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NFC West: 49ers soaring, Cardinals falling

The NFL season’s fifth week is in the books and the NFC West became a tighter race thanks to the first place and previously unbeaten Arizona Cardinals losing their first game last Thursday against division rival the St. Louis Rams. The loss put the Cardinals into a tie with the San Francisco 49ers in first place in the division with a 4-1 record. Behind the Cardinals and 49ers are the Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both at 3-2 on the season.

The NFC West is becoming one of the stronger divisions in the NFC and NFL. The four teams have a combined record after five weeks of 14-6 and were 3-1 last weekend. What is even more impressive is the NFC West is 11-3 in games outside of their division. The division is the only division in all of the NFL that does not have a team with a losing record. The losses by Seattle (2) and Arizona (1) have all come from teams within the NFC West itself and not from teams in other divisions.

The 49ers lost to Minnesota in the third week of the season, but besides that loss the team has looked nearly picture perfect. In week five the 49ers destroyed the Buffalo Bills 45-3 gaining over 600 yards on offense, which is the most in the history of the franchise. Six different 49ers scored touchdowns on the day. The 49ers are once again the dominant team in the NFC West and will most likely finish the season that way unless Arizona or St. Louis can find a way to generate more offense.

Arizona came back down to earth last Thursday, but they are still tied for first in the division. The Cardinals lost a very tough defensive battle last Thursday against St. Louis.

Arizona is having a problem with its offensive line protecting the quarterback. The team also does not have a true tailback, which hurts them in trying to establish a running attack. Opposing teams will look to this game and study films to see how St. Louis stopped the Cardinals attack.

The Cardinals still deserve to be high in the power rankings as they are 4-1 on the season, but without a strong running game, opposing defenses will start keying on Cardinal quarterback Kevin Kolb and the passing game will come under huge pressure.

St. Louis may be in third place in the NFC West but they proved last Thursday that their defense could play. The Ram defense recorded 9 sacks against Kevin Kolb in their game against Arizona. They also gave up just 3 points in the game to a team that had been previously undefeated.

What may even be more surprising was the inconsistent offense for the Rams was able to score twice against Arizona, which has one of the best defenses in football. The Rams were also helped from great play on special teams as they kicked another 50+ yard field goal and punted seven times for an average of 56 yards, helping the Rams maintain field position throughout the game. The Rams are 2-0 in the NFC West and could be playoff contenders down the road.

Seattle was close to losing their second game in two weeks against the Carolina Panthers, but held on to win 16-12. The defense is the team leader and what keeps them in every game. The offense turned the ball over on three occasions. With a rookie quarterback in Russell Wilson, the Seahawks will have those types of errors on occasion and thanks to the defense, they are able to compensate. However, the defense will not be able to get the team out of hot water all the time.

Look for the 49ers to continue moving up in the NFL power rankings and take control of the NFC West. The Cardinals have fallen to earth and must gather themselves or they will continue to lose.

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