NFC West revisited

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November 29, 2017 by squish

Written by John Avino

2016 Final Standings 2017 Projected Standings 2017 Actual Standings
Seattle Seahawks             10-5-1 Seattle Seahawks             10-6 Los Angeles Rams           8-3
Arizona Cardinals           7-8-1 Arizona Cardinals         10-6 Seattle Seahawks             7-4
Los Angeles Rams          4-12 Los Angeles Rams          4-12 Arizona Cardinals            5-6
San Francisco 49ers      2-14 San Francisco 49ers       4-12 San Francisco 49ers       1-10

Can you hear that? It’s the huge grin on my face that has been there since the middle weeks of September. Consider me amongst the many shocked at the progression in just one year of Jared Goff and the Rams offense, under the tutelage of now 31 year old Sean McVay. You can also consider me amongst the group of people THRILLED at the jump this team has made. THRILLED.

As I detailed briefly in my preseason preview, I have been a Rams fan for more than half of my entire life. The greatest show on turf was what made me get REALLY into football. Sure, I remember watching the occasional game throughout the mid to late 90’s, Brett Favre, John Elway, even Dan Marino playing his late days. But, it wasn’t until I saw the high powered Rams offense and their first Super Bowl run, that I truly had a team to root for.

In my preseason story, I also named Sammy Watkins as a division X-factor and said “if he stays healthy and finds a good report with Jared Goff, they could be a match made in heaven for Todd Gurley’s rushing attack, which could lead to a lot more offensive production from LA’s unti!”. I was sort of half right, because the Rams rushing attack has been reinvigorated, but it has been more a product of the system, and how Jared Goff has progressed and been able to make all of his options viable ones. He is throwing passes that are just as effective to Tyler Higbee as they are to Sammy Watkins. Robert Woods had emerged as his deep threat number 1 receiver, but he is out for a few weeks right now and Goff continues to find receivers open.

I have to admit, after the Vikings loss last week, I was a bit concerned the Saints would come in and wallop on the Rams as well. But, as Goff and McVay have done numerous times this season, they bounced back with a huge win, ending Drew Brees’ 8 game winning streak.

The Rams will play 3 of their final 5 games on the road, and they still have some work to do to sure up the division. The worst of their three losses is easily the Seattle loss; a division opponent on your home field. But LA also gets Blaine Gabbert and Arizona this week, a future matchup with the now very banged up Seahawks, and a Week 17 home matchup with San Francisco. The toughest test left is easily the Eagles in two weeks, but as a fan, I love the fact that we play this game at home and that we will have a real chance to make another statement win.

For Seattle, it has just been a never ending onslaught of injuries that has made this season way more difficult than in years past. But give them credit, as they still sit in second place just a game back of the Rams, currently holding the tiebreaker by virtue of that Week 5 victory in Los Angeles. From Richard Sherman to Chris Carson, and more recently Kam Chancellor, CJ Procise, and Cliff Avril, the Seahawks have had no shortages of obstacles to maneuver as they once again try to repeat as division champs.

So, the most positive thing for the Seahawks remaining outlook is that they have the current tiebreaker against the Rams, at least until they play in Week 15. The worst thing the Seahawks have going for them is that they have the Eagles this upcoming Sunday night, followed by a road game in one of the furthest possible destinations against a pretty stout Jaguars team (that had a bad loss against Arizona but still), and then they come right back to Seattle to face a Rams team that has only gotten better since their first meeting. They also still have Dallas on the schedule who will have Zeke Elliott back when they play, before finally finishing their season at home with a very winnable game against the Blaine Gabbert Cardinals (no offense to Blaine who has now been singled out by me twice).

Arizona is a weird team to me. I think they have one of the best coaches in the league in Bruce Arians. I also think their defense is pretty underrated, and they usually have no problem drafting or bringing in cheaper replacements for players that have priced themselves to high for Arizona to retain. Larry Fitzgerald is a stud still too, which just seems to need to be mentioned in case anyone forgot. The problem with the Cardinals for the last few years has been health at the most crucial positions.

It starts with Carson Palmer, who has been more injured than not it seems during his time in Cardinal red. You need a consistent player at that position to have any sort of chance of hoping to compete, so in a season where Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert have had to fill in, they have had zero consistency at that position.

Pile on David Johnson’s injury just 11 carries into what was supposed to be a huge year out of the backfield, and you have a recipe for a team that is on a crash course to finish third in the NFC West. With the exception of a home game this weekend against LAR and a Week 17 date up in Seattle, the Cardinals actually do have a favorable remaining schedule. They play Tennessee at home, Washington in DC, and the Giants at home. If they can find a way to win 3 of their last 5 they could still salvage a .500 record, and if they sweep out they could even get to the original 10-6 projection that I had for them, but for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned, I think the ship has safely sailed away.

For San Francisco, the writing has been on the wall since the preseason. We knew they weren’t going to compete for a division crown right now, and despite only mustering up a single win against the Giants a few weeks back, they have done a lot of good this season. Kyle Shanahan has brought a lot of positive energy to a young 49ers team, and they should only get better as the years go on. Especially, if Jimmy G, formerly the most famous backup quarterback in the Northeast and now the 49ers hope and future is all he is supposed to be. Garoppolo has been riding in the first car of the hype train for a while, and Brian Shanahan might finally be the conductor that drops him off at the right station (for all my train nerds out there). Naturally, Jimmy came in for an injured CJ Beathard and was 2/2 for 18 yards and a touchdown.

The Niners five remaining games actually could see them pick up a win or two, especially if Jimmy Garoppolo is named the starter moving forward and plays well. They start a two game road swing against a bad Bears team and a Texans team that hasn’t know what they were doing since Deshaun Watson got hurt. They have home games against the Titans and Jags following, and finish with the Rams on the road. I would not be surprised at all to see San Francisco go 2-3 and finish with 3 wins.

New & Final NFC West Projections:

LA Rams 12-4 – The Rams will win 4 of their last 5, & make postseason for 1st time since 03-04

Seattle Seahawks – 10-6 – Seattle is banged up, but 2 more wins gets them to 10-6

Arizona Cardinals – 7-9 – Bruce Arians can only make up for so much as a coach

San Francisco 49ers – 3-13 – Jimmy G time? He could win 2 of the last 5 for San Fran

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