Week seven of the 2012 NFL regular season was in many ways the defining week for the teams in the NFC west. Though there is still a lot of football left to be played for these four teams, week seven was the week where the teams truly found out where they stand amongst their NFC west rival peers. With the San Francisco 49ers playing their first divisional game of the season, each team has now played at least one contest against a rival within their hierarchy. Only now can there be a true estimate of how they measure up to one another in the power rankings.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers got back on track this week with a win against their divisional foe Seattle Seahawks bringing their record to 5-2 on the season. The highly contested battle saw the 49ers get back to their roots and lean heavily on the rushing attack of Frank Gore. When they step away from the formula of Gore opening up the offense is when they get themselves in a bind, which they have done in their two losses. The week seven offensive scheme may have been the light bulb effect that can keep them on the winning path. With a stout defense that no NFL team wants to face off against and a commitment to their running game, the 49ers look as formidable as any team in the league.
Unfortunately for the 49ers, their remaining schedule does not offer a lot of room for error. They will really need to stick to their winning formula to overcome such difficult opponents. Next week they travel to Phoenix to play a Cardinals team that is desperate to right their own ship. If divisional rivals aren’t tough enough, the 49ers have the added weight of the Cardinals angry to get their season headed back in the right direction. Also still to come are the talented Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, and New England Patriots.
Seattle Seahawks: Week sevens loss to the 49ers was heartbreaking for their future in 2012. Not only did they lose to a divisional rival, but they also dropped their third division game. A trip to the playoffs was a distinct possibility prior to their 49ers game. Now the outlook is not nearly as clear, especially when one considers tiebreaker rules for wild card positions. They still however, at 4-3 overall and 0-3 in the division, get the nod for the second spot on the NFC west power ranking totem pole. The Seahawks are a much better team than their record indicates. They have a ruthless and determined defense, an offense that has the ability to wear down the opposition, and a coaching staff that creates motivation with their free wheeling style. It is a shame and a travesty that they are sitting with a record that may ultimately keep them from playoff contention. They will really have to turn the tide to make them a viable selection to the post season.
They will really be tested from here on out too. Their remaining schedule just might be the toughest in the league. If they muster up the strength and courage to overcome these remaining hurdles to give them a shot at the playoffs, then there is a real possibility that it’s the Seahawks who are celebrating in the end. Next week they take on the reeling Detroit Lions, who are also not nearly as bad as their record indicates. From that point it’s all an uphill battle, against the likes of the Minnesota Vikings, the New York Jets, the Chicago Bears, and the 49ers again. Not to mention the other divisional rivals the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals that they have already lost to once before.
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals are in free fall at this point in the season, their week seven loss to the Vikings was their third straight after starting the season 4-0. Now with a record of 4-3, it looks as if bleeding will not cease for some time. Their biggest flaw, and the reason that they are in serious jeopardy of not winning any of their remaining games, is their offensive line. The offensive line has been horrific for the better of the season thus far. In the last four games they have allowed 29 sacks on the quarterback, and it appears that the trend will continue. They have already lost two quarterbacks to injury in just seven games. Though their original starting quarterback has been deemed healthy enough to return to the field, it’s a logistical certainty that he will once again be on the injury list.
With an upcoming schedule that features some downright nasty defenses, it is more than likely that the Cardinals will continue their fall from grace. It’s not fair to count any team out this early in the year, but when the team is on life support. And still has to face the 49ers twice, the Green Bay Packers, the undefeated Atlanta Falcons, the New York Jets, the Detroit Lions, and the Chicago Bears, the expectations are very limited. It is imperative that the Cardinals get offensive line help soon, their season is in dire straits at the moment.
St. Louis Rams: The Rams again sit at the bottom of the power rankings in the NFC west for now. However, it may not be for very long. The Rams are a very talented team that has unfortunately ran into equally talented teams in three of their four losses. At 3-4 on the season, there is a great deal of optimism that they will move up the rankings in the NFC west. They have proven they are capable of beating good teams like the Seahawks and the Washington Redskins. They just have to maintain consistency through out all of their contests. They have a power running back that has the ability to carry an offense and they have a defense that has the talent to be the best in the league. Where they fall short is their commitment to their talent, much like the 49ers and Seahawks do from time to time. There is not a doubt that this team is on the rise, especially with Cardinals flailing to the ground and Seahawks rocky schedule ahead.
But it’s not going to be a picnic. They still have to take on the 49ers twice, the Tom Brady led New England Patriots, the Minnesota Vikings, the New York Jets, and the tough Seahawks. With hard work, a steadfast commitment and a little bit of luck, it is very possible that the Rams move into third or even second in the NFC power rankings. While they may not make the playoffs in 2012, it is a young team with a huge upside and limitless potential. They have already done themselves justice by performing as well as they have. It will only get better too.
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