The St. Louis Rams (3-5) had week 9 off to rest up and hopefully return to health because they will need it as they travel to San Fransisco to face the division leading 49ers (6-2). The 49ers are also coming off of their bye week so any advantage the Rams would usually hope to gain from the extra preparation has been wiped out. This is a critical point in the season for any NFL team, for those teams that are below .500 it is your last chance to turn things around and push for the playoffs, for those teams above .500 it is your opportunity to put some space between you and the rest of the pack with an eye towards the playoff. The Rams are certainly in the first category and desperately clinging to their playoff hopes, however if they can’t figure out how to pull off a few upsets during the final 8 games of the season they will be watching the playoffs from home. The 49ers have opened this week as 11 point favorites at home, and it is hard to argue against that point spread given the whooping the St. Louis Rams received in their last game. I don’t expect the 49ers to beat the Rams by double digits but I’m also not too optimistic about the Rams chances for a win this weekend. While the Rams and 49ers were relaxing and enjoying their week off the rest of the division was in action as the Cardinals lost their 5th straight game at Green Bay and the Seahawks defeated the Vikings at home despite a huge performance by Adrian Peterson. Since this is the Behind Enemy Lines article I will get started on the Seahawks talking points.
Russell Wilson. This should probably just be a permanent bullet point in this article. The rookie signal caller had a very efficient game against the Vikings completing 16/24 passes for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns. Of course the Seahawks still generated more rushing yards than passing yards, but Wilson made some nice plays in this game and has continued to generate some “best QB in the division” buzz. I do believe that Wilson has outplayed expectations and is ahead of the curve, but lets not get too carried away with his “greatness”. Wilson did only take one sack in this game, but he also only threw the ball 24 times. The Seahawks only managed to convert 4/12 3rd down opportunities, with an offense that is averaging 4.3 yards per carry a “great” QB would convert on closer to 50% of his opportunities. As a point of comparison, Denver converted on 9/14 3rd down opportunities while averaging only 2.6 yards per carry! Yes I know it is ridiculous to compare Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson but when people start throwing the term “great” around they open themselves up to criticism.
Run Defense. The Minnesota Vikings absolutely destroyed the Seattle Seahawks on the ground in Sunday. Adrian Peterson carried the ball 17 times for 182 yards and 2 TDs, with 12 carries for 144 yards and 2 TDs in the first half. The confusing part is why did the Vikings only give Peterson the ball 5 times in the second half? Is it because they had a red hot quarterback? Or was it because they had fallen so far behind their only option was to pass? Nope, neither of those scenarios happened, their decision to abandon their best player when he was so clearly dominating the opposition is mind blowing. The Seahawks have now given up a league high 502 yards on the ground (6.2 ypc) in their last 3 games after opening the season as one of the leagues best run defenses. Of course to be fair two of their games were against Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson. The Seahawks will host the New York Jets this weekend, which should help their defense look top tier again.
Pete Carroll. I am sure I am not the only one who wonders how Pete Carroll gets mentioned in conversations for Coach of the Year. When I see people put him on those lists I wonder to myself, is it because he is a first time coach whose team is performing well above expectations? No? Is it because he has gotten a very limited roster to perform above expectations? No? Well perhaps it is because he has shown his coaching prowess in close games against relatively evenly matched teams and come out on top? No? In fact in going 0-3 within the division his teams lost largely because they were out coached by the opposition, not because of some clear talent advantage. In fact the Rams and Cardinals are arguably less talented than the Seahawks. Sure the Seahawks division losses all came on the road, but so what? Well coached teams that are truly contenders can win games on the road, especially against inferior opponents. All of that being said I hope that Pete Carroll leads his Seahawks to another spectacular 7-9 finish that earns him a big contract extension.