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NFC West Week 17 Preview

The NFL is down to the last game. The power of the NFC West has been on display over the last few weeks. This week is more of the same. The San Francisco 49ers have clinched a playoff birth already. The Seattle Seahawks have done so also. The Arizona Cardinals are able to sneak into the playoffs with a win over the 49ers along with a New Orleans Saints loss. The St. Louis Rams are not in the playoffs but can play the spoiler role. If they can beat the Seahawks in Seattle, the 49ers will become the divisional champs. Here is how the standings fall:

1) Seahawks 12-3    2) 49ers 11-4    3) Cardinals 10-5   4) St. Louis Rams 7-8

Let’s take a look at the match ups this week:

St. Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks

The Rams have the formula to go into Seattle and win. Zac Stacy is closing in on 1000 yards rushing. This is a remarkable accomplishment for an undrafted rookie free agent. Stacy ran the ball well against the Seahawks in their meeting earlier in the season. It is still yet to be determined if Tavon Austin will play this week but Stedman Bailey stepped up last week and scored his first rushing touchdown as a pro.

The Seahawks struggled in their loss to the Cardinals. Russell Wilson completed only 11 of his 27 attempts. Marshawn Lynch only averaged 3.9 yards per carry. They were only able to score ten points.

[airesizeimg src=”$-150×150$.jpg” alt=”Robert+Quinn+Seattle+Seahawks+v+St+Louis+Rams+-Jj9T-2NnQkx” class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-2780″ ]Key Matchups: Robert Quinn vs Russell Okung This is a true clash of the titans. Quinn is making his mark as one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. His pursuit of the quarterback is relentless and he has a very quick first step. Okung is looked upon as one of the best pass blockers in the NFL. Quinn will test the athleticism of Okung in this battle in the trenches.

The Verdict: Seahawks 23 Rams 14

It is hard to imagine the Seahawks losing two games in a row at Centruy Link Field. They know the importance of playing at home in the playoffs. Pete Carroll will have this team focused and ready to come out on fire from the start of the game. The Rams will be going into a bee’s nest this week. They will need to run the ball and take the crowd out of the game early. Russell Wilson will bounce back this week and take advantage of the Rams subpar secondary.

San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals

The 49ers are one of the league’s hottest teams. They are getting healthy at the right time. Michael Crabtree had his first 100 yard receiving game last week against the Atlanta Falcons, showing that he is back to form. The return of Crabtree has been a saving grace for Colin Kaepernick. He allows Kaepernick to make better decisions with the ball and for some reason the quarterback is more at ease with him in the lineup. Anquan Boldin has 1000 yards receiving and is a valid threat as well.

The Cardinals have one of the best defenses. Darryl Washington, Karlos Dansby Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson are playing at a high level. Their rushing defense is the tops in the NFL, only giving up 84.5 yards per game. They rely on keeping the game close and doing just enough on offense to win at the end.

[airesizeimg src=”$-150×150$.jpg” alt=”Michael+Crabtree+Atlanta+Falcons+vs+San+Francisco+Za7DKofKquZx” class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-2779″ ]Key Matchups: Michael Crabtree vs Patrick Peterson Crabtree has had some pretty solid games against Peterson. He had eight receptions for 172 yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinals in the season finale last year. Not all of that was against Peterson but Crabtree did beat Peterson a few times. Many analyst are saying that Peterson is the best cornerback in the NFL not named Richard Sherman. Peterson will need to prove that against the 49ers if the Cardinals are to have any shot at winning this game.

The Verdict: 49ers 13 Cardinals 10

A playoff birth is at stake for the Cardinals and a step towards a divisional tittle is at stake for the 49ers. This is rivalry week. The 49ers will look to run the ball against the Cardinals because that is their trademark. Frank Gore has had some solid games against the Cardinals. The wildcard for the 49ers is Kaepernick’s ability to scramble for big gains on third and long situations. These kind of plays deflate a defense. However, Darryl Washington is athletic and fast enough to be a valid spy on Kaepernick. That may open things up for Vernon Davis. The Cardinals sell out to stop the run so don’t be surprised if the 49ers are able to fool the them on a play action pass to Davis. Carson Palmer can be a deadly vertical passer but he has a tendency to turn the ball over as shown by his four interceptions last week. It will be a low scoring game because these two defenses are very stout. The 49ers will pull it off in the end thanks to a long distance field goal by Phil Dawson.

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Ralph Garcia


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