Week eight of the NFL regular season held some valuable lessons to be learned by the teams in the NFC west division. Some earned a great deal of credibility in learning what game time strategy allows them to be successful. Some learned that what counts is how you finish and not how you start, and that falling from the peak of the mountain can be the most painful experience. Some learned that they are a lot better than their record states, and that against high quality teams, it’s never over until the final whistle is blown. Some even learned that despite traveling to play in London; it is not an away game for both teams. Lessons learned; this is how they rank heading into week nine.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers really showed the division who is the alpha male amongst them by their drubbing of the Arizona Cardinals in week eight. Now at 6-2 overall and 2-0 in the division, the 49ers have a firm grasp on the leadership role in the NFC west. Week eight saw the most efficient 49ers performance in recent memory. They held fast to their successful game management, running the ball with purpose, and operating the passing game within a realm of control. Their recommitment to the style of play that got them to the NFC Championship game last year should do them justice heading into the later part of the season. Week nine is a bye week for the 49ers. They will most certainly need the time to nurse injuries and prepare for the drive into the second half of the season. The road ahead is littered with quality teams and tough divisional games.
Seattle Seahawks: Once again they play second fiddle to the 49ers in the power rankings. Though it’s not due to poor play. At 4-4 on the year, they are playing very good football right now, and there is evidence that suggests that they be considered one of the better teams in the league. To put that into perspective, they have beaten some of the more talented teams this year in the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, and New England Patriots. And the games they have lost, have been some of the year’s most competitive games. To date, they have not lost a game by more than seven points, and that game was an all out slugfest against the 49ers. Just last week they lost a game to the Detroit Lions with only 20 seconds left on the clock, a heartbreaker as they were ahead the entire game up to that point. And in the losses against the Rams and Cardinals, the Seahawks were in position to win the games, but dropped passes and mistakes allowed them to fall ever so short. They have a tough schedule ahead of them, but it has been proven that they have the talent to beat just about any team.
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals are in a world of trouble right now and are letting their hopes for a positive season slip through their fingers. They have lost four straight games, and last weeks pounding by the 49ers did not do anything for their confidence. So many clichés come to the forefront when looking at the course of the Cardinals season. "A dog that runs fast does not run far" or "great out of the gate but has no finishing speed" are just a few that brings their woes to light. With no offensive line to speak of, they have no running game, and their quarterbacks (whom ever is playing after coming off the injured reserve list from the week before) spend more time on their backs than they do upright. Right now the Cardinals lead the league, and eclipse the second worse team, in sacks allowed with 39, that’s almost five per game. To make matters worse, they also lead the lead in quarterback hits allowed with 59. If they are not careful, or do not bring in offensive line help, they just might not finish the season with a quarterback commanding the huddle. Unfortunately, the future is very bleak for the Cardinals; their remaining schedule pits them against some of the nastiest and relentless defenses in the league. It would not be out of the question to see the Cardinals lose each of their remaining games.
St. Louis Rams: The Rams are a team on the rise, not only in the NFC west, but also in the entire league. They have had their progress altered a bit by injuries this year, but it is a young team, and they will have to learn to overcome these types of adversities. Their main concern is their offensive line as well; however, they are not nearly as desperate as the Cardinals are. They too, much like the 49ers have done in the past, get away from their talent pool that makes them successful. They have a human battering ram in Steven Jackson; they need to use him more frequently if they want to elevate their success level. In four of their five losses, Jackson carried the ball 12 times or less. In two of their three wins, he ran the ball 18 times. With injuries and offensive line issues, he needs to have at least 20 rushing attempts per game. Even if the attempts are relatively unsuccessful, it still opens up the rest of the offense. They have lost their last three games up till now, but they do have the tools to turn their season around. They have a very favorable schedule ahead of them, and it stands to reason that they could finish out 4-4 or even 5-3. Either way, one can expect the Rams to move up in the NFC west rankings.PowereeecrfTags: Football, NFL, San Francisco, San Francisco 49ers