed the fourth fewest rushing yards (855) this season and the fourth fewest yards per carry (3.7) however Seattle has also given up 14 rushing touchdowns tied for third most in the NFL.

When it comes to containing Murray this time around, there's also the impact of Jamal Adams.   The safety missed the Week 7 matchup with a groin injury. He leads the team with 5 ½ sacks and can help with the Seahawks pressure packages and be a factor in defending one of the best receivers in the league in DeAndre Hopkins.

DK Metcalf vs. DeAndre Hopkins

Which receiver will have a greater impact on the game?

Sunday, Hopkins hauled in a Hail Mary pass to beat Buffalo that made every highlight reel, but that's just one of 67 receptions for the Cardinals No. 1 receiver. He's tied for the second most receptions in the league and ranks second in receiving yards with 861. More than a third of those yards have come after the catch which is something Wagner is concerned about stopping Thursday.

"You just gotta make sure you tackle him when he gets the ball and understand they're going to throw it to him about 20 times. Hopefully he doesn't catch all 20 and that it's a catch-tackle versus him catching the ball and getting yards after contact," Wagner said.

Hopkins not only leads the Cardinals in targets, Murray looks to him nearly twice as often as the next receiver, which means a lot of work for Tre Flowers as Hopkins typically lines up on the left side of the offense.

Hopkins is a bonafide playmaker so is Metcalf. The Seahawks receiver ranks just behind Hopkins with 816 receiving yards. That's the third highest total in the league, but he's coming off a two reception, 28-yard game against the Rams.

In the Week 7 matchup against Arizona, Patrick Peterson limited Metcalf to just 23 yards on two receptions and five targets, and that provides a different kind of opportunity according to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. "I think one area that DK can grow is when he is having those quiet games to continue to work and communicate on is 'How can I solve this problem?'" Schottenheimer said. "That's all part of growing up and continuing to mature. He is a dynamic player and believe me, we're always trying to get him the ball."

It was Tyler Lockett getting the ball in the previous matchup in what resulted in a career day - 15 catches, 200 yards and three touchdowns. Lockett was a limited participant at practice during the week due to a knee injury, but Carroll expects him to be a full go Thursday night.

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