With half of the 2015 NFL season having already been played, the Seattle Seahawks find themselves in a near “must-win” situation in Week 10. The two-time defending NFC champs host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night in a critical NFC West matchup.
At 4-4, the Seahawks are tied for second place with the St. Louis Rams, trailing the first-place Cardinals by two games. Falling three games out of first place with seven left to play would make it extremely difficult for Pete Carroll’s squad to come back and win the division.
Las Vegas oddsmakers seem to consider the Seahawks and Cardinals to be evenly matched. Seattle is a three-point home favorite, according to vegasinsider.com, and the over/under is 45 points.
Seattle Returning to Super Bowl Form
The Seahawks’ 2-4 start was one of the most puzzling things of the first six weeks of the season. Seattle has won their last two games, and they could be on their way to having another deep run in the playoffs.
Seattle had a similar start to last season, going 3-3, including a surprising loss at home. They went on to make a second straight Super Bowl appearance, and there are signs that the Seahawks are still one of the best teams in football. Before their bye week, Seattle won two games in a row, allowing just 15 total points. Two of the Seahawks’ losses have come against teams that remain undefeated, and they haven’t lost to a team with a losing record.
Sunday will be the real test, considering Seattle’s last two wins have come against last-place teams. Arizona hasn’t lost to a team with a losing record either, and their average margin of victory in their six wins is nearly 21 points.
Importance of the Rushing Attack
The key to Seattle’s offense is their ability to run the ball, while Arizona’s defense excels at stopping the run. As a result, whatever team wins the battle of the ground game could be victorious on Sunday.
Averaging 139.5 rushing yards per game, the Seahawks rank third in the NFL. Marshawn Lynch seems to have bounced back after a slow start to the season, and Russell Wilson has added 303 rushing yards. Seattle’s passing game ranks 28th in the NFL, and Wilson doesn’t have a 300-yard passing game all season.
Arizona is fourth against the run, allowing just 90.1 yards on the ground per game. The Cardinals struggled when facing maybe the best running back in the league, allowing Todd Gurley to run the ball 19 times for 146 yards. When facing Mark Ingram and Justin Forsett, who both rank in the top 10 in rushing yards, the Cardinals allowed just 60 yards on 21 carries.
Top Defense vs. Top Offense
The biggest difference between Seattle this season and the two teams that made the Super Bowl has been their defense. The “Legion of Boom” has faltered in the fourth quarter, allowing four comebacks in the final quarter. Seattle has a challenge on Sunday, but there are signs that the team could be returning to its old form.
Seattle hasn’t allowed a touchdown in either of their last two games, limiting the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys to five field goals. The Seahawks have preyed on bad teams, keeping the Cowboys, 49ers, Lions and Bears out of the end zone on offense. But they have given up at least 27 points to the four best teams they’ve faced.
The Cardinals have one of the league’s best offenses, ranking third in total offense and second in points. Arizona has taken advantage of the easy part of their schedule, scoring 38 points per game against teams with losing records. But they have struggled against tougher competition, scoring just 35 points against the St. Louis Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers, who both rank in the top eight in points allowed. Seattle is tied for second in points allowed, and only the Denver Broncos have allowed fewer yards.
Even though they have four losses, the Seahawks are still extremely difficult to beat at home. Their overall defensive numbers remain among the best in football, and they’ll beat the Cardinals if they can avoid late-game mistakes.
Seattle over Arizona, 23-17