NFC West: Cardinals and Seahawks Attempt To Stop the Bleeding
By Brandon Burnett
Cold, Hard Football Facts Wizard of the NFC West (@B_Burnett49er)
At the conclusion of Week 4, the Arizona Cardinals were 4-0 and one of only three undefeated NFL teams.
Four weeks and four losses later, there are now 13 teams with a better winning percentage than the Cardinals. They wouldn't even make the playoffs had they started today.
Bad. Just bad.
Now, the Cards get to pack their bags just days after receiving a 24-3 beatdown by the division-rival 49ers on Monday Night Football—at home. Where are they headed, you ask?
To Lambeau Field, where the Packers have only lost once since Oct. 17, 2010. That's a 16-1 record for Aaron Rodgers and the Cheeseheads at home since that date.
I imagine the Cardinals will be welcoming their Week 10 bye with open wings.
In other NFCW news, Seattle will host the 5-3 Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink looking to stymie a losing streak of their own. The NFCW-leading Niners, 6-2 overall, will enjoy a well-deserved bye week. The Rams, 3-5 overall, are also off in Week 9. They'll spend much of their break licking their wounds after a three-game losing streak in which they were outscored 92-41.
With only two NFCW teams in action, we'll make this week's preview short and sweet. Sort of.
1. The Cardinals Can't Stop the Bleeding
A 4-4 record is much better than where Arizona found themselves at the halfway point in 2011, which was 2-6. Even so, this four-game slide feels eerily similar to the six-game losing streak the Cardinals endured a season ago.
Only the offense has been way, way worse.
During the six-game losing streak in 2011, Arizona still managed to score 19.2 points per game. During the four-game losing streak in 2012? 9.0 points per game. The defense collapsed Monday night, allowing Alex Smith to complete 18 of his 19 pass attempts for 232 yards and three scores. Aside from that, they've been doing everything necessary to keep the Cards competitive.
But it's not enough. The O-line is too beat up. They've allowed 33 sacks in the past five games and this makes the fifth straight week they've been No. 32 in our Offensive Hog Index. There's hasn't been a running game in the desert since, well, there's never really been an effective game in the desert.
The only team scoring less points per game than Arizona is the 1-6 Jacksonville Jaguars. And now they'll be expected to keep pace with a red-hot quarterback in a venue where he simply doesn't lose.
Prove us wrong, Arizona. Prove us wrong.
2. The Seahawks Can Stop the Bleeding
Unlike Arizona, the Seahawks are scoring points. Well, they only put up six in San Francisco in Week 7, but the Niners haven't allowed a touchdown in four of their last five games. In Weeks 6 and 8, Russell Wilson threw a combined five TD passes and Seattle scored 24 points in each game.
But the defense, to the surprise of many, failed them on Sunday. They allowed WR Titus Young to catch all nine of his targets, going for 100 yards and two TDs. The Lions converted on 12 of their 16 third-down attempts in the 28-24 win.
But that was one game. Seattle is still No. 6 in Bendability, despite dropping four spots in one week.
Now, the Seahawks are back home. And the Seahawks like home. They're 3-0 at CenturyLink Field in 2012, as opposed to 1-4 on the road. They'll host a struggling Vikings team who isn't packing the same punch as they were out of the gate this season.
Minnesota, who got off to 4-1 start, is allowing 29.3 PPG over the last three weeks. That comes directly after a three-game winning streak in which they allowed just 11 PPG. The only win the Vikings have since Week 5 was a 21-14 victory over those punch-less Cardinals. In the other two games, they lost 38-26 to the Redskins and 36-17 to the Buccaneers. The only quality win Minnesota has this year was their unexpected 24-13 win over the Niners.
The Vikings' defense seems to be regressing, and Wilson is progressing. Expect the Seahawks' signal-caller and RB Marshawn Lynch to have a couple of big games on Sunday, and the D will get back on track at home.
3. Could the Cardinals Catch a Break in Green Bay?
There aren't many things going Arizona's way, and while we never hope to see any team suffer a rash of injuries, the Cardinals have to take advantage of the Packers' missing pieces on Sunday.
Charles Woodson is out. Greg Jennings? Also out. Jordy Nelson, who piled up 21 catches for 243 yards and four TDs in two straight weeks, missed Week 8 and hasn't practiced this week, either.
Altogether, six starters and two backups could miss Sunday's game.
For as hot as Rodgers and the offense has been, the injuries clearly affected the Packers last week. The let the lowly Jaguars hang around until the very end, in a home game no less, before eventually emerging 24-15 winners. The Cardinals' defense is far better than Jacksonville's, and they'll have to show it this weekend.
I still wouldn't forecast an upset, but the Packers are clearly not at full strength.
Crazier things have happened, ya know.
4. The Rams are Caught in a Quality Stats Power Rankings Free Fall
After finishing as the No. 31 team in the Quality Stats Power Rankings a year ago, the Rams had to be feeling pretty good about their No. 12 ranking after Week 6 in 2012.
Now through Week 8, they're No. 25. That's quite the fall in two week's time.
St. Louis will travel to San Francisco in Week 10 to face a 49ers team that is No. 3 in the Power Rankings. The Rams lost 26-0 at Candlestick Park in 2011, so there's a good chance the free fall continues after the bye week.
Before their 45-7 drubbing in London, the Rams were No. 7 in our Defensive Hog Index. Now, they're No. 13. They dropped seven spots in both Defensive Passer Rating and Defensive Real Quarterback Rating, and six spots in Bendability.
Down, down, down.
5. Predicting Post-Week 9 NFCW Standings (3-0 in Week 8)
1. San Francisco 49ers (6-2)
No action for the Niners this week. Safe and sound in first. St. Louis doesn't look too threatening in Week 10, but a Week 11 Monday night matchup against the 6-1 Bears should be on everybody's list of must-watch events. Arguably the two top defenses in the NFL going at it? Yes please.
2. Seattle Seahawks (5-4)
The Seahawks get back on track at home against Minnesota, ending their losing slide and sending the Vikings on one of their own. The next two home games will be crucial for Seattle. With the Jets visiting in Week 10, 6-4 is a distinct possibility.
3. Arizona Cardinals (4-5)
Just like last year, this losing streak is going six games. The Cardinals won't make it out of Lambeau alive. If they do, they get the Falcons on the road after a Week 10 bye. The drought in the desert lives on.
4. St. Louis Rams (3-5)
Enjoy that respite, St. Louis. The 49ers are outscoring opponents 116-12 in their last four wins. As previously mentioned, they shutout the Rams in 2011. This one has all the makings to get ugly. And quick, too. Much like what has happened to the Rams' once promising season.
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