After a very intense (but fulfilling) week 13, the Arizona Cardinals find themselves atop the NFC West, a three game lead with four left to play. Maybe it was the confidence of our friends over at Niners Nation or maybe it was a product of the damage done to Cardinals fans’ psyches over the years, but many expected the Cardinals and the Niners to fight for first place in the division during the upcoming Monday Night Game. Thankfully, that is not the case.
San Francisco 49ers: The Niners are coming off one of their worst losses of the year (from a morale standpoint). Coach Mike Singletary came into the season wanting to instill a team mentality and a sense of toughness, and he was initially very successful in doing so. The Niners started 3-1, and came within a Brett Favre Hail Mary of being undefeated after 4 weeks (with 3 division wins), but it went downhill from there. Starting with a drubbing by Atlanta, the Niners went through a 4 game losing streak and ultimately lost 6 of their next 8 games. They are now tied with Seattle for second place in the division, and barring a Cardinals collapse, are out of the playoffs. There is a little optimism now, as many of the Niners faithful are confident that Alex Smith is the quarterback of the future. However, Mike Singletary and the much maligned Jimmy Raye need to find a way to make Smith successful while also incorporating Frank Gore into the offense (Gore has averaged only 10 carries/game over the last three games). The Niners play at home against the Cardinals this week, a game where the Cards are favored by 3.
Seattle Seahawks: It was a very up and down week for the Seattle Seahawks. Long time GM Tim Ruskell resigned from his post, inviting in a plethora of Mike Holmgren rumors. Ruskell inherited a loaded team and added a few Seahawk mainstays, including Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill, but much of his reign was marked with draft busts and bad trades. The team itself is coming off a close win against the 49ers and is tied for second place in the division at 5-7. The Seahawks are unexpectedly rebuilding in a year where many thought they would challenge the Cardinals for the division. On the bright side, they have two first round draft picks and if Mike Holmgren decides to come back as general manager, they could rebound quickly. Seattle is travelling to Reliant Stadium this week to take on the most schizophrenic team in the league, the Houston Texans.
St. Louis Rams: Injuries, injuries, injuries. After Sunday’s game against the Bears, the Rams had to put safety Oshimogho Atogwe on injured reserve, joining starting cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Ron Bartell. The Rams placed the franchise tag on Atogwe during the offseason and are shelling out close to $6 million for his services this year. They now have a big decision to make about his future with the team. The Rams are essentially headed for another top five pick, with problems at every offensive position except running back. St. Louis is travelling to Tennessee this week to take on the Tennessee Chris Johnsons, who are coming off their first loss since Vince Young was named the starting quarterback.
New Orleans Saints* (12-0) – (@ATL, DAL, TB, @CAR)
Minnesota Vikings (10-2) – (CIN, @CAR, @CHI, NYG)
Arizona Cardinals (8-4) – (@SF, @DET, STL, GB)
Dallas Cowboys (8-4) – (SD, @NO, @WAS, PHI) (I’m pretty sure the schedule makers were laughing uncontrollably while making Dallas’ December schedule)
Philadelphia Eagles (8-4) – (@NYG, SF, DEN, @DAL)
Green Bay Packers (8-4) – (@CHI, @PIT, SEA, @ARI)
In the Hunt:
New York Giants (7-5) – (PHI, @WAS, CAR, @MIN)