With teams looking to control the game on the ground against the pace-up Cardinals, Arizona is currently facing the eighth-highest opponent rush play rate in the NFL. But if we take away the 76-yard touchdown run Christian McCaffrey had against this defense last week, they have allowed an awesome-low 3.35 yards per carry to running backs on the year. As noted last week: all indications on film point to the Cardinals being aware that opponents want to control the game on the ground, and to them selling out to stop the run and force teams into a faster-paced, pass-heavy matchup instead.
As always, we should look for Seattle to try to establish the run early in this game — but with this team ranking 30th in adjusted line yards in the early going, and with Arizona focusing so heavily on stopping the run, it’s a sneaky-difficult spot for Chris Carson and this ground attack.
While the run game has struggled for Seattle in the early going, Russell Wilson has been masterful — averaging 300.3 passing yards per game while posting a 119.6 quarterback rating, a 71.4% completion rate, and seven touchdowns against no interceptions. Russ against the Cardinals’ vanilla zone defense is one of the biggest mismatches on the slate…with the only potential “bigger mismatch” being Brian Schottenheimer vs the good sense to unleash his best weapon. Russ threw the ball 35 and 50 times when chasing points the last two weeks, but Russ topped 31 attempts in only one of his final 14 games last year (and he had 26 or fewer pass attempts in nine of those 14 games). With Arizona allowing 70.3 opponent plays per game (aided slightly by overtime in Week 1, but also dropped by the likely-to-be-an-outlier 59 plays the Panthers ran in this matchup last week), and with the Cardinals focusing so heavily on stopping the run, Russ is likely to reach at least 30 attempts — and while we would prefer to see more than that for true, slate-breaking ceiling, we’ll gladly take whatever volume we can get in this spot.
Through three weeks, Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf have combined for over 70% of Seattle’s air yards (with Metcalf seeing more work downfield — an average depth of target of 18.1, compared to 11.8 for Lockett — but with Lockett seeing more targets, leading to a “percentage share of team air yards” split of only 36.07% to Metcalf and 34.59% to Lockett). Lockett is the high-floor, high-ceiling play, as his shorter routes and higher targets raise his floor, while he can still score from anywhere on the field and will be given scoring looks. Metcalf carries a lower floor, but we have not yet seen a ceiling game from him, and he should post a couple of slate-breakers this year.
A matchup against Arizona cannot come and go without tight ends being discussed, as Arizona has been dunked on by Hock // Andrews // Olsen through the first three weeks — allowing 68 more yards and two more touchdowns to the position than any other team. Will Dissly played only 45 of 82 snaps for the Seahawks last week and was in on 28 of 61 pass routes — but Nick Vannett (who played 26 snaps and ran 29 pass routes) has been traded to the Steelers, and no other tight ends have seen snaps for the Seahawks this year. It is painfully obvious on film that tight end coverage is a major weakness for this Cardinals team, and opponents will continue scheming for this until the Cardinals prove they can stop it. Dissly should be mega-chalk this week, but the Seahawks have given 4 // 6 // 9 targets to tight ends (20% // 17.1% // 18% of targets per game), and a 30-attempt game from Russ should net anywhere from five to eight targets for Dissly in this great matchup. He costs 9% of the salary cap on FanDuel (compared to 11.3% for Engram and 12.7% for Kelce), but on DraftKings he costs only 7.4%, and on FantasyDraft he’s sitting at 6.8%.
On the Cardinals side: Kyler Murray failed to top 300 passing yards for the first time in his young career last week; and if you watched Arizona’s Week 3 game, you saw a team that was completely unable to attack downfield against the Panthers’ new “bolt” package on defense. But even in that game — with eight sacks taken behind a bad offensive line (and with Kyler still learning that NFL defenders are fast, and he can’t just run backward to escape pressure) — Kyler still posted 59 rushing yards and put up yet another solid DFS score.
Seattle’s defense is built to stop the run and get after the quarterback with limited blitzes — playing zone and keeping the ball in front of them, and forcing opponents to march the entire field. The Cardinals really aren’t trying to run the ball right now anyway, and are happy to “use the pass as the run,” which makes this a nice matchup for their approach. We should see a few stalled drives from this offense from sacks; but we should also see another cascade of short, quick passes to Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk — which Seattle will be happy to allow as they look to A) stall drives with their pass rush, and B) prevent big plays.
Through three games, Fitz has 31 targets and Kirk has 32 — putting each of these two in the top seven in the NFL, and making them by far the highest-targeted duo in the league. Per-game target counts between these two have gone 25 // 19 // 19, and even with only two touchdowns between them so far, they have produced as one of the highest average point-per-dollar pairs in the league (with Fitz also producing as one of the highest average point-per-dollar individuals, as he has scored both touchdowns so far). These two are solid once again as a pair, and they can be targeted individually as well. Fitz has been the preferred red zone target so far, while Kirk has more schemed looks downfield.
A David Johnson bet this week is a bet on yards through the air and/or touchdowns, as the Cardinals are only giving the run game a passing glance, and the matchup sets up poorly for success on the ground. Johnson has yet to produce an elite game, but he does have a game of seven targets and another game of nine targets, making him a decent bet to hit big one of these weeks.
Damiere Byrd played 72 out of 75 snaps last week as the Cardinals number three receiver and has target counts of 7 // 7 // 4. He has a short-area role, but again: he can score from anywhere — and at only 6.6% of the salary cap on DraftKings, he’s an interesting “floor” piece with paths to upside once again.
JM’s Interpretation ::
This game is loaded with potential options, as Russ // Lockett // Dissly // Kyler // Fitz // Kirk can all have Tier 1 cases made for them, while Byrd can have a Tier 2 case made on DraftKings and Metcalf (plus, deeper down, Carson and DJ) can be considered in Tier 3. As always when the Cardinals take the field, there are going to be lots of total plays, and there will be lots of passing. If the Cardinals can bounce back this week to pick up a few more chunk gains (something this matchup sets up well for), they could do enough to keep the Seahawks aggressive — and if we land on that scenario (a “Russ unleashed” scenario), this game could easily turn into one of the higher-scoring contests on the slate. With home games for the Cardinals producing 54 and 58 total points so far, this game is worth paying attention to in all contest types.