The Seahawks are back home for the first time in nearly a month, and will look to get Lumen Field rocking when they host the Cardinals on Sunday. Seattle is looking to bounce back after seeing a three-game winning streak come to an end last week, while the Cardinals are looking to snap a three-game losing streak.
Here are five things to watch when the Seahawks host the Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. Sunday:
1. Can the run defense shine once again against a committed rushing attack?
The Seahawks have been great against the run all season, allowing just 3.2 yards per carry, which ranks first in the NFL, and 79.2 yards per game, which ranks fourth. The Seahawks have yet to face a rushing attack as productive and committed as the one they'll see Sunday, however, with the Cardinals coming to town.
While the Cardinals have struggled overall this season, they have been one of the better teams in the league when it comes to running the ball, averaging 5.3 yards per carry, which ranks second in the NFL, and 141.0 yards per game, which ranks sixth. Even with lead back James Conner sidelined by injury, the Cardinals ran for 130 yards with multiple running backs and quarterback Joshua Dobbs all contributing to the effort.
"They run the ball well, they do a lot of different personnels in what we've seen the last few games," said nose tackle Jarran Reed. "When we get to Sunday, we're excited to see what they come out and try to throw at us. We've been doing pretty well against the run, and I expect that to continue here on out, especially Sunday. I think they're going to try to come in and run the ball and we're going to have to stop them from running."
2. Will Seahawks fans help their team out against an opponent that has enjoyed success in Seattle?
The Seahawks' last home game, a Week 3 win over Carolina, saw Seahawks fans make their presence felt, contributing to eight false start penalties for the Panthers. The team will be looking for that kind of effort again from their fans, especially facing an opponent that has enjoyed too much success at Lumen in recent years, winning six games in Seattle dating back to the 2013 season, including five of seven before the Seahawks won two of the last three at home. And overall, the Seahawks have not been as dominant at home in recent years as they'd like to be, a trend they'd love to reverse this season.
"The reception that we had and the way we worked hand-in-hand with our fans last time there this year (against Carolina), that's what it feels like when it's really special here," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I've never thought that they have to get us going, we have to get them going. It's our play that gets the fans tuned in and part of it. It can be a factor. There's a little bit of a trend of teams not winning as much at home. I don't know if those numbers support that, but it sure seems like that around the league the last couple of years. I don't want to fall prey to that. We have to get back and get out ahead of this thing. If you're going to have a really good season, you have to be really good at home and there's no two ways about that."
3. Do Geno Smith and the passing game bounce back against a young Cardinals defense?
Rebuilding under a new head coach, the Cardinals have a lot of youth playing big roles on defense, and while that should help them in the future, it has led to some struggles on defense early in the season.
Six games into their season, the Cardinals rank 28th in total defense, 24th in run defense and 22nd in passing defense, and opposing quarterbacks are completing 70.9 percent of their passes against Arizona with a 101.3 passer rating, which ranks 29th in the league.
None of those numbers mean the Seahawks will be taking this week's opponent lightly—even a struggling NFL defense is capable of making plays on any given Sunday—but this week could be a chance for Geno Smith and the rest of the offense to get back on track after a tough second half in Cincinnati. While Smith was hardly the only reason the Seahawks lost that game, he still put the blame on his shoulders, and now his teammates and coaches are expecting him to respond to that loss in a great way.
"I love the fact that Geno has that great accountability," offensive coordinator Shane Waldron said. "We know he's competitive and is always looking to do right for the team, do right longer, and as many opportunities as he has to say, I can bounce right back, and that's one thing I've never worried about with Geno, is his ability, whether it was a great game or game we didn't come out with the outcome we were looking for, by the time we hit that Wednesday he's moved on and taken the corrections. He knows what he can do to help himself and the team be better. I think that's where we are right now."
In particular, Smith and the Seahawks will be looking to improve in the red zone after getting just one touchdown and one field goal in five trips inside the 20 last week.
4. Is a Jaxon Smith-Njigba breakout game coming?
Rookie receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba didn't get off to the fastest of starts for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because he plays the same position as Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, who if you haven't heard, are pretty darn good receivers. The first-round pick out of Ohio State also started the season playing with a brace on his wrist having fractured his wrist in the preseason, leading to surgery less than three weeks before the opener.
Smith-Njigba had his best game last week however, catching four passes for 48 yards, and it felt like the type of performance in which he was just scratching the surface of what's to come—there was also a chance for a long touchdown pass had Smith been able to get off a pass rather than scramble to avoid the pass rush.
"I tried to make a point about it, because I wanted him to hear it too, that he played really well in the running game, he was really clean with his assignments, we moved him around quite a bit, he came through on his catches and his plays," Carroll said. "He did a really nice job in the game. This is six weeks in the season coming up, and he's not wearing a cast anymore, he's not wearing anything on his wrist anymore and he blocked well, threw his hands in there aggressively. I think any passing of judgement up until now was premature. He's just getting going. We love him and he's going to be a really big factor for us."
Smith-Njigba is trending in the right direction regardless of what else is going on, but with Metcalf listed as questionable and a game-day decision, according to Carroll, there could be more opportunities for the rookie should Metcalf either be unable to play or be limited due to hip and rib injuries.
5. Is Budda Baker returning from injury for a homecoming game?
After starring at Bellevue High School and becoming an All-American at the University of Washington, Budda Baker established himself as one of the game's best safeties with the Cardinals since joining them as a second-round pick in 2017. A two-time first-team All-Pro and five-time Pro-Bowler, Baker has been on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, but returned to practice this week and is questionable for the game. If he indeed does make it back, that would provide a big boost for Arizona's defense and make life that much more difficult on the Seahawks.
"Oh man, he's a good player now," Carroll said. "He's a great player. He's a real factor when you play him, in the running game and the passing game. He's a very unique player in the way he attacks and all. He plays in the style that I really covet. I love the way he plays. He's a terrific hitter, but he's just a playmaker. And what you love about him is his commitment to go for it. You've heard me talk about some of our other guys over the years, he's really got that knack and that mentality. He's not very big, but man, he's as tough as they come. He'll be a factor if he's on their team."
The Seahawks and Cardinals face off on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Cardinals.