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Could the NFC West Suddenly Be One of the Toughest Divisions in Football?

Sam Bradford

Bradford and the Rams have won three straight.

OK, throw the Arizona Cardinals out of that equation for right now. Anytime you lose 58-0 in a professional football game the word ‘tough’ should not be used within a 100-yard radius of you. With that said, this division has suddenly taken on the look of a potentially brutal one as San Francisco, Seattle and St. Louis could be primed for several years now to be really, really good.

You already know about the Niners and the Seahawks as they head for a collision-course match-up in Seattle next week, but how about these St. Louis Rams? They’re unbeaten against the 49ers this year (1-0-1) and have won three in a row. They don’t always win pretty but that’s typical Jeff Fisher-style football dating back to his days as a player with the Bears and as a coach of the Oilers/Titans. At 6-6-1, the Rams are not yet entirely out of the playoff race. Unlikely though their chances are, stumbles by three or four teams ahead of them combined with a few more wins could amazingly get this team into the post-season. Again, this is unlikely, but it remains a possibility.

Regardless of how or where the Rams finish in 2012, the ground-work has been laid by Fisher and his coaching staff. Last week’s win in Buffalo was a perfect example of how this team is being molded like it’s coach. They didn’t play particularly well, but scratched and clawed their way to a late score and a win over the Bills.

All three of these clubs have fairly young talent at key positions and could be very dangerous for several more seasons. If the Cards can ever get a quarterback and offensive line settled, they aren’t far off either. Yes, that’s a big ‘if’ but stranger things have happened in the National Football League and in shorter time. I’ll be observing this division closely over the next few seasons.

The Standings: San Francisco 9-3-1, Seattle 8-5, St. Louis 6-6-1, Arizona 4-9

The Games This Week

Minnesota (+3) at St. Louis – One of the very teams I mentioned that St. Louis needs to jump over is the Vikings and the Rams get them at their house this week. Minnesota is coming off of a very big win over rival Chicago and has the hottest player in the league right now in Adrian Peterson. It’s very possible with three more big games that Peterson could be within reach of 2,000 yards rushing on the season. Therefore, I look for the Rams to load the box and force Christian Ponder to beat them.

Offensively, the Rams will counter with a pretty nice back of their own in Steven Jackson who has picked it up a bit over the last few weeks. Ultimately, this game will come down to the passers and I favor Sam Bradford at home. Take the Rams to win by a touchdown.

Bobby Wagner

Rookie Bobby Wagner is becoming a defensive force for the Seahawks.

Seattle (-6) at Buffalo (Rogers Centre, Toronto) – The Bills stage their annual home game in Canada by hosting the Seahawks this weekend. Buffalo has been oh so close so many times this season but sometimes just can’t get out of their own way. This is the fifth straight year for the ‘away’ home game in Toronto and to this point the Bills are 2-2 having won their last two there.

The Seahawks come in having won two straight and are nipping at the heels of the 49ers. I like the Seahawks to win, but I’m going with the Bills to cover.

Detroit (-6.5) at Arizona – How do I even come up something on this game? Ken Whisenhunt is on his way out and a Lions’ loss could spell doom for Jim Schwarz. Take the Lions to cover here.

San Francisco (+6) at New England – Easily the game of the week in the NFL, the Pats are coming off a monster win over Houston and the Niners come in off a win against Miami. The Patriots did a superb job of protecting Tom Brady last week and they’ll need to do it again versus Aldon Smith and the Niners’ pass rush. Don’t be a bit surprised to see Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead get lots of carries early in this game.

The San Francisco offense will need balance in order to beat a very fast New England defense. Large doses of Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore will be joined by some play-action pass as well. I look for the Niners to attmept to make a statement in this one. Take the Niners to keep it within six but the Pats will win.

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