We’re at the quarter mark of the season and the NFC West has been one of the NFL’s biggest surprises. For a long time this was a bottom tier division with occasional flashed of greatness, like when Kurt Warner led the Cardinals to a Superbowl appearance. But this year has been different and this division has rebuilt itself with a football fundamental, defense. So we’re handing out grades for the NFC West teams at the quarter mark of the season.
The Arizona Carinals might be the biggest surprise for the NFC West this year. Nobody outside of Arizona imagined they’d be 4-0 and in first place in their division. They had a “quarterback battle” during training camp between the annointed savior, but underachieving Kevin Kolb and John Skelton who to a degree was overachieving. But there wasn’t a clear winner and most figured they were both simply band-aids till they could draft a future franchise quarterback.
However, Skelton earned the starters role but was injured early in the season and Kolb has taken full advantage. Kolb has been to a certain degree the player they hoped for when they acquired him from Philadelphia. He’s thrown for 752 yards, with a 62.2% completion, 7 TD’s and 2 INT’s and a 97.6 quarterback rating.
The one thing that will be Arizona’s downfall is that their defense is the weakest in the division and they’ve been lucky a couple times this season, like that game against Miami, which they should have lost. Kolb almost looks like this season’s Tebow. But they’re defense right now is 15th against the run giving up barely more than a 100 yards a game and they’re 21st against the pass giving up 256 yards a game. There are capable but inconsistent at times passing offenses in this division so it might not hurt them in the long run.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The San Francisco 49ers were everyone’s favorites to win the division and probably are still everyone’s favorite to win the division. They’re sitting strong with a 3-1 record which has them in 2nd place in the division but 1st place doesn’t look out of their reach.
They’re almost top 5 in all categories except for passing offense, that’s been their achilles’ heel so far. And it’s surprising almost with the additions they made to their passing attack with wide receivers Mario Manningham and Randy Moss. They benefit though from a dominant rushing attack, 3rd best in the league at 167 yards per game. With a dominant rushing attack you can eat up the clock and keep the other offense off the field.
When the other team’s offense does get on the field though they have an uphill battle. The 49ers have one of the best defenses in the league, 5th against the pass (197.8 yards per game) and 6th against the run (79.5 yards per game). That’s what’s winning the 49ers games, and that recipe will continue to bring them success.
They lost a game to Minnesota though that they should’ve won, but rarely can a team go through the season perfect and Minnesota looks to be a real contender beating Detroit as well this year. The 49ers have also beaten Detroit and Superbowl champions Green Bay this year too.
SAINT LOUIS RAMS
No one expected the Rams to start off 2-2, and it’s almost miraculous that they have. Their schedule hasn’t been too easy so far either. They’ve played Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins. At best I think anyone had them going was 1-3 with that win coming against Seattle.
But despite losing to the the two NFC North teams, St. Louis has a some impressive victories. Right after RG3′s coming out party and demolition of the New Orleans Saints, the Rams beat them. The Rams faced Seattle who was coming off a victory against the Green Bay Packers and downed them.
But their mediocre rankings, offensively and defensively say that this team can’t continue to an 8-8 finish. They have a tough schedule ahead of them. But Jeff Fisher has taken this team in the right direction and they are making strides towards becoming a better team.
The Seattle Seahawks have been one of the biggest story lines of the season, and not necessarily for on the field success. They’ve got a solid 2-2 record, but quite frankly should be 1-3. They got the “W” against Green Bay thanks to some questionable officiating. Aside from that famous “miscall” they are also made headlines for Golden Tate’s questionable hit on Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee.
The one hurdle for the Seattle Seahawks has been they’re passing attack. It’s ranked 32nd, or dead last, in the NFL at 130.8 yards per game. Marshawn Lynch has led them however to a 6th ranked running game that averages 150.8 yards a game. Some say Russell Wilson is undersized as a quarterback and thats held the offense back.
The other thing that is working in Seattle’s favor is an improved and on the rise defense. They have the 2nd best defense against the rush in the NFL allowing 62.8 yards per game and they’re 10th against the pass at 213 yards a game. Defense wins championships and could carry Seattle this season while they work on their offensive struggles. If they’re passing attack can improve at all, not even dramatically this could be a team to look out for.