NFC West Round-Up: Niners Assert Dominance

Aldon Smith

Smith and the Niners' defense held Arizona to just seven yards rushing.

I guess I was fooled and I doubt I’m the only one. I really expected a much closer game than we saw Monday night in Arizona as the San Francisco 49ers went into University of Phoenix Stadium and crushed the Cardinals 24-3 behind powerful defense and an efficient offense.

In some ways, you could argue the Arizona defense played the Niners’ defense to a draw as they limited the 49ers’ offense to just 317 yards of offense. The problem was simply balance. San Francisco had it while the Cardinals weren’t even close. The Cards were held to a ridiculous seven total yards on the ground and even though QB John Skelton threw for 290 yards and a pick, it wasn’t nearly enough. Until the Cardinals can get a steady, franchise-type quarterback, their defense will have to carry them and even that cannot happen week in and week out.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Alex Smith had pretty darn good game. The oft-maligned one went 18 for 19 for 232 yards and three touchdowns. His only incompletion was a drop. If San Francisco can get that type of efficiency and accuracy from Smith each week it will be very hard to beat them in any type of game.

The Standings: San Francisco 6-2, Arizona 4-4, Seattle 4-4, St. Louis 3-5

The Week Ahead…

St. Louis and San Francisco are are their bye weeks.

Arizona (+10 1/2) at Green Bay – The Arizona Cardinals started 4-0 and have now last four straight games as their offense now borders on anemic. Following a physical beating at home at the hands of the 49ers, the Cardinals now have to go to Green Bay on a short week to play the Packers. QB Kevin Kolb is still a question mark with his rib injury and if I had to wager a guess I’d suggest he isn’t going to play at Lambeau.

John Skelton

Skelton must play well in order for the Cards to have a chance at Green Bay.

While this Packers team is still very dangerous, it’s clear that this year’s version is not nearly as good as last year’s 15-1 team was. For starters, there are injury problems. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who is becoming a favorite target of Aaron Rodgers will be limited with a leg issue and may not even play. They will also be without Charles Woodson in the secondary as well. As is usually the case with Green Bay, their running game is a lesser valued commodity than the passing game is.

The Cardinals defense is very tough and aggressive and I believe they will make life difficult for Rodgers and will eliminate any sort of running game the Packers will attempt. While Rodgers has proven he can carry a team with the pass exclusively, he also becomes a prime target for a defense that sacked Alex Smith four times Monday night. I like the Packers to win this one, but I love the Cards to keep it close. Play Arizona here even on the road.

Minnesota (+5) at Seattle – Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll said Sunday this team was really close to being 8-0 on the season rather than 4-4. One could also suggest his team could 3-5 if not for the gift from the replacement official gods against the Packers. Bottom line here is the Seahawks need a win desperately and with a wounded Vikings’ team coming to the Pacific Northwest this looks like a perfect opportunity.

Minnesota last played on Thursday night at home in Minneapolis where they were soundly beaten by the Tampa Bay Bucs. The Vikings are like most teams in that every game is a must-win one, but being tied for second with the Packers and trailing the Bears makes this one even more crucial. First and foremost, Christian Ponder has to play better. He can do that by getting a solid outing from Adrian Peterson and the offensive line.

For Seattle, the defense needs to pick it back up a little bit and that can start at home with a raucous crowd that fuels the team. I like Seattle to win this one, but I like the Vikes to keep it within five simply because I don’t think either team is playing their best right now.

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