The power rankings in the NFC west is getting tighter and tighter as the regular season nears its end. As of right now, there is no clear standout or leader among them. Regardless of what their record state, the division is completely up for grabs between three teams. All three have a ferocious defense that has propelled them to winning big games. All three have an offense that has shown signs of mediocrity at times. Any misstep or miscalculation from this point forward can open the door for another team to take advantage of. Even losing one of the next four games can potentially ruin the chances for any of these teams.
San Francisco 49ers: At 8-3-1 on the season, they still get the nod for top spot on the totem pole. However, it is by the slimmest of margins now. Especially after losing a heartbreaker to their division rival St. Louis Rams last week. The 49ers at this point are slowly losing their grip on the NFC west division. If they lose one more game, they could potentially be out of the race for the NFC division, and even maybe the playoffs.
As all 49ers fans now know, the only thing that is certain about the team is that the defense will show up with a fiery drive to succeed. If the 49ers lose this coming week against the Miami Dolphins, expect another quarterback change. That unfortunately just may be the nail in the coffin, as the 49ers will again have to change offensive schemes. Tough to do this late in the season, especially if the replacement Alex Smith has had his confidence shaken by benching. And it’s not like the 49ers have an easy schedule ahead of them either, aside from the Dolphins next week they still have to look forward to the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle Seahawks: At 7-5 the Seahawks are in serious contention to win the NFC west and get a birth in the playoffs. And they are playing with their eyes focused on the prize ahead of them. They are charging hard and strong for the division lead, and are playing as well as anyone in the league right now. After beating the Chicago Bears last week, the Seahawks are playing with more confidence than they have had all year. And they are only one slip up by the 49ers away from taking complete control of this division.
Their defense has been playing outstanding right now. They have a rookie quarterback in Russell Wilson that is making huge strides in his game time decisions and playmaking ability. There is no doubt that he should be in the conversation of Rookie of the Year along with Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck. And not to be outdone, Marshawn Lynch is in full beast mode now, and is running rough shot over the league with bad intentions. If they keep sticking with him, they stand a very good chance of overtaking this division. Besides two tough games against the 49ers and Rams, the Seahawks have to play the hapless Cardinals and Buffalo Bills. They Seahawks stand a very good chance of winning out to take the division.
St. Louis Rams: Coming off a huge win against the 49ers last week, the Rams made a statement to the rest of the league that they are indeed a force to be reckoned with. And that they can play with anyone in the league. At 5-6-1, the Rams are playing as well as anyone in the league, and do have a legitimate shot to win the division and make the playoffs. They do need a little help from the 49ers and Seahawks, but there is a chance. And a chance is all this team is asking for. If they win out and the 49ers and Seahawks stumble down the stretch, the NFC west and playoff picture will look a lot different than expected.
Right now it appears that they have taken a page out of the Seahawks ground and pound play book, and they are running the ball with Steven Jackson with reckless abandonment. Their wide receivers have all stepped up to the challenge, and their quarterback Sam Bradford is playing at the top of his game. The rest of their schedule is a tough one, but from the standpoint of how they are playing currently, it is a very winnable one. They have the Buffalo Bills up next, followed by the Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and 49ers. And again, any miscues by the 49ers or Seahawks, and the Rams can take advantage.
Arizona Cardinals: At 4-8, the Cardinals season is pretty much over with. They have absolutely no shot at making the playoffs, let alone winning the division. After losing eight games in a row, including the one last week to the 5-7 New York Jets, their season has ultimately been a complete failure. And it started with such promise after winning their first four games. In the end they stand a chance of finishing the 2012 NFL regular season with the worst record in the league.
Last week was probably their only shot at winning another game on the year. As it stands they will more than likely not win a single game left on their schedule. They play the Seahawks this week, followed by the Detroit Lions, Bears, and 49ers. More than likely, the focus for the Cardinals has already shifted to draft preparations.
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