A Way-Too-Early divisional outlook for the LA Rams
After Week 4 saw the first divisional matchups take place for the NFC West, Week 5 had two more important divisional matchups. Although it’s too early to crown a winner in any division, the NFC West race is starting to take shape.
After last week’s impressive showing against the LA Rams, the Arizona Cardinals looked like the real deal again this week by beating the San Francisco 49ers 17-10. They now have a 5-0 record and are the only undefeated team in the league for the second straight week. It wasn’t the most dazzling performance, but being able to pull out this win was an excellent test for the Cardinals.
The other Week 5 game was earlier in the week when the LA Rams traveled to Seattle and won a very weird game 26-17. Today, the Rams sit at 4-1, with their only loss coming to the undefeated Cardinals. The 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks are now both 2-3.
Every team in the NFL has to deal with injuries in some form or fashion, but the 49ers and Seahawks are officially hampered. Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was injured in the loss to the Rams and will reportedly miss the next 4 weeks at least with a severely sprained finger. Depending on when he is actually able to come back, an injury like this could quash Seattle’s hopes of repeating as division champs and make a wildcard appearance unlikely as well.
The 49ers have been hurt in a different way. Instead of losing out on their most important player, their roster has been nicked and scratched at every turn (especially running backs and secondary). In Week 5, they were missing their starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo and all-pro TE George Kittle for their matchup against the Cardinals.
Since their starting quarterback went down, the 49ers started rookie QB Trey Lance against the Cardinals. As with most rookies, he showed flashes of competency mixed with all sorts of inconsistency. Because the NFC West is so brutal, they have to turn things around immediately to salvage a chance of winning the division.
Moving forward, the 49ers are on thin ice, but if they were able to squeak out a win these last three weeks (instead of close losses), they would be in much better shape. They have the talent to turn things around if their injury luck changes. The Seahawks are in a bit more trouble. Not only are they hoping that Wilson makes a quick recovery, but when healthy, they still have major questions when Wilson does play.
The path to the playoffs is much clearer now
As mentioned previously, the Rams’ first five games were brutal, and to get out of it with a 4-1 record is nothing short of impressive. In the NFL, it’s important to maintain composure no matter who you play, but the next three weeks look easy compared to how the season started.
If the Rams are able to take care of business when they play the banged-up New York Giants, winless Detroit Lions, and the mismanaged Houston Texans, they will be in decent shape for when the schedule gets tougher later on in the season. During that three-week span, the Cardinals have two tough games, first traveling to Cleveland to face the Browns and eventually hosting the Green Bay Packers.
Even though the Rams are behind the Arizona Cardinals in the standings, and will face them on the road in their next matchup, they shouldn’t be scared of anybody. The Rams are a veteran team that understands winning the division would be a boon, but they also understand that they have to focus on what’s in their control, and that’s playing to the best of their ability. If they continue to do that, and considering the Cardinals are legitimate contenders, the race for the NFC West, and perhaps a first-round bye, could go down to the wire.