Arizona Cardinals running game will be the X-Factor in Week 9
By Sion Fawkes
The Arizona Cardinals running game has been up and down all season, but against a weak Seattle run defense, they need their A-game.
The Arizona Cardinals have a golden opportunity to take advantage of the Seattle Seahawks simply with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the fold. They also need sound clock and in-game management from head coach Kliff Kingsbury, especially with his job security slipping regardless of what he signed last offseason.
But the Seahawks defense, despite putting up better performances in recent weeks, still have a horrendous rushing defense that has allowed 1,126 yards on the ground, the fourth-highest in football. They are also tied with the Dallas Cowboys with 4.7 yards per carry allowed, tied for the 11th-highest in the league.
Arizona Cardinals rushing attack needs to be at its best
At just 3-5, the Cardinals have little room for error if they plan on playing football well into January, and their inconsistent running game could help them improve to 4-5 on the season to keep them in the hunt for not just the playoffs; but even an NFC West title.
If they win this Sunday, they will move to within a game behind the Seahawks for the NFC West lead, not counting tiebreakers. To maximize their chances, the Cardinals need their running game, likely with Eno Benjamin leading the charge, to take better advantage than they did the last time these two teams met.
Benjamin averaged a paltry 2.47 yards per carry in Week 6, with just 37 yards on 15 attempts. Quarterback Kyler Murray, however, picked up the slack, rushing for 100 yards on 10 carries. Murray should also help maximize the running game in Week 9.
As for the running backs, the Cardinals will receive a huge boost if James Conner returns to the lineup. While I have been critical of Conner this season, he can be nonetheless effective when not expected to handle most of the carries, which can help preserve his body.
Overall, if the Cardinals running game performs better with Benjamin, Conner, and even Murray active and playing at their best, the offense will be tough to stop regardless of how hard Kingsbury will undoubtedly try to get them to beat themselves.
(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)
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