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NFC West Week 7 Previews

As week seven approaches things are getting fun in the NFC West with all four teams now at .500 and above. Only one game separates San Francisco and Seattle with the 49ers seeming to have the hotter hand right now. Seahawks have to be careful not to slip up because the rest of the division, San Fran especially, is coming for them.  With the division being so close every game counts and one mistake could make the difference of who makes playoffs and who watches from their couch with the rest of us. That being said lets take a look at what’s to come this week in the war for the NFC West.

Seahawks (5-1) @ Cardinals (3-3)

The war has been wild so far with a defensive battle to come this weekend. The Arizona Cardinals come off a tough 32-20 loss against divisional opponent San Francisco. Despite the loss, the Cards proved they can hang tough with some of the best and will not let you walk over them.

Offensively, Arizona looked better than anticipated. Carson Palmer had two early interceptions before getting hot and throwing 298 yards with two touchdowns. Those interceptions combined with two lost fumbles proved costly for the Cardinals. They’ll have to do a better job of limiting the turnovers against the Seahawks.

Seattle comes off a 20-13 win at home over the Titans. It was a game full of mistakes where almost everything seemed to go wrong but they still found a way to fly away with the victory. They needed the bounce back win after suffering their first loss of the season to the Colts the week prior. Though their defense returned to form with two interceptions and zero end zone visits for Tennessee, their offense still leaves little to be desired. The bright spot for Seattle’s offense this year has been Marshawn Lynch who ranks third in rushing yards and has been key in making Seattle the second best rushing team so far this season.

Lynch will have an uphill battle this week facing the leagues fifth best rushing defense. Thankfully head coach Pete Carroll recently stated that tight end Zach Miller will be back this week and Percy Harvin is “right around the corner.” Last Sunday Seattle did welcome back center Max Unger, which seemed to help the offensive line. With key members of Seattle’s offense returning, hopefully they can build some steam in the second half of the season but for now at least they have arguably the best defense in football to bail them out.

On the other side of the field we have Arizona’s defense. They are no joke and two players sure to be highlighted in this matchup are star cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman. Peterson recently stated he’s the best corner in the NFL, surprisingly Sherman has yet to verbally respond. But actions speak louder than words so we’ll see which see young star can back up their mouths this Thursday.

At the end of the day what do we have? A team that struggles to put a lot of points on the board against a team whose defense doesn’t allow many points. We have a team that relies heavily on the run against a defense that doesn’t allow many rushing yards. In a number of ways these two teams balance each other out, where one excels on offense, the other excels on defense or vice-versa. So whom do you take? The two split the season series last year with the Cards beating Seattle 20-16 in the season opener but the Seahawks laying the smack down on the Cards on December 9th 58-0.

While neither offense is superb, Seattle’s is slightly better. While their defenses are both legit, Seattle’s is deeper and I believe is more capable of handling more pressure. It’ll be physical and each offense is in for a beating at the hands of their opponent’s defense. Given how they’ve played on the road and their history of struggles in Arizona, I’m not confident but I’m taking Sherman and the legion of boom to live up to their name and keep their number one spot for now.

Rams (3-3) @ Panthers (2-3)

St. Louis comes off a huge 38-13 victory over the Texans in Houston to even their record and keep the NFC West a tight race top to bottom. Carolina also comes off an impressive 35-10 victory in Minnesota in which Cam Newton had a field day going 20/26 for 242 yards and three touchdowns.

Newton and company have had their struggles so far this season as they are only averaging 200 passing yards per game, 27th in the NFL. On the other side of the ball, Panthers defense has been putting in work allowing opponents only 88.8 yards on the ground (4th in the NFL), 210 yards in the air (7th) and surprisingly 13.6 points per game. The only defense allowing fewer points per game is Kansas City.

When it comes to St. Louis I still don’t know what to make of them. They rank in the bottom half of the NFL in most major statistical categories, rushing yards, passing yards, total defense you name it. Yet somehow they are .500, so if you wanted proof stats aren’t everything there you go.

So how are they doing it? Well they had a win over quite possibly the worst team ever assembled in recent memory, the Jacksonville Jaguars. They also had win over Arizona in week one and of course the depleted Houston team we witnessed last weekend. So do their wins this season have more to do with them or the lack of competition? When they’ve come across tougher competition like the Cowboys and 49ers in weeks three and four, they were outscored 66-18.

That being said the Panthers two victories come over the 0-6 Giants and the 1-4 Vikings. The Rams need this win to keep pace with the rest of their division. Panthers need this win to pull even at .500 and close the gap between them and New Orleans. Despite the record, Panthers are second in their division thanks to the fall from glory by Atlanta. I could easily see this game going either way but being a stats junkie I’m going with the Panthers who not only have the statistical advantage but also the all-important advantage of playing at home.

49ers (4-2) @ Titans (3-3)

Behold two of the worst passing teams in the NFL right now! That may not surprise you at all about Tennessee (29th in passing yards per game) but what about San Francisco (30th)?

While we wait to see the magic from Colin Kaepernick that captivated us all last season, the 49ers still roll into this game on a three game win streak. In that win streak they have outscored their opponents 101-34. Kaepernick has not been airing the ball out the way we know he can in recent weeks but he has been for the most part efficient.

We should also take into account the fact that the 49ers have had one of the toughest schedules so far and Kaep has come face to face with some of the leagues best defenses including the Seahawks and Texans. Their tough schedule combined with some key injuries has not made life easy. Their defense also continues to look like its old self more and more with each passing week.

The 49ers have fought through some early season adversity and now face a softer schedule in the next few weeks. Following Tennessee they face Jacksonville followed by a bye week then a game at home against Carolina.

Tennessee on the other hand looks to regain some momentum after back-to-back losses. They started the season surprisingly at 3-1 and had some people wondering if maybe they could be a sleeper team in the AFC. But, since the injury to Jake Locker their offense has struggled and looks out of sync with Ryan Fitzpatrick now leading the charge at quarterback. In last Sunday’s loss to Seattle, the Titans offense failed to find the end zone. Their one touchdown came from a botched field goal attempt on special teams.

Both Frank Gore and Vernon Davis are coming off big games against a tough Cardinals defense giving the 49ers all the momentum coming in to this Sunday. Unfortunately for the Titans, I don’t see that train slowing down until their showdown with the Saints in week 11. I’m taking San Fran to roll over the Titans and put the pressure on Seattle to keep winning.

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