NFC West Breakdown: Week 5
By Scott Allen
(Scott Allen writes for Raising Zona, which is FSB’s Arizona Cardinals blog. Representing the rest of the NFC West are 12th Man Rising, Niner Noise. and Ramblin’ Fan.)
Trying to think of a way to explain how the NFC West is broken down this week was easy. Trying to decipher what this week means for the division overall is a little tougher to explain. Once again, three teams played and one had a bye. Although the argument could be made that it’s that way every week. Nothing changed at the top or bottom of the divisional standings, although the Arizona Cardinals now sit in first place all by themselves.
Arizona Cardinals (3-2):
The Cardinals did a great job of erasing memories of last week in New york by defeating the Buffalo Bills 41-17 at home. The Cardinals took an early lead, scoring on their first four drives, and never looked back. Buffalo never got closer than 7 points. The Bills were without starter Trent Edwards for all but three plays in this one. Safety Adrian Wilson, once thought to be out for this contest, drove Edwards into the ground on a blitz and Edwards suffered a concussion. J.P. Losman took his place. Arizona eventually took a 10 point halftime lead as Buffalo attempted to stay in the game for the first two quarters. The Cards defense took over in the second half, limiting Buffalo to only 3 points. They managed to get 5 sacks and 4 turnovers and it was lights out from there. Rookie Receiver Early Doucet saw his first action as a pro, catching 6 balls for 42 yards, although he dropped a pretty pass from Warner in the first quarter. Without receiver Anquan Boldin, the Cardinals receiver core played well. Larry Fitzgerald caught two touchdown passes, and Steve Breaston held his own in place of Boldin. Rookie running back Tim Hightower also rushed for a career high 2 touchdowns. The defensive star was linebacker Travis Laboy who had 2 sacks on Losman and also did a great job of chasing down others in the open field. Laboy is looking like a steal from the free agent market this past off-season.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier. The 4-1 Dallas Cowboys come to town next week. Dallas has not looked like the team most thought they would be, over the past two weeks. They lost in week 4 to Washington and then this week needed late game heroics to slip past the lowly Cincinnati Bengals. All that however doesn’t change the fact the Cowboys are still 4-1 in arguably the best division in the NFL. The Cardinals will need to bring their “A” game again next week in order to play the Cowboys close. If they manage another turnover free day like they enjoyed against the Bills, then chances of a victory will increase greatly.
The Rams enjoyed their bye week in week 5, although one could argue they were underdogs to the bye. It probably couldn’t have come at a better time though. Changes were in the air in St. Louis during the bye week. The Rams replaced their head coach, Scott Linehan, with coordinator Jim Haslett. One of the first moves Haslett made was to move quarterback Marc Bulger back in the starting position over Trent Green.
Well, how can the Rams do anything but? However the task is touch in week 6. They must go face the Washington Redskins in Landover, MD. Washington just came off back to back impressive divisional road games. Unless the Redskins forget how to get to their own field, it’s going to be almost too difficult for the Rams to find their first victory next week. Stranger things have happened, but the chances won’t be very good.
The 49ers fell into second place on Sunday after losing at home on Sunday to the New England Patriots 30-21. San Francisco was in the game most of the day, even going into the second quarter with a 14-7 lead. They only trailed 17-14 at halftime. Quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan though had a rough day. He threw for 3 touchdowns, however also threw for 3 interceptions. He only threw for 130 yards in the process. Receiver Issac Bruce made us remember who he was by catching 2 touchdowns on Sunday.
A trend developing with each NFC West team, a tough game in week 6. San Francisco’s game is no exception as they host the Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia will be hungry for a win after losing their last two games against Chicago and Washington. If the 49ers want to entertain any thoughts at upsetting the Eagles, they will need better performances from both O’ Sullivan, and running back Frank Gore, who rushed for only 54 yards against New England.
Raise your hand if this is where you thought the Seahawks would be after week 6, with a 1-3 record and in third place in the division. So far, the Hawks have looked nothing like the team that has dominated this division over the past several seasons. That was no more apparent than today when the Seahawks, finally with their full receiver core available to them, were demolished by the New York Giants 44-6. This was a game Seattle was never in. New York led 27-6 at halftime and never looked back. New York scored their most points in a game since 2005 and best offensive day in six years. Coach Mike Holmgren even said it was a good old fashioned beating. He still thinks though Seattle is a much better team than the one that showed up, or didn’t show up, on Sunday. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck hyperextended his knee on the fourth play of the game, however played until late in the third quarter, finally being pulled after the game was no longer in doubt.
Seattle faces Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay is coming off a loss to the Atlanta Falcons at home on Sunday. Seattle is going to need to get off to a much faster start next Sunday if they want to defeat the Packers. If the Hawks can’t turn things around and get a victory against the Packers, it may be a long uphill climb the rest of the season to get back to the top of the division. They have Tampa Bay and San Francisco, a team that beat them in week 2, on back to back road games. After that they come home to play Philadelphia, then it’s back on the road for a long trip to Miami. They conceiveably could be 1-7 when Arizona comes to town on November 16th if they can’t beat the Packers at home next Sunday. I don’t forsee that scenario happening, but it’s already been a strange first 5 weeks of the season, so anything can happen at this point.