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NFC West Week 9 Preview

With one game still separating San Francisco and Seattle in the NFC West, this division race is shaping up to be one of the closest one in the NFL. Arizona is coming off a big win over Atlanta and has the role of spoiler written all over them. While San Francisco looks better as the weeks go by, Seattle is struggling to keep their offense in one piece. How long can they hold their division lead? Can St. Louis or Arizona knock one of them out of the playoff race? With the 49ers and Cardinals both on bye’s this week, Seahawks look to continue their winning ways while St. Louis looks to bounce back after a tough loss last Monday night. Here we take a look at what to expect this Sunday from NFC West.

Bucs (0-7) @ Seahawks (7-1)- If you’re the win-less Tampa Bay Bucs the last place you want to look for your first win of the season is Century Link Field in Seattle. Seattle’s 12th man provides one of the most hostile environments in the NFL and Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon will get his fist introduction to the Legion of Boom.

It’s been a season full of bitter disappointments and drama for the Bucs but underneath the surface an upset this Sunday might not be as far fetched as some might think. One bright spot for Tampa Bay this season is their rush defense, which has only allowed 94.6 yards on the ground per game (7th in the NFL). Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has been a workhorse but is starting to wear down. Lynch ran for only 23 yards on eight attempts last Monday at St. Louis marking his worst game of the season. Lynch sat out Wednesday’s practices with a knee injury but will play Sunday.

Additionally, Seattle’s offensive line is hurting and it showed last Monday as Russell Wilson got sacked seven times for 48 yards. If things weren’t bad enough for Seattle’s offense already, wide receiver Sydney Rice left Monday’s game with an injury we later found out to be a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season. Their offense continues to await the return of Percy Harvin but will have to wait at least one more week, as he will not be taking the field this Sunday. If the Bucs defense can slow down an injured Lynch and get to Wilson, they may actually stand a chance in this game.

However, even if the Bucs do prevent Seattle from putting a lot points on the board, there’s one other little detail that could get in their way of pulling off what would be a major upset and that’s Seattle’s defense. The Seahawks defense lead by Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Bruce Irvin is arguably the best in the NFL. Though Monday’s win over the Rams was far from pretty, the Seahawks defense did not give up a touchdown and had a huge goal line stand to win the game. Seahawks defense has not given up a touchdown in two of their last three games.

So while Seattle’s offense may not put many points on the board, with that defense they don’t necessarily have to and the Bucs offense they will face this weekend is far from intimidating. With the injuries to Seattle’s offense and the Bucs lack of ability to put points on the board, don’t expect this game to be high scoring. Tampa Bay faces a tall order in Seattle and with the Seahawks playing less inspiring football week after week, there is a possibility this game gets intriguing. That being said, I haven’t seen anything from the Bucs this season that makes me believe they will win this game and its hard to bet against Seattle at home. Seattle wins this one to stay one step ahead of the 49ers while the Bucs continue to look for their first win of the season.

Titans (3-4) @ Rams (3-5)- The Titans and Rams both come in to this game struggling and looking to bounce back after back-to-back losses. Rams come off a close loss to the Seahawks Monday night in what was almost one of the biggest upsets of the season. With Killen Clemons getting the start at quarterback in place of the injured Sam Bradford, Rams had the ball at the Seattle one-yard line but couldn’t put the ball in the end zone in the final seconds. They fell 14-9 in a battle many thought would be a blowout.

Despite the tough loss however, there were a few bright spots for the Rams including running back Zac Stacy who had his best game of the year running for 134 yards on 26 attempts. On the defensive side Robert Quinn shined bright and had a monster game sacking Russell Wilson three times and currently ranks fourth in the NFL in sacks. He will be a key player to watch out for this Sunday and will have to come up big again if Rams look to win this game.

The Rams, lead by head coach Jeff Fisher will come face to face with Fisher’s former team for the first time since his departure. The Titans now lead by Mike Munchak, currently rank second in the AFC south and look to regain momentum after a rough stretch of games against three of the NFL’s best. They started the season 2-1 before falling to the undefeated Chiefs, Seahawks and 49ers in consecutive weeks. Their schedule has not been nice and Jake Locker missing two of those games with a hip injury only made matters worse.

Luckily for the Titans however, the second wild card spot in the AFC is very much up in the air and is not out of the Titans reach if they can rack up a few wins over the next few weeks. They come off a bye week last Sunday and will have the advantage of being better rested than St. Louis who played Monday night. One key for the Titans will be their pass defense, which has been solid so far this season currently ranking seventh in the NFL and 10th in points allowed per game despite their difficult schedule.

This game would be more difficult to pick if the Rams didn’t have to resort to starting Clemons. The storyline that does make this game tricky is Fisher facing his former team that he knows so well and emotions will surely be running high. At the end of the day though I have a rough time picking Clemons to beat pretty much anybody. That combined with the fact the Rams are still licking their wounds from their loss to Seattle while Tennessee comes in well-rested forces me to lean in favor of the Titans. I’m picking Tennessee to win this game and bring their record even to keep them in the wild card hunt while St. Louis falls further behind the rest of the NFC West.

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