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NFC West Preview: Week 4

Week 4 in the NFL, and a lot of people are probably still scratching their heads after a peculiar weekend in football. Let’s break down the matchups for one the most intriguing divisions in the NFL.

San Francisco at St. Louis

Both teams come in to this all-important divisional game coming off back-to-back losses. While the Rams falling to Atlanta in week two didn’t shock anybody, the man handling dealt to them by the Dallas Cowboys last weekend in a 31-7 demolition surely wasn’t the bounce back they were looking for.

While the 1-2 start for the Rams isn’t unexpected, the 1-2 start by the San Francisco 49ers has caught people so off guard that social media has struck its ugly head and the memes have begun! The 49ers loss to the Seahawks in Seattle wasn’t surprising but the loss to the Indianapolis Colts seems to have hit fans like a truck. What’s worse is these games haven’t been close, they have been outscored by a combined 46 points. The offense that looked so explosive the end of last season and in week one against Green Bay, has a combined grand total of 10 points in the last two games. Golden boy Colin Kaepernick who took the league by storm last year and many thought would continue to build on that success this year, has thrown zero touchdowns since week one.

Both teams are in need of a win, but the desperation is greater for the 49ers as they came into this season with high expectations. There may be a lot of football left to play, but with division rival Seattle Seahawks continuing to roll, San Francisco cannot afford to get too far behind or they may never catch up this season. If the Rams have any hope of winning this game they need to protect Sam Bradford who was sacked six times against Dallas and find a way to establish some sort of run game. Their lack of depth at the running back position has been very evident as of late as they rushed for only 69 yards against Atlanta and a measly 35 against Dallas. I wonder how much they miss Steven Jackson now…

Meanwhile, the 49ers need to stay focused amongst all the drama that has unfolded around Aldon Smith who will be inactive for Thursday’s game. Their best defensive weapon has entered rehab for substance abuse after his second DUI arrest in two years. One of the keys for San Francisco will be limiting turnovers as they have committed seven the last two weeks. The 49ers defense has struggled against the run, but due to the lack of run game possessed by the Rams, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Both teams are struggling, but at the end of the day, the Rams just don’t have the talent or weapons to match the 49ers. I think the 49ers bounce back Thursday to even their record at 2-2 and stay within reach of Seattle.

Arizona at Tampa Bay

The 1-2 Cardinals head to Tampa Bay to face the 0-3 Bucs in a game that unless you are a diehard fan of one of these two teams, you hope is not on TV where you live. Arizona looks to keep pace with the rest of the NFC West while Tampa Bay looks to get its first win after getting picked apart by Tom Brady and company last weekend 20-3.

Following inner turmoil that has surrounded the Bucs camp lately, head coach Greg Schiano announced Wednesday morning that quarterback Josh Freeman would be benched and rookie Mike Glennon will get the start this weekend. Glennon was the 73rd overall pick in the 2013 draft.

It’s hard to predict the winner of this game given the fact we have no idea what to expect from this kid. At the end of the day, despite coming off a tough 31-7 loss to New Orleans last week, Arizona has had a few bright spots including a grind it out victory over the Lions in week two. Their defense has also been successful in stopping the run as they rank third in the NFL in opponent rushing yards.

I don’t expect this game to be pretty, nor do I expect it be high quality football, but I do expect both teams to play tough. However, until I see what Glennon is made of, I’ll take the Cardinals in a hard-hitting matchup that will keep the NFC West looking real interesting through the first part of the season.

Seattle at Houston

While the Seahawks head to Houston, after a tune up game against the Jaguars that gave them their first 3-0 start since 2006, the Texans look to bounce back after a disappointing 30-9 loss in Baltimore.

While Seattle fans have really given rise to the name 12th man after the last two home games, many people want to see Seattle play on the road like they do at home. Houston would be a great place to prove they can win regardless of what stadium you put them in. Their defense has been spectacular allowing a combined 27 points through the first three weeks with some of those coming in garbage time against Jacksonville. The scary part, Seahawks are only now beginning to play at full strength. Their most dangerous pass rusher last season, Chris Clemons made his return against Jacksonville last Sunday and is expected to see more playing time in Houston.

On the other side of the football, Seattle’s offense was not overly impressive through the first two weeks.  This is why I believe the Jaguars game came at the perfect time, giving their offense a chance to get into a rhythm. They will be able to try some new things, and allow Russell Wilson and company to get on the same page and get some momentum going heading into Houston.

The Texans are a team also known for their superb defense, but their defense has failed to inspire much so far this season as they have given up a combined 82 points, 24th in the NFL. That being said, they still rank second in net total yards behind Seattle. They started the season with a close win over San Diego, where they fell behind by 21 before making a comeback, and a close win over Tennessee which they won in overtime. Then the recent loss to Baltimore, in which they gave up 30 points to a Raven’s team minus one of their best offensive weapons in Ray Rice, has left some people wondering is their a problem in Houston? That, and the fact Arian Foster still doesn’t look like Arian Foster, puts more pressure on Matt Schaub.

In a battle of defensive juggernauts, I expect this to to be a low scoring affair. I’m going with the momentum of Seattle over the stale Texans in a close one that will keep the Seahawks flying ahead of the rest of the NFC West, at least for now.

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