In spite of their 11-3 record, the Seahawks (who — as we have explored this year — have built their team philosophy around making sure they always have a shot to win in the fourth quarter) have picked up only one win of “more than one possession” this year — a win that just so happened to come against these same Arizona Cardinals, when Seattle won 27-10 on the road in Week 4. In that spot, the Seahawks were able to successfully turn the Cardinals into a depressingly horizontal unit (I specifically remember watching that game and wondering when the Cardinals were going to attempt anything remotely downfield), and were able to control the game on the ground — calling on Russell Wilson to throw only 28 times, while handing the ball off 22 times to Chris Carson (and adding another three carries to C.J. Prosise). Vegas has installed the Seahawks as 9.5 point favorites — lending a vote of confidence to the idea of this game playing out in a similar manner this week. If that winds up being the case, Christian Kirk will be a floor play with some paths to ceiling (and with these paths, of course, broadening if the Cardinals give him a couple looks downfield), while the rest of this Arizona passing attack will become a set of “maybe one of them posts a non-awful score, but a tourney-winner will be incredibly difficult to come by” plays. Russ (who notched only 14.3 fantasy points the last time these teams met — because, as we know, the Seahawks are not going to open up their offense if they are playing with a lead) would be a “squint to see ceiling” play in this “likeliest scenario” of the Seahawks controlling this game and winning somewhat comfortably once again, while Carson would have a heavy workload and a clear shot at a higher-end day. The only other player with a bankable path to production would be Jacob Hollister, who has been filling the solid-usage tight end role in this offense that led to Will Dissly going 7-57-1 the last time these teams met. Carson and Hollister would be fairly high-confidence plays in this likeliest scenario, with clear paths to higher-end production for both, while everyone else in this game would be fairly speculative.
There is another way to see this game playing out, however, in which the Cardinals keep pace (or even take a lead) and force Russ and the Seahawks to the air. Before we dive into how this scenario might play out (and how you could build around it if looking to capture an alternate path to upside), let’s first note that A) Russ has fallen shy of 20 fantasy points in five straight games (and seven of eight), and has fallen shy of even 18 fantasy points in six of eight, while B) Kyler Murray has failed to top even 241 passing yards in seven of eight, and has failed to top even 219 passing yards in six of eight. The likeliest scenario in this spot (as laid out above) is not only very straightforward, but it is also on the higher end of the “likely to happen” scale. We’ll likely see the Seahawks control this game, and we’ll likely see only a couple players really emerging from this game environment to provide value.
But if the Cardinals make some things happen through the air or are able to get their backfield going (as they did last week with Kenyan Drake, and as they managed to do in Week 4 in this matchup, with David Johnson going 8-99-0 through the air), they could keep this game close enough that Seattle makes things happen through the air. Even then (as we’ve noted all season), there are no guarantees, as DK Metcalf has produced only one game all year you would want at his price (in that 40-34 shootout vs the Bucs), while Tyler Lockett has now produced three games you would want at his price :: with one coming in a 27-33 loss to the Saints, one coming in that game vs the Bucs, and one coming last week in a 30-24 win over the Panthers. With his 71% slot rate, Lockett should largely avoid Patrick Peterson (and he’s a better fit than Metcalf for this matchup against a Cardinals team that largely forces opponents toward the shorter areas of the field, with 10% knocked off the league-average aDOT — the fourth-best mark in the league), making him the better bet for a big game if the Seahawks are forced to the air. Of course, even then, Hollister is likely to get first dibs on touchdowns (the Cardinals are now up to a “how is this possible?” 15 touchdowns allowed to tight ends, alongside 1023 yards — with the Cardinals essentially turning the average tight end they face into 2011 Gronk, who posted a tight end record 17 touchdowns, alongside 1327 yards), but Lockett still makes sense if choosing to build around this alternate scenario in which the Cardinals push the levels on this game.
On the Cardinals’ side, do-it-all Kyler would be the player likeliest to prove useful (and given his four rushing touchdowns and 10 games of 27+ rushing yards, he has a shot to also work in a mini-stack that simply bets on the likeliest scenario for this game — leaning Kyler, Carson, and Hollister), while the Seahawks have also allowed the fourth most receiving yards to running backs — putting Drake in the mix. Drake played 75.4% of the snaps last week, and while he’s likelier to end up with 16 to 18 touches than another 23, he’ll have an outside shot at another big game if the Cardinals can keep this one close.
The rest of the Cardinals remain thin bets for ceiling no matter how we slice up this game, with Kirk topping 41 yards only five times this season (and only once in his last four games), and with Larry Fitzgerald failing to top even 71 yards since Week 2, with eight games in that stretch under 50, and with only three touchdowns on the year. Behind these two, no other wide receiver played more than 21 snaps last week, as the Cardinals continue to split work among Damiere Byrd, Pharoh Cooper, Trent Sherfield, and Andy Isabella. The Cardinals also went uncharacteristically two-tight-end-heavy last week as they looked to control their game on the ground — an approach that was successful enough that it wouldn’t be a shock if we see them try to implement that again.
JM’s Interpretation ::
I actually built one Lockett roster last week (purely because I had so much Carson and wanted at least one hedge bet there), but I have mostly avoided the Seattle pass game pieces this season, and — especially given that Lockett and Metcalf typically draw at least some moderate ownership — this has typically been a profitable approach, given that they have so rarely come anywhere close to paying off their price tags (and the main spot where they did pay off their price tags — vs Tampa — was easy enough to see coming). Given the Seahawks’ Vegas-implied total and the reputation the Cardinals’ defense has, I actually expect Lockett and Metcalf to be fairly popular — and since I don’t actually expect the Cardinals to keep this game competitive enough for volume to show up in spades for these two, I’ll likely try to gain an edge on the field by fading. I’ll also feel that this “fade” is strengthened by the fact that volume is likelier to flow to Hollister, and I’ll plan to strengthen that “fade” even further by grabbing some Hollister exposure. Carson (while overpriced — especially on DK) will be in the mix for me as well. To put all that another way: Lockett and Metcalf can hit, but A) the chances of them hitting are lower than the field is likely to assume, which will probably push ownership higher than “likeliest expectations” would warrant; and B) if you choose to attack with Lockett or Metcalf, you can look to gain an edge on the field by understanding that these guys are only likely to hit if at least one piece from their opponent hits as well (Alvin Kamara landed a monster game in Lockett’s big Week 4; Mike Evans landed a monster game in Lockett/Metcalf’s big Week 9; CMC landed a monster game and Moore hit a strong game in Lockett’s Week 15) — nudging you to complete your “Seattle pass catcher” roster by bringing it back with one or two pieces from the Cardinals. It should also be noted the Russ is highly likely to hit if one of his pass catchers hits, putting him in the mix for that type of roster as well. I may grab one such build myself — depending on how everything looks to me once I get a chance to read through the completed NFL Edge myself and further gather my thoughts — but my likeliest focus in this spot will be on “the likeliest scenario,” betting on Hollister with a dash of Carson, while largely leaving the rest of this game alone.