Sep 30, 2011; Atlanta, GA, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) celebrates a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE
Following the Thursday Night Football game, the news week for the St. Louis Rams has be relatively limited. Coach Fisher has given the team a “couple of days off,” meaning that the Rams likely won’t hit the field until Monday. However, there are some pivotal games in the NFC West to be played this today, especially after the Rams knocked off the previously undefeated Arizona Cardinals. The NFC West is the newest, toughest division in the NFL, characterized by hard-hitting defenses and good enough offenses, which have a combined 12-6 record in the league, and 9-3 outside of the division. Here is how each game could effect the division, and how Ramblin’ Fan predicts the games will play out.
Buffalo Bills @ San Francisco 49ers
After a complete-and-utter domination of the New York Jets, the San Francisco 49ers have a chance to shut out two different teams in as may weeks. The Buffalo Bills are coming off of an epic second half meltdown that allow 580 yards of total offense and 45 points, which may have single-handedly shot Brandon Bolden into the spotlight. The Bills have allowed 1626 yards (24th) through four games, including 9 passing touchdowns (26th) and 6 rushing touchdowns (T-26th), helping to result in a combined 131 points allowed (30th). Couple that with the San Francisco defense that has allowed only 1109 yards (5th) and 65 points (3rd), and the fact that the Bills will be traveling to the West Coast to play at Candlestick, and you have a recipe for a shutdown, blowout game.
If, and when, the 49ers win this game, it should cause some slight shifting in the NFC West rankings. The win would push the 9ers to 4-1, which would be tied with the Arizona Cardinals. According to the NFL rules in regards to tiebreakers for divisional winners, the Cardinals would technically still be in the top slot in the division. The rules indicate that the tiebreaker goes, first, to the winner of head-to-head matchups between the two teams, which have not occurred yet in the young season. The next ‘breaker goes to the team with the highest win-loss-tie percentage within the division, which would be the Cardinals (.500, at 1-1) ahead of the 49ers (.000, not having played against a divisional opponent). However, the mainstream NFL media would crown the 49ers the king of the division, unjustly sinking the Cardinals back into non-relevance following their loss on Thursday Night.
Seattle Seahawks @ Carolina Panthers
Sunday will likely begin the down-spiral of the Seattle Seahawks season, playing against a surprisingly 1-3 Carolina Panthers ballclub. The Panthers lost their season opener by a mere 6 points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and nearly knocked off the high-flying Atlanta Falcons last week before losing on a last season field goal. The Seahawks, on the other hand, were dominated by the St. Louis Rams defensively, picking off three passed from the rookie quarterback, and holding him to a mere 160 yards passing with no touchdowns. The lone bright spot for the team was the play of Marshawn Lynch, which they have relied on for each of their wins so far this season. While the Seattle defense does rank in the top 10 in both rushing and passing yards allowed per game, they have played against some of the more “mediocre to poor” offenses in the league this year; Green Bay (20th total yards, 20th points), Arizona (19th, 16th), Dallas (16th, 30th), and St. Louis (17th, 15th). They are allowing teams to convert on 43.1 percent of their third town attempts, have only picked off opposing quarterbacks 3 times, and mustered only 2 sacks against a makeshift St. Louis offensive line in their last game. Moreover, the Seahawks have a 0-2 record on the road with some astonishing differences in performance when away from the 12th man in Seattle. The ‘Hawks are averaging 6 less points per game on the road, have allowed 20 more points on the road than at home, and had all 5 offensive turnovers while playing outside of Seattle. The Panthers will be able to generate enough points to hold off the placid Seattle offensive attack, setting Cam Newton back on track with his second win of the season.
Some are already calling for the head of Russell Wilson after his loss to the Rams last Sunday. Following that loss with another against the Panthers will likely send Matt Flynn in as the starter, launching the Seahawks into their typical mid-year quarterback controversy. The Pete Carroll team that was supposed to the only “legitimate challenger” to 49ers in the NFC West will fall to 2-3 on the season, and 0-2 in a division that is finally garnering some attention in the NFL. Seattle will follow the likely loss to the Panthers with a home game against the New England Patriots, who have averaged 38.6 points per game on the road this season. Then the ‘Hawks are on the road against the San Francisco 49ers in Thursday Night Football divisional showdown and the Lions in Detroit before starting off the November schedule against the new-look Minnesota Vikings, who are laeding the NFC North at 3-1. The Seahawks have a legitimate chance of going 1-5 before hitting their bye in Week 11, which may become even more likely with a quarterback change. For a team that is already anchoring the bottom spot in the NFC West, with two divisional losses in as many games, a streak of those proportions could spell the end to a the Pete Carroll era in Seattle.