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NFC West Week 11 Preview

The race for the NFC West is getting wilder by the week. With the Seahawks extending their lead, San Francisco and Arizona are scrambling trying to catch up and meanwhile keeping their names in the wildcard mix. The 49ers look to bounce back after a disappointing loss last Sunday and Arizona and Seattle look to keep their win streaks going. Can Arizona knock the 49ers out of the playoffs? Will they find a way in? Can Seattle steal home field advantage throughout playoffs. All these questions will be answered in the coming weeks but here we take a look at what’s to come in week 11.

Vikings (2-7) @ Seahawks (9-1)– This Sunday one of the loudest most hostile stadiums in the NFL CenturyLink Field, will be booming and for good reason. Seattle comes in off a big 33-10 win in Atlanta last Sunday that thanks to a San Francisco loss, extended their lead in the division to 2.5 games. However, now is not the time to get complacent, as they will host the Vikings who also come in with some momentum after winning their second game of the season last week over the Washington Redskins.

On paper this game looks to heavily favor the Seahawks who have yet to lose a home game this season. That being said, people said the same thing going into their game against the Bucs two weeks ago when they barely escaped with a 27-24 overtime victory. Hopefully Seattle learned from that game not to overlook anybody. Their offense has been inconsistent this season but returned to form in Atlanta.

This Sunday should welcome the long awaited return of star wide receiver (and former Viking) Percy Harvin and offensive tackles Russell Okung and Breno Glacomini. This should only help the Seahawks offense to reach its full potential. This game will also feature two of the NFL’s premier running backs Marshawn Lynch and reigning MVP Adrian Peterson. Both teams rely heavily on their run game so this will be a key matchup to watch.

After a couple different quarterback experiments, Christian Ponder is back at the helm for Minnesota and comes off an efficient game against Washington. Minnesota came into the season with somewhat high expectations after making the playoffs as a wildcard last year but has struggled on both sides of the football all season.

The Vikings defense is worse than it has been in years as they currently rank 30th in yards allowed per game. They will have to find a way to get to Russell Wilson and slow down Lynch if they want to have success in this game. Getting to the quarterback has not been something they’ve done successfully this season but they do rank 15th in total yards allowed on the ground. If they can take away one of the biggest weapons of Seattle’s offense and put more pressure to on Wilson to air the ball out, they might just have a shot. Even if they do that however, they still have to worry about the Seahawks defense and the legion of boom. One of the deepest and best in the NFL, they are typically very dangerous at home and have bailed out the offense on numerous occasions this year.

Even if the Vikings can get to Wilson, slow down Lynch and Peterson has a big game, I still don’t think they will leave CenturyLink field with the W. I’m taking the Seahawks to extend their win streak heading into the bye week. They will then control their own destiny for the remainder of the season as they look to grab home field advantage throughout the playoffs and ladies and gentlemen if that happens the rest of the NFC should be afraid.

49ers (6-3) @ Saints (7-2)– Behold one of the biggest games of the weekend and one of the most important of the season for each team. If the playoff picture in the NFC wasn’t sketchy enough, Carolina’s win over the 49ers last Sunday just made things about as clear as mud. The 49ers now trail the Seahawks in the west by 2.5 games and have a much more daunting task this weekend than their division rival.

Not only do the 49ers need to win so they can keep close with Seattle but the wildcard race has become extremely competitive as five teams (San Francisco, Carolina, Green Bay, Chicago and Arizona) are within one game of each other. What makes matter worse for the 49ers is their offense is struggling and they now have to go toe-to-toe with Drew Brees and one of the most explosive offenses’ in the NFL in a hostile environment in New Orleans. Although injuries have greatly damaged San Francisco’s offense this season, it’s still hard to excuse the fact they rank dead last in passing yards per game.

Luckily, Frank Gore has been a beast on the ground and has made them one of the leagues best rushing teams. 49ers defense also remains one of the best in the league and they will have a lot of pressure on them this weekend to slow down Brees and the high octane Saints who have yet to lose at home this season.

Saints come of annihilation of the Cowboys in a 49-17 win last Sunday night. While it seemed as though through the first half of the season the Saints were cruising along with no worries and on their way to a easy division title, Carolina has quietly crept up behind them and now only trail the Saints by one game. Saints will now have to feel the pressure to continue their winning ways or potentially lose their number one spot. The Saints are a much more balanced team than they were a season ago and have now found an identity on defense. They went from having one of the worst statistical defensive seasons in the history of the NFL to having the seventh ranked defense this season and ranking fifth in points allowed per game.

Both quarterbacks will have their work cut out for them this weekend but when it’s all said and done there’s few quarterbacks I would pick to out sling Brees and Colin Kaepernick is not one of them. If this game turns into a shootout it will be over early but if the 49ers can make it a defensive battle they could pull out the much-needed victory. That being said, I’m siding with the home field team here in a game that is sure to be intense and could leave one teams playoff hopes in jeopardy.

Cardinals (5-4) @ Jaguars (1-8)– The Arizona Cardinals come into this game with a lot to fight for as they find themselves in the middle of the cluster that is the NFC wildcard race. Jacksonville looks to stop them and keep their momentum going after capturing their first victory of the season last Sunday over the Titans.

While the Cardinals road to the playoffs is one with a lot of bumps like the Colts, Seahawks and 49ers for example, they’re still in the race. Their overwhelming schedule makes them look like a long shot but they continue to fight hard and even if they can’t get there, they may just end up playing spoiler and ruining the fun for someone else.

Their offense lead by quarterback Carson Palmer has been shaky and inconsistent over the course of the season. Thus being the main reason I doubt their playoff chances but what has been rock solid all year is the Cardinals defense. This is a defense that knows how to get down in the trenches and battle and their run defense currently ranks third in the NFL. Cornerback Patrick Peterson has also emerged as one of the best young talents in the league. After back-to-back wins over Atlanta and Houston, the Cardinals will look to make it three straight in Jacksonville this Sunday.

They will face a Jaguars team with some newfound energy and nothing to lose. That can at times be a dangerous combination. Although their rush defense ranks dead last, the one somewhat bright spot for the Jaguars has been their pass defense, which ranks 13th. However, they might be without their best defensive player, middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, who is questionable for Sunday’s game. He suffered a concussion in last Sunday’s outing and has yet to practice this week. The Jaguars offense lead by Chad Henne at quarterback and Maurice Jones-Drew in the backfield have a tough task ahead as they have struggled to put points on the board all season. They will need to find a way to get into a rhythm early and limit the turnovers if they want to have a shot at winning this game.

The Cardinals are the heavy favorites but we have seen some strange events occur this season. However, I don’t think we will be seeing anything quite that strange this weekend. I’m taking the Cardinals to win putting all the pressure on San Francisco and keeping their name in the wildcard scramble.

Rams (4-6)- Bye

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