Last year the San Francisco 49ers ran away with the division and it seemed a forgone conclusion they would repeat that performance this year. So far San Francisco has proven to be the vanguard of the NFC with convincing wins in Lambeau over the Packers, then the Lions. However there is more than a pulse being generated by fellow NFC West teams.
The biggest upset of the season so far was the dominant defensive performance put on by the Cardinals in New England. With a 20-18 victory the Cardinals proved they’re a force to be reckoned with. All day they made Tom Brady uncomfortable with an array of blitzes and crisp tackling once he checked down to backs and receivers. A performance for the ages when you consider the offense needed Kevin Kolb to come off the bench for an offense that was outgained 387 to 245 in the game. They came up with timely stops and played a physical brand of football that kept Gillette Stadium quiet from the beginning of the game. This week they face Michael Vick and the NFL’s #1 offense at home. So far they haven’t given up more than 20 points in a game. If they can come up with another defensive gem and come out of this 3-0, look out. On top of that Kevin Kolb gets a shot at the team that traded him away. Our CEO thinks they’ll get it in this week’s upset special. Cardinals should beat the Eagles.
Lets take a look at the NFC West Standings:
So after two weeks who has the best defense in the NFC West?? A surprising look at the statistics will show you the Seattle Seahawks are 6th in the NFL in total defense. The highest ranking in the division. On Sunday they punched the Dallas Cowboys square in the mouth as they held the Cowboys to under 300 yards of offense in winning 27-7. You saw a team flying to the football when they burst out of the locker room. The special teams got into the act blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown and got the 12th man into the game.
For all the talk of Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, its time to give fellow rookie QB Russell Wilson some credit. He’s looked comfortable and hasn’t turned the football over. Did you know he has a 1.9% interception ration after two games?? Sure he has only thrown for 304 yards in two games but he has Marshawn Lynch (207 yards in 2 games) to do the heavy lifting. He will improve as the season goes on and has big play WR Sidney Rice right there to help with that development. This week is a true test as they host the Green Bay Packers. If they play with emotion and can get an early lead they could pull off another shocker. Again they need to put themselves in position to run the football at the Packers 27th against the run defense. Can they do it again?? If they do it again, how serious does the rest of the NFL have to take them?? Pete Carroll has a sneaky fast, aggressive team.
The Rams got off the canvas after a week 1 narrow defeat in Detroit and outlasted the Redskins 31-28. They had a huge game from WR Danny Amendola (the new Wes Welker) who torched the Skins for 15 rec. for 160 yards and a touchdown. However the Rams have allowed way too many yards and points per game. In week 1 they were opportunistic with 3 interceptions, including two near the goal line. Yet last week Griffin III torched them going 20 for 29 206 yards and a touchdown. His rushing for 82 yards and another 2 touchdowns kept the Rams off balance all day. Had the Redskins not incurred a dumb unsportsmanlike conduct foul, Billy Cundiff would have had a more reasonable field goal attempt. Jeff Fisher has to get his defense playing more stout and he has to get the football to RB Steven Jackson. Right now Sam Bradford is completing 71% of his passes (508 yds / 4TDs/1int) in what has become a bounce back season for him. Can they beat the Chicago Bears (with 10 days off) this week?? Not sure about that one but they better bring a defense.
Which brings us back to last week’s marquee matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions. In a 27-19 win again showed a penchant for smash mouth straight ahead football. With teams rushing themselves in exotic 4 receiver sets, this team lines up with H-Backs, multiple tight end sets and comes off the ball like a team of yesteryear. They have a battering ram in Frank Gore (89 yards / 1TD against Detroit) and Kendall Hunter (23 yards) to keep him fresh. Understand the old axiom: Rushing the football with power wears down the defense late in games. They impose their will on their opponent.
Do you realize we have to go back 9 games (incl. playoffs) to find the last time Alex Smith threw an interception?? That’s going back to November 24th against the Ravens. How about the fact Smith has only thrown 6 interceptions in his last twenty three games?? That is a phenomenal number. His stat line is 40 of 57 (70.2%) for 437 yards and 4 touchdowns on the new season. Can you say Pro Bowl quarterback?? The Chancellor can. There are some pessimistic fans who are waiting for the old Alex Smith to show up but they need to wake up. The team still hasn’t really worked LaMichael James and Randy Moss totally in the mix yet. It’s scary as to how good this San Francisco team can be. Right now the league is playing right into their hands from a tactical standpoint. If everyone keeps lining up and passing, passing, passing…this team will continue to come off the ball and beat teams that are playing too high. Better get your pad level low. The second you do, Smith is popping up and off play action is getting the ball downfield to one of the best tight ends in football.
Right now this is the best team in the NFL. Looking ahead, they go to Minnesota then off to the New York Jets. Unless they lose a game where they’re weary from travel, it’s hard to find a spot on their schedule where you can see a loss coming. However it looks like some of the best competition surprisingly may come from inside their own division. Arizona is looking the strongest and split with the Niners last year and don’t look now but the season finale has these two playing it out in Candlestick. Could be a big one brewing there.
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