The Seahawks host the Cardinals on Sunday in a matchup of NFC West teams looking to improve upon 2-3 records. The Cardinals are looking to continue their winning ways on the road, while the Seahawks are looking to buck the trend of the road team winning when these two teams meet.
Below are five things to watch in Sunday's game, but first, a reminder that the kickoff time for the game is dependent on the result of Saturday's Mariners playoff game. If the Mariners win and extend the series to a fourth game, the Seahawks and Cardinals will kick off at 2:30 p.m., but if Houston wins Saturday, the Seahawks and Cardinals will play at the originally schedule time of 1:05 p.m.
1. Will one of the NFL's best offenses keep it up?
The Cardinals have played pretty well on defense since allowing 44 points in a season-opening loss, but the way the Seahawks have been playing on offense, they'll head into every game confident in their ability to score points regardless of the opponent.
Since a tough outing against the 49ers in Week 2, the Seahawks have scored 103 points in their past three games, and for the season they lead the NFL in explosive play percentage, with 14.8 percent of their offensive plays being explosive (12-plus yard run or 16-plus yard pass).
The Seahawks are averaging 6.6 yards per play this season, which ranks second in the league behind Buffalo (6.7) and are averaging a league-best 7.6 yards per play over the past three games. Seattle's 8.3 yards per pass attempt also ranks second for the season, and over the last three games that number pumps up to a league-leading 9.2 yards per attempt. On the ground, the Seahawks average a league-leading 5.5 yards per carry, and have averaged 6.5 per carry over the last three games.
With Geno Smith leading the way—his 113.2 passer rating leads the NFL, as does his 75.2 completion percentage—the Seahawks have what the analytics site Football Outsiders has ranked the No. 1 offense in the NFL through five weeks.
2. Can the Seahawks break the trend of road teams winning in this series?
One of the stranger quirks in the series between these two teams has been the way the road team has come out of top so often in recent years. Both teams won on the road last year, and the Cardinals come to Seattle having won six of the last nine games at Lumen Field. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are 7-1-1 in their last nine in the desert.
And it isn't just in Seattle that the Cardinals have found success on the road of late. While Arizona has lost eight in a row at home, they have won both of their road game this season, and dating back to last year they've won 10 of their last 11 on the road.
3. Does Tariq Woolen have another big play in him this week?
While the Seahawks defense hasn't played up to expectations so far this season, there have been plenty of bright spots among that unit, and no one has shined brighter than rookie cornerback Tariq Woolen.
A fifth-round pick out of UTSA, Woolen didn't just win a starting job out of camp, he has thrived in that role, putting himself in the Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation by recording a team-leading three interceptions, including a pick-six, all of which have come in the past three games, a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown, and a fumble recovery.
For a defense that has so far struggled to consistently get stops, a big play or two could make all the difference on Sunday, and nobody has been creating more big plays than Woolen.
4. Can Seattle's run defense improve against a short-handed Cardinals rushing attack?
Last week the Saints became the Seahawks opponent in franchise history to have two different 100-yard rushers against Seattle, highlighting what has been an ongoing issue for Seattle's defense, which ranks last in the league in run defense, allowing 170.2 rushing yards per game, and 28th in yards per carry allowed (5.0).
The Cardinals have been middle of the pack in terms of rushing numbers, but will be without running backs James Conner and Darrel Williams, both of whom have been ruled out due to injures. Then again, the Lions had a lot of success on the ground against Seattle two weeks ago without D'Andre Swift, so a short-handed opponent doesn't guarantee success for the Seahawks.
The good news for Seattle is that they felt like they saw progress against a more traditional running attack—Taysom Hill did a lot of damage running out of wildcat looks. The bad news is that with Kyler Murray at quarterback, the Cardinals can offer plenty of non-traditional running plays that can stress an offense.
The likely absence of nose tackle Al Woods will only make it tougher on Seattle's run defense, but if the Seahawks are going to turn things around on defense, it starts with doing a better job stopping the run.
5. How does Kenneth Walker III look in a starting role?
Losing a running back as talented as Rashaad Penny is definitely a blow to the Seahawks offense, not to mention it's just really unfortunate to see Penny have to deal with another significant injury.
But as much as the Seahawks will miss Penny, they are excited about the player who will step into the starting role, rookie Kenneth Walker III. Filling in for Penny last week, Walker broke out with 88 yards on eight carries, including a 69-yard touchdown run. Walker and the Seahawks running game will have their work cut out for them, however, as the Cardinals currently rank fifth in the league in run defense, allowing just 97.4 rushing yards per game.
The Seahawks face the Cardinals at State Farm Stadium for Week 9 of the 2022 season. Take a look back at photos from previous games between the two teams.