NFC West Round-Up; Niners vs Saints is the Big Game This Week
As we head down the stretch in the final six weeks of the 2012 NFL season, the NFC West is clearly a two-team race but both teams have designs on very different things. The San Francisco 49ers lead the division and while the division is important, so too is the race for home-field advantage. The Seattle Seahawks are not that far behind the Niners and have a meeting left with them at home, but just making the playoffs right now has to be the goal.
For Arizona and St. Louis, one more loss for either team and they can start setting their sights on the 2013 NFL Draft. Ironically, that one loss will come this Sunday when the Rams and Cardinals hook up in the desert. The Cards have lost six in a row while the Rams are 0-3-1 on the road this season.
The Standings: San Francisco 7-2-1, Seattle 6-4, Arizona 4-6, St. Louis 3-6-1
Seattle (-3) at Miami – The Dolphins have now lost three straight after getting themselves in seemingly good position to make a run at the Patriots in the AFC East. QB Ryan Tannehill has looked like a rookie of late after looking pretty good for earlier stretches of the season. The Seahawks make their longest trip of the season and must be ready to play despite the travel issues.
The plan for Seattle will be pretty simple. Get Marshawn Lynch going in order to set up Russell Wilson in the play-action passing game. The plan really isn’t that different for Miami as they’ll need some semblance of a running game to help keep Tannehill upright. Look for Seattle to bring a lot of pressure early and keep the pressure on Tannehill. The Dolphins looked pretty bad on national TV against the Bills in a must-win game so I don’t really see much different here. Take the Seahawks to cover.
St. Louis (1.5) at Arizona – Larry Fitzgerald is starting to become like the missing kid on the side of the milk carton. He’s coming off one his worst games as a pro where he had only one catch and several drops, Much of it really isn’t his fault because of the revolving door at quarterback. It looks like rookie Ryan Lindley getting the start this week with John Skelton just not performing. In fact, last week Skelton was pulled despite a 13-0 lead at Atlanta.
The one potential positive for St. Louis is that running back Steven Jackson seems to be getting healthier and better as the season wears on. If he can get after the Cards’ rushing defense in order to take pressure off Sam Bradford then the Rams will have their game-plan all set. Larod Stephens-Howling will be attempting to do the same after a big week last week in Atlanta. Arizona will need every bit of running game they can get to help out Lindley. As much as I’d like to take the Rams here, I’m not. I like the Cards at home to win.
San Francisco (-2) at New Orleans -The Saints have won three in a row to get back to 5-5 on the season after starting the season so horribly. The Niners come in off a complete beat-down of the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. Even with the huge victory, there came questions about who would be the starter at QB after the tremendous performance by Colin Kaepernick. The young man from Nevada was filling in for Alex Smith who was out with a concussion. Jim Harbaugh didn’t do much to settle the situation by saying he’ll go with the ‘hot hand.’
Reports so far this week have indicated that Kaepernick will get the start and this one will be far different as his Niners go on the road to the Superdome. The San Francisco defense may be the ‘X-factor’ in the game as they will look to disrupt the passing attack of Drew Brees and the Saints. The problem for San Fran is that the Saints suddenly have a running game that must not be ignored. I like New Orleans in this one simply because I don’t think starting Kaepernick is the right play and it could divide the locker room. Look for the Saints to be opportunistic on defense and they’ll need to be. I like the Saints to win at home.