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5 Matchups to Watch as Seahawks Host Cardinals in Week 11

Injury uncertainty for Seattle and Arizona has created a bit more mystery than anticipated heading into Sunday's NFC West matchup. Considering both teams could be missing multiple key players, which matchups will be most pivotal determining who snags a divisional win?

With their season on the brink, the Seahawks will return to action desperately needing a win when the NFC West-leading Cardinals travel to the Pacific Northwest for a Week 11 cl

Despite Russell Wilson making his first start back from finger surgery, Seattle's offense stumbled in Green Bay as the team dropped to 3-6 on the season with a 17-0 road defeat. Missing Kyler Murray for a second straight game, Arizona fared just as poorly in a 34-10 loss at home to Carolina, falling to 8-2 on the season.

Both the Seahawks and Cardinals will be seeking a bounce-back victory. Which matchups will have the most impact on which team captures a win at Lumen Field?

--Seahawks tackles Duane Brown and Brandon Shell versus Cardinals defensive ends Chandler Jones and Markus Golden: Still viewed as one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL, Jones has historically dominated against Seattle, registering a whopping 13.5 sacks in nine regular season games against them. Most recently, he tormented Jamarco Jones in 2019, bringing down Russell Wilson four times in a Week 16 victory at Lumen Field. After exiting last week's loss to the Packers with a hip strain, the Seahawks expect Brown to start at left tackle, but even at 100 percent, he hasn't been effective this year and has given up seven sacks in nine starts. That's not a matchup that looks favorable at all for the home team and making matters worse, Shell will have to deal with the explosive Golden, who has resurrected his career since returning to the Cardinals and leads the team with 9.0 sacks. There's no question offensive coordinator Shane Waldron will have to provide help for both tackles with tight ends chip blocking and running backs ready to pick them up in the backfield if the Seahawks have any hopes of keeping Wilson upright.

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--Seahawks cornerbacks Tre Brown, D.J. Reed/Sidney Jones, and Ugo Amadi versus Cardinals receivers Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, and Rondale Moore: Arizona will certainly miss the presence of All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who was ruled out on Friday with a hamstring injury and won't play. But even without him, Kliff Kingsbury has a bevy of playmakers on the outside who could cause problems for a Seattle secondary potentially without its best cornerback in Reed available. Kirk currently leads the team with 47 receptions and 598 receiving yards and Green has bounced back from several injury-marred seasons to provide a complementary veteran weapon with 30 receptions for 460 yards and a trio of scores. Moore may be the biggest concern for the Seahawks, however, as the rookie dynamo out of Purdue currently ranks fourth in the NFL with 336 yards after the catch and can also pitch in as a runner on jet sweeps and reverses. Amadi will have his hands full working against Kirk and Moore, who both have played nearly 80 percent of their snaps in the slot, while Green still has the ability to take the top off a defense and his size could create problems for Brown and Reed or Jones on the perimeter.

--Seahawks running backs Alex Collins, Rashaad Penny, and Travis Homer versus Cardinals linebackers Jordan Hicks, Isaiah Simmons, and Zaven Collins: Few teams have made a more remarkable improvement defensively this year than the Cardinals, who rank fifth in scoring defense and total yardage allowed. A big part of that equation has been the play of their linebackers, particularly with Simmons and Collins giving defensive coordinator Vance Joseph two uber-athletic, versatile chess pieces in the middle. However, Arizona has been vulnerable defending running backs throughout the 2021 season, currently ranking 19th in rushing yards allowed and 31st in yards allowed per carry. Opponents have eclipsed 150 rushing yards five times against them, including Carolina racking up 166 in a Week 10 rout last Sunday. They've also had issues defending backs as receivers, allowing 71 receptions for 500 yards on the season. Part of the issue has been missed tackles, as Hicks, Simmons, and Collins have combined to whiff on 19 tackles per Pro Football Focus. Even without Chris Carson, this feels like a game the Seahawks should be able to get their ground attack going and Waldron would be wise to find ways to get his backs involved in the passing game as well.

--Seahawks linebackers Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks versus Cardinals running back James Conner: Coming over from Pittsburgh, Conner's arrival has turned out to be one of the most important offseason additions for any team in the league. The physical 6-foot-1, 233-pound back has brought between the tackles toughness the team sorely lacked in the run game, forcing 28 missed tackles while rushing for 493 yards and an NFL-best 11 touchdowns thus far. He's also been a surprising contributor as a receiver in recent weeks after backfield mate Chase Edmonds went down with a high ankle sprain, catching eight passes for 102 yards and a touchdown in the past two games alone. It's no secret Seattle's kryptonite for most of the season has been screens, especially ones dumped off to running backs, and the team has had trouble getting worn down as games have progressed against powerful, downhill runners. After struggling to slow down AJ Dillon late in last week's game, Wagner and Brooks will face a similar test in Conner and must bring their hard hats to ensure they don't get taken for a train ride once again. They also will have to keep their heads on a swivel in coverage and react swiftly on screens to keep him in check as a receiver, which could be the team's best offense if McCoy starts instead of Murray.

--Seahawks receivers DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Dee Eskridge versus Cardinals cornerbacks Byron Murphy, Marco Wilson, and Robert Alford: Once a clear area of weakness for Arizona's defense, the secondary has transformed into a strength in 2021, allowing just 19 pass plays of 20-plus yards in 10 games. Enjoying a stellar breakout third season, Murphy already has three interceptions seeing action on the outside as well as in the slot, tripling his production from his first two years with the Cardinals. Alford and Wilson have combined to produce an interception and six pass breakups, though both have surrendered at least four touchdown receptions and have proven to be more vulnerable in coverage. None of Arizona's three primary corners come close to matching Metcalf from a size standpoint and as for Lockett, he torched the Cardinals with 24 receptions for 267 yards and four touchdowns in two games last year. The addition of Eskridge has yet to pay any dividends, but his elite speed gives Arizona another player to worry about and could make life easier for Metcalf and Lockett to exploit their matchups if Wilson has time to throw the ball downfield.