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3 Seahawks Questions: Will NFC West showdown with Cards be settled in the red zone?

Arizona's success in the red zone with Kyler Murray is second only to the Seahawks. (Getty)

The Seahawks will head to Arizona to face the 4-2 Cardinals for their first NFC West matchup. The game was flexed to Sunday night late in the week, but it’s a fitting contest for primetime. After all, weird things tend to happen between these two teams, including the only tie under Pete Carroll and an unexpected final game in a Seahawks uniform from Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor.

Three things we’ve learned about the Seahawks from their 5-0 start

Both teams are riding high – the Cards coming off a dominating win over the Dallas Cowboys, and the Hawks entering the game with a 5-0 record and a healthier roster after a bye.

The biggest challenge for Seattle is obvious, but that’s just the first of three big questions this Seahawks team will face Sunday:

Can the Seahawks’ D contain Kyler Murray in the red zone?

Sunday will bring a meeting of the league’s top two red zone offenses. The Seahawks are scoring touchdowns in the red zone on a league-leading 89 percent of visits, while the Cardinals are in second place at 80 percent.

While Seattle has scored more in those situations, the Cardinals’ defense has been more stout than Seattle’s inside the 20. The Cardinals have allowed opponents to score a touchdown on just 42 percent of red zone visits; the Seahawks, on the other hand, have allowed touchdowns on 65 percent of their opponents’ trips inside the red zone.

Part of what makes Arizona’s offense so dangerous is quarterback Kyler Murray’s dynamic ability both as a passer and as a runner. The second-year pro has 10 touchdowns on the year and ranks 10th in attempts (205). Much like the Seahawks, the Cardinals have seen a step forward for their offensive line – it just happens to be a slightly bigger step. Murray has been sacked just nine times this year, among the fewest for any regular starter.

“If you watch him, he’s so fast,” linebacker Bobby Wagner explained during a Wednesday press conference. “When you get down there you’ve got all the weapons. You’ve got D-Hop (DeAndre Hopkins), you’ve got (Larry) Fitzgerald, you’ve got (Kenyan) Drake, you’ve got so many different people that sometimes you forget he’s a weapon too. So, they’ll start the play and make it seem like it’s a pass play and then he’ll just take it off and run it in and it’ll be a designed draw… We need to have our eyes on him at all times.”

The Seahawks’ defense has allowed the most net yards per game (471) of any team, but they’ve also made big plays when it’s mattered most and have seven interceptions. Those game-changing moments (along with a top-scoring offense) have lifted the Seahawks to second place in turnover differential (+6). Can they count on those big plays against another dangerous offense?

Which star receiver has the biggest day?

Two of Sunday’s biggest playmakers won’t literally be facing off at the same time, but they’ll certainly be compared to one another all day.

Second-year Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf is second in the league in receiving yards per game (99.2), behind only Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins (100.2). The two receivers have also been part of big plays: Metcalf has eight receptions of 20 or more yards, while Hopkins has seven such plays. Hopkins also leads the league in receiving yards (Metcalf is eighth, though that’s with a bye week).

Metcalf met his sky-high potential in his rookie season and has continued to impress through five weeks of 2020. Unfortunately for the young receiver, he’ll have his work cut out for him against Arizona’s defense. The Cardinals have limited opponents to just 18.7 points per game, which is the second fewest in the league, and 226 passing yards per game (11th fewest). On the other hand, he’ll be targeted by Russell Wilson as opposed to Murray. And despite a promising second year from the Cards’ quarterback, there’s a reason Wilson is leading the MVP debate: his 19 touchdowns and 129.8 passer rating are league highs.

Can the Seahawks get healthier in Week 7?

The Seahawks are waiting on the return of a few players. Running back Carlos Hyde (shoulder) adds another weapon to the Hawks’ run game, and Arizona’s defense is allowing nearly 120 yards from opposing running backs. Hyde has been a limited participant in practice this week after missing the last two games.

Key among those injuries, though, is safety Jamal Adams, who has been sidelined since suffering a groin injury in Week 3.

Adams was held out of a second consecutive day of practice Thursday. While Carroll has been optimistic about Adams’ return, he’s also been noncommittal about a start this Sunday.

“We need more information there,” Carroll said of Adams.

Of note, Seattle’s head coach added there was no setback with Adams’ recovery.

Whether or not a return happens this weekend, fans are eager to see what this secondary looks like when everyone is healthy at the same time. Safety Quandre Diggs missed most of Week 2 after being ejected early in the game, and Adams and cornerback Quinton Dunbar have missed most or all of Weeks 3 and 4. Dunbar returned for Week 5, but Adams remained out.

Getting this full secondary back together may not push Seattle’s defense from the bottom of the league to the top of the pack, but it could be the boost Seattle needs to be a Super Bowl team.

Predictions

Who scores first: Cardinals
Who scores last: Seahawks
Who has the first turnover: Seahawks
Which defense gives up more yards: Cardinals (I know, I might regret this)
Final score: Seahawks 23, Cardinals 21

Follow Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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