NFC West Breakdown: Week 16
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.)
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that Seattle was the team continuing their winning ways and heading to the NFC playoffs again. After this weeks games, it can now arguably be said that Seattle might be the best team in the NFC West, records notwithstanding. Arizona continued their late season slide, St. Louis squandered another one away to the 49ers, and Seattle finally found a way to pull one out at home against a winning team.
Arizona Cardinals (8-7):
I’m really at a loss for words with this team. My 75-2 prediction didn’t even up being as far fetched as originally thought as the Cards lost 47-7 to New England. It was clear from the beginning that the Cards wanted nothing to do with playing in Snowy Foxboro on Sunday. In fact, take the last two weeks performances, and it could be suggested the Cardinals look like a team that has given up on themselves and their fans. They aren’t even competitive at this point. They’ve now been beaten by more than 20 points five times this season. Five times!
Ask a couple of weeks ago and I would have told you the game against Seattle this upcoming Sunday looks like a game where the Cards can rest some players and get ready to roll into the playoffs. Now the Cards are going to have to play all their starters to get some kind of momentum going into the playoffs, otherwise this is going to be a team that will be one and out and has the real possibility of finishing 8-9 overall after a playoff loss. As it stands right now, the Cards are going to get the 4th seed in the NFC, which means they will get to play the 5th seeded team, which right now is Atlanta, who is a very dangerous team. Arizona needs to focus on Seattle right now though to finish a respectable 9-7.
Another defeat snatched from the Jaws of victory on Sunday at home against San Francisco. For awhile there, it sure looked like St. Louis was poised for it’s 3rd victory of the year. Up 16-3 in the second half, they were well on their way – that is until they allowed San Francisco scored two 4th quarter touchdowns, which led to the 17-16 loss at home. St. Louis was also stopped inside the 5 in the quarter and they had to settle for a 20 yard field goal, which ultimately sealed their doom on Sunday.
About the best thing St. Louis can say about next week is that it will finally be over. The bleeding will stop – at least until next September, when they might have be playing with a completely different cast. The Rams finish up next week against the Falcons in Atlanta. Atlanta has clinched a playoff spot, but they still hold out a chance of winning the NFC South by winning and Carolina losing in New Orleans, so you bet the Falcons will have a lot to play for. Otherwise, after what looks like another loss, the Rams will head into an off-season where they will need to find a good surgeon to pick apart this team that has fallen so far so fast.
The 49ers struggled in St. Louis on Sunday en route to a 17-16 come from behind win. Trailing 16-3 in the fourth quarter and seeing starting quarterback Shaun Hill throw three picks, it would have been easy for coach Mike Singletary to throw in the towel and call it a day and bring in back up and one time starter J.T. O’Sullivan. Singletary stuck with Hill and it paid off as Hill thre two touchdowns to complete the comeback and send the Niners to their third win in the past five games.
The 49ers end the season next week at home against what will be a disappointed Washington Redskins team that was just eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday. The Niners have a chance to close out the season strong at 7-9 and gain some momentum and excitement heading into the off-season. Right now, an arguement could be made that the Niners are playing better than the Cardinals in the past month and if not for a botched play at the 2 yard line as time expired in the Monday night game in Glendale in November, the Niners could be playing for a division title.
It wasn’t a great offensive effort on Sunday, however give the personnel and weather facotrs, one could argue the Seahawks might have played one of their best games of the season. The defense kept the New York Jets to a season low 3 points in defeating the them 13-3. The Seahawks did what they needed to do to keep Brett Favre and company off balance and look nothing like a potential divisional champ.
The Seahawks might be catching the Cardinals at a good time. I’m sure they’d like nothing more than to return the favor the Cardinals paid in November when the Cards went up to Seattle and defeated them 26-20. The Seahawks can keep the Cardinals from having only their second winning season since moving to Arizona and can send head coach Mike Holmgren out a winner in his last game as the Seahawk head coach.