Welcome to Vantage Points, a column I will be writing weekly during the NFL season as a window into every game of the week. With access limited more than ever this year and with no preseason games for us to put our own eyes on, I have the utmost respect for sportswriters covering the NFL on a daily basis, giving us a window into what these teams might look like and where their strengths and weaknesses — beyond the obvious — lie.
The purpose of this column is to highlight the work of those writers, but to also turn some of their observations into actionable fantasy advice. The goal isn’t just to highlight obvious angles, but perhaps some of the lower-end ones that could lead to fantasy advantages. I’m also taking advantage of watching press conferences and reading transcripts from coaches and players, as well as using stats to back up narratives and look for fantasy-relevant angles. I’ll also cover notable injuries.
I will publish this column twice weekly — on Wednesdays to preview the Thursday night game, and on Fridays to preview the Sunday slate.
All times are Eastern.
Arizona at Seattle (Thu, 8:20 PM)
What They’re Saying About the Cardinals…
The regression of Raven QB Lamar Jackson this year has some wondering just how sustainable the historic campaign of Kyler Murray is right now for Arizona. I’d make the argument that it’s far more sustainable for Murray, who is simply a more gifted thrower than Jackson, and by a mile to my eyes.
Seahawk coach Pete Carroll — who watched Murray account for 427 yards from scrimmage and 4 TD against his club in Arizona’s Week 7 overtime win, has been impressed, noting how mature Murray looked on his Hail Mary TD to DeAndre Hopkins last week.
“He just keeps getting better. He’s more of a factor in the games as he progresses and sees more and gains more awareness and command of the game,” Carroll said in a conference call with Cardinals reporters. “Obviously, the throw – as we’ve known over the years – those throws that you make at the end, it looks like it’s lucky, but it’s way more than that. That’s a ridiculously talented play that he makes – one, to get clear to make the throw, and then to make the throw and right to the right guy at the right time at the right spot. That’s a tremendous skill and background and savvy and all that to get that done.”
Longtime Cardinals writer Darren Urban pointed out that things didn’t get off to a great start for RB Kenyan Drake in his return from injury last week. “He went the wrong way on a play that ended in a seven-yard Murray loss. He false started. He lost a fumble. But he ran hard and well, and gained 100 yards,” Urban writes.
From my eyes, I agree. When I saw Drake fumble, I thought it was curtains for him. But he ended up playing really well against Buffalo, though the Cardinals still obviously trust Chase Edmonds more in passing situations, which really hurts Drake’s upside. It’s worth pointing out, though, that per PFF, Edmonds has run 162 routes to Drake’s 134… and has out-targeted Drake 37 to 11.
The Seahawks’ pass defense has one advantage over their last matchup with the Cardinals — S Jamal Adams will play in this game after missing last game with a groin injury. But CBs Shaquill Griffin (hamstring) and Quinton Dunbar (knee) will be out after playing in Week 7.
What They’re Saying About the Seahawks…
The story of the week for the Seahawks is injuries, as it often is when a team plays on a short week. The Seahawks could be without WR Tyler Lockett, who is dealing with a knee injury and didn’t practice this week. He is listed as questionable, and coach Pete Carroll was optimistic he’ll go.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks are getting healthier in the backfield, with Carlos Hyde (hamstring) and Chris Carson (foot) both returning to practice this week. Hyde has practiced in full this week, with Carson limited, and if either plays, that will relegate DeeJay Dallas and Alex Collins back to the bench. Hyde will play, while Carson is questionable, with Pete Carroll calling him a game-time decision (our Dr. Edwin Porras is a little skeptical of Carson playing). ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Carson is unexpected to play.
The last few weeks should show fans how much Carson matters to Seattle’s success, writes The Athletic’s Michael-Shawn Dugar. Dugar argues that Carson’s presence prevents the Seahawks from putting too much on the plate of QB Russell Wilson, who had 3 turnovers in the five games that Carson finished, and has had 10 in the four games since.
Coach Pete Carroll has talked with Wilson about trying to do too much.
“It’s the same stuff we’re always on, so this isn’t any different than any other time whether he plays a game that’s lights out or whether he plays a game where he wishes he was better. We still deal with the same topics, always,” Carroll told Arizona reporters in a conference call this week. “It’s about staying within yourself, playing like you’re capable of and staying true to it. This is common conversation.”
The Cardinal run defense suffered a big loss this week, to boot, with NT Corey Peters going down for the season with a knee injury. Among players with 100 or more defensive snaps this year, Peters was the Cards’ highest-graded run defender on the defensive line, per PFF. Peters is considered a team leader and this is a major loss for Arizona.
It will be interesting to see how much more rookie LB Isaiah Simmons plays against the Seahawks, especially now that Peters is out. Simmons was considered a can’t miss prospect coming out of Clemson, but the #8 overall pick has had an up-and-down campaign. He’s starting to play more, however, including a season-high 53% share against Miami two weeks ago.
"He is definitely coming along fast," DC Vance Joseph said via the Arizona Republic. "He has been frustrated, but now you can see the life come back in Isaiah, and he's having fun playing football again, because he's back playing and helping us win."
Of course, Simmons’ biggest play of the season came in neither of the last two games — it was his interception of Wilson a few weeks ago in the previous meeting between these two teams, setting up a game-winning field goal in overtime.
This is a start ‘em all game. The Cardinals’ passing game — Murray, Hopkins, and Christian Kirk are utter must-starts. Drake is an RB2, while Edmonds is a viable PPR FLEX.
Obviously, you’re starting Russ despite his recent struggles, and I expect a big bounceback game from DK Metcalf after Jalen Ramsey shut him down last week (Patrick Peterson isn’t that level of a guy anymore). He’ll get more attention if Lockett can’t go, though, and maybe David Moore is worth a look-see given Lockett’s injury status.
If Lockett goes, though, I simply can’t sit him after he went absolutely bananas in this matchup last time out.
If Carson plays, he’s a borderline RB1 despite the injury. If not, Hyde is an RB2. It doesn’t look like you should anticipate having Carson.