NFC West reset: Rams giving Cardinals biggest challenge after 8 weeks
We’re only eight weeks into the NFL season and the league looks a whole lot different from when Week 1 kicked off on Sept. 9.
Especially when looking at the NFC West.
The Arizona Cardinals’ roster hasn’t been the only one to see its fair share of changes, whether it be injuries or new additions to the mix.
That hasn’t stopped the Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams from posting two of the top best records in the league. They’ve doubled down on their efforts recently, too, adding key pieces through trades. The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks aren’t totally out of the equation yet, either.
With that being said, a look at how the Cardinals’ divisional foes are looking with nine games left in the regular season:
Los Angeles Rams
Record: 7-1 (second in NFC West)
Last game vs. Cardinals: 37-20 loss in Week 4
Next game at Cardinals: Week 14 (Dec. 7)
Ever since the Rams fell to the Cardinals in Week 4, Los Angeles has bounced back in a big way.
The Rams have rattled off four straight wins, scoring at least 26 points in each, including two 38-point efforts.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to gel in head coach Sean McVay’s offense, completing 69.6% of his passes for 1,255 yards and 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions in his past four starts.
The last few weeks have helped the team’s defense climb inside the top 10 for points allowed per game with 21. Its fifth in turnover differential at +6.
On Monday, the unit got that much better with the addition of linebacker Von Miller, whom the Rams acquired from the Denver Broncos for second- and third-round picks. The rich get richer with the eight-time Pro Bowler joining Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd and Jalen Ramsey on the defense.
Of the other three teams in the division, the Rams have remained relatively healthy through eight weeks.
It’s the Cardinals and Rams and then everyone else right now out West.
San Francisco 49ers
Record: 3-4 (third in NFC West)
Last game vs. Cardinals: 17-10 loss in Week 5
Next game vs. Cardinals: Week 9 (Sunday)
No matter the year, the 49ers just can’t stay healthy at key positions.
After being pegged as a favorite to win the division, San Francisco has dealt with losing its starting running back in Raheem Mostert for the season. The team’s top two signal callers, Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance, have also had their fair share of injury issues throughout the year.
Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw was placed on the injured reserve this past week with a knee injury, joining linebacker Dre Greenlaw (groin).
It’ll be a different look come Week 9 for Arizona, which faced a Lance-led San Francisco offense in Week 5. Instead, all signs point to Garoppolo making the start.
That doesn’t mean the quarterback has been hitting his mark by any means.
Since their loss to the Cardinals in Week 5, the 49ers split their two meetings, dropping a winnable game against the Indianapolis Colts before taking down the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
In those two matchups, Garoppolo completed 60% of his passes for 503 yards and one touchdown to two interceptions. He did, however, add two scores on the ground against the Bears last week.
As for San Francisco’s running game, its bread and butter sits 11th in yards per game with 123.7. It’s tied for fifth in touchdowns with 10.
Defensively, San Francisco’s defense is allowing the fifth-fewest yards per game at 324. The unit can’t seem to keep points off the board, though, as the 49ers rank 22nd in points allowed per game with 24.4.
At 3-4, it would take quite a collapse on both the Cardinals’ and Rams’ part for the 49ers to take the division. A Wild Card spot isn’t out of the question, with the Carolina Panthers holding a one-game advantage on the 49ers for the last NFC Wild Card spot.
Record: 3-5 (fourth in NFC West)
Next games vs. Cardinals: Week 11 (Nov. 21), Week 18 (Jan. 9)
The Seahawks have fallen from grace as one of the most consistent teams in the NFL.
A large part of that is due to star quarterback Russell Wilson’s status. The signal caller went down with a finger injury in Week 5 and hasn’t played since, opting for surgery.
With Wilson on the mend, backup Geno Smith has filled in. Since taking over, Smith has thrown for 702 yards, five touchdowns and one interception on 68% passing.
Seattle’s record has taken a drastic dive since Wilson exited, though, dropping three of its last four outings. The Seahawks’ only victory came against the one-win Jacksonville Jaguars this past Sunday.
The running game hasn’t picked up much of the slack, either, sitting 21st in yards per game with 102.9 and 15th in touchdowns with seven. Alex Collins paces the team with 304 rushing yards on 74 attempts to go along with two touchdowns.
Help could be on the way for the offense sooner rather than later, with Wilson posting Monday that the pin in his finger has been removed.
No more pin. Time to Win. pic.twitter.com/ZCESXDkdpI
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) November 1, 2021
While the offense isn’t quite up to Seattle’s standards, the defense is no where close. The unit sits 30th in the league in yards allowed per game (401.5) and 29th in total rushing yards given up this season (1,021).