NFC West state of the division, week 15

USA TODAY Sports

Where do teams in the NFC West stand after week 15?

Ahhh, the NFC West…Darlings of the media. Wait a minute, the NFC West aren’t media darlings by any stretch of the imagination. But I’m starting to hear more love from commentators when they turn their thoughts to the NFC West teams.

As I mentioned last week, the San Francisco 49ers head up the division, and last night they kept their fingertips grasping to it by beating the New England Patriots in a game where the Patriots rallied late but were unable to overcome 2nd year QB Colin Kaepernick who managed a crucial pitch and catch to Michael Crabtree to put the game away for good. In a game some are dubbing the Super Bowl matchup of the year, Tom Brady was picked twice to his one touchdown while Kaepernick managed four TD passes to his one interception. Frank Gore rushed for nearly a four yard per attempt average for the 49ers.

On the defensive side, sack leader Aldon Smith was held to zero sacks on the day but he did manage one interception. Throw in a pair of forced fumbles and a second interception and the defense shows once again why they are the standard in the NFL.

The 49ers stock was rising last week, I continue to see it moving up. The only bump may come when the meet the red hot Seattle Seahawks again.

Speaking of the Seahawks, they may be the hottest team in the NFL right now. After whooping the Arizona Cardinals 58 – 0 last week, they come back to manhandle the Buffalo Bills by a final score of 50 – 17. Rookie QB Russell Wilson went 14/23 for over two hundred yards and a TD. Running back Marshawn Lynch, the guy the Bills traded away to Seattle put up 113 yards on 10 carries. Talk about earning your Skittles for the day.

Defensively, the Seahawks picked Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick twice in the game and sacked him 3 times on the day. Additionally, they forced a fumble as well.

Last week I said the Seahawk’s stock was rising as well. This hasn’t changed. They’ve put things together at the right time, and I fully expect their showdown with the 49ers to determine first place in the NFC West.

Still running third are the St. Louis Rams who ran into Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings yesterday, resulting in a check in the L column, the final score 36 – 22 Minnesota. Games like this happen. Sam Bradford had 55 passing attempts of which he hit on 35 for over 350 yards passing and 3 TD to 1 interception. RB Stephen Jackson still has yet to show signs of tiring as he added 73 yards on 13 carries. The offensive line/QB combo did allow for four sacks on the day, but considering Bradford dropped back 55 times, that’s a lot of pass blocking.

Defensively, the Rams couldn’t stop Adrian Peterson who ran for over 200 yards on the day. Christian Ponder also did his part, going 17/24 and moving the ball when needed, while not turning it over.

The Rams are a chippy group. Jeff Fischer has done wonders with this team. Over the long term they are a hold, but as I said last week, I expect the bumps and bruises to continue even if the team appears to be in each and every game for the rest of the year.

And finally we reach the cellar dwellers. The 5 – 9 Arizona Cardinals who welcomed the Detroit Lions to UOP Stadium yesterday. With both teams at 4 – 9, something had to give. In the end it was less a matter of give and more a lesson on take.

Rookie QB Ryan Lindley was picked only once in yesterday’s game, and behind decent pass protection from the musical chairs line, managed some nice throws. RB Beanie Wells punched the ball into the end zone 3 times yesterday for Arizona on 67 yards rushing. Overall, the offensive production is still horrible as the offense only managed one long drive, but hey, at least yesterday they got the job done.

Defensively the Cardinals were all over Lion’s QB Matthew Stafford, picking him three times, with two of those going back to the house for TDs. CB Patrick Peterson had the third and would have scored as well but he was tangled up at the five yard line. This victory would not have happened if it weren’t for the defense and the special teams play, putting the Cardinals within the Lion’s 10 yards line on 3 occasions.

Two more games left in the season, and then who knows what’s in store for the Cardinals after that. I expect major changes across the board, and until those occur, knowing the direction of this team on a week to week basis is untenable.

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