All but one of the NFC West teams had a good week last Sunday, as the Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals, and Seattle Seahawks were all victorious, leaving the San Francisco 49ers as the lone exception. The Cardinals became the NFL’s first 10-game winner with the triumphant return of Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, and the NFL odds currently have them as -1200 to win the West.
Three of the four NFC West teams currently hold playoff spots in the NFL standings, with only the 4-8 Seahawks on the outside looking in. So, with the season winding down, let’s look at how this week might play out in this division.
Arizona Cardinals (10-2, 1st) and Los Angeles Rams (8-4, 2nd)
The Cardinals proved once again Sunday that they are the cream of the NFC West crop. After going 2-2 in their previous four games, they picked up a win against the Andy Dalton-led Chicago Bears.
Arizona’s ferocious defense intercepted Dalton four times while sacking him three times. After extended injury absences, Murray and Hopkins didn’t miss a beat, hooking up early for a 20-yard first-quarter touchdown.
The Rams finally got a win on Sunday after three straight losses. The Rams steamrolled the Jacksonville Jaguars 37-7 and now have a monumental Monday night game this week against Arizona.
This week, the Cardinals will host the second-place 8-4 Rams, and a victory would all but crown them division champs. The Rams’ hopes of a division title will hinge on this game, as the Rams have already lost to the Cards once. A loss would place them three games back, with the tiebreaker going to Arizona.
I believe that a healthy Cardinals offense paired with its devastating defense will be too tall of an order for a Rams team that hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record since Week 3 (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 34-24). The Cardinals are a well-oiled machine that is third in points for (28.6) and fourth in points against (18.7). Plus, the Rams’ 17th-ranked pass defense (238.3 yards per game allowed) will have difficulty dealing with Arizona’s air attack.
Prediction: Cardinals win 31-24.
San Francisco 49ers (6-6, 3rd)
The 49ers were on a nice run until they went up to Seattle. Then, after winning three straight games and setting themselves up nicely in the NFC playoff picture, the 49ers lost in Seattle for the 10th time in their past 11 attempts there.
The good news is that the 49ers are still in possession of the NFC’s last wildcard spot as they head into Week 14 to face another team that’s been up and down the past few weeks: the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals looked great a week ago after a 41-10 thrashing of the Pittsburgh Steelers, only to be destroyed by the Los Angeles Chargers at home the following week.
This week, the 49ers take their 7th-ranked run game (125.9 YPG) to Cincinnati to face the Bengals’ 4th-ranked rush defense (92.5 YPG). Last week, Trent Williams pointed out that the Seahawks controlled the 49ers running game by selling out and bringing blitzes to stop San Francisco from double-teaming on blocks. If Cincinnati uses a similar strategy, I believe that they’ll have success.
Prediction: Bengals win 31-28.
Seattle Seahawks (4-8, 4th)
The Seahawks are in danger of having their first losing record since 2011. Last week, they needed a win to get back on track.
After not scoring more than 15 points in their last three games, the Hawks scored 30 on Sunday, sparked by a 73-yard touchdown run on a fake punt by Travis Homer in the first quarter, as they beat San Francisco 30-23.
The Hawks will now look to win two in a row for the first time this season when they head to Houston to take on the 2-10 Houston Texans. Houston ranks last in rushing yards allowed per game and 18th in passing yards allowed per game. On offense, they’re 31st in passing yards per game and 32nd in rushing yards per game.
More importantly, the Texans are not good at scoring points. They’re 32nd in the NFL with an average of 13.7 points. On the other hand, the Seahawks are sixth for points allowed, only giving up 20.8 points per game.
Prediction: Seahawks win 27-13
Place Your Bets on the NFC West
While Arizona is likely to win the NFC West, a Rams win this Monday against the Cardinals would make things a little more complicated.
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