NFC West reset: Rams giving Cardinals biggest challenge after 8 weeks

Nov 1, 2021, 2:17 PM | Updated: Nov 2, 2021, 9:02 am
Head coach Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams  looks on during the first half against the Houston T...
Head coach Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams looks on during the first half against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

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

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

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

(AP Photo/David Banks)

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.

Seattle Seahawks

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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.

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).

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals' Keaontay Ingram (30) runs drills at the NFL football team's rookie minicamp, Fri...
Wills Rice

Cardinals RB Keaontay Ingram excited to prove himself on the field

Cardinals RB Keaontay Ingram said he is ready to prove that the running back position is still the engine of the team.
2 days ago
Running back James Conner #6 of the Arizona Cardinals rushes the football against the Houston Texan...
Wills Rice

PFF’s Cole: Cardinals’ James Conner is a fantasy football post-draft winner

The Cardinals added to their offensive arsenal in the 2022 NFL Draft, but PFF thinks RB James Conner came out as the fantasy football winner.
2 days ago
San Diego State Aztecs defensive linemen Cameron Thomas (99) celebrates a sack during a college foo...
Wills Rice

Cardinals rookie Cameron Thomas models his game after J.J. Watt

Arizona Cardinals defensive end Cameron Thomas is excited to work with his role model J.J. Watt during his rookie campaign.
2 days ago
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 11: Nick Grant #1 of the Virginia Cavaliers defends a pass intended...
Wills Rice

Report: Cardinals sign DB Nick Grant to deal after rookie mini-camp

The Cardinals have reportedly signed cornerback Nick Grant to a deal after rookie mini-camp, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
2 days ago
Colorado State Rams tight end Trey McBride (85) celebrates his third quarter touchdown against Wyom...
Sam Graveline

Landing with Cardinals a ‘dream come true’ for rookie TE Trey McBride

For Cardinals rookie tight end Trey McBride, he couldn't be more jacked up to land in the Valley and learn from those in his position room.
2 days ago
Rondale Moore #4 of the Arizona Cardinals carries the ball past Von Miller #40 of the Los Angeles R...
Arizona Sports

NFL Network’s Frelund projects Arizona Cardinals to finish around .500

In 75,000 simulations by NFL Network's Cynthia Frelund, the Cardinals averaged 8.7 wins, a projected step backward from their 11-6 2021 mark.
3 days ago
NFC West reset: Rams giving Cardinals biggest challenge after 8 weeks