NFC West Week Three – Seattle’s Struggles Continue, Rams Running Away With The Division

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After two weeks, the Rams and 49ers are the only teams with a win, and the Rams even have two wins already, while the 49ers sit at 1-1, and the rest of the division is two weeks behind sitting at 0-2. While one game here or there may not seem like a lot, it can be a mountain to overcome late in the season, so the rest of the division should pick up the pace now while there are still 14 games to go, and not later in the year when one loss could ruin everything.

While I fully expect the Rams to face adversity at some point (no, shaking off rust after skipping the preseason and tying the Raiders during the first half of week one on the road on a dirt field against an offense they’ve never seen before doesn’t count), that certainly didn’t happen in week two as Arizona did everything but retire at halftime while getting shutout 19-0 at the break, ultimately losing 34-0. The Cardinals have now been outscored 58-6, or a two week average of 29-3. The only thing more embarrassing than scoring zero points is your starting QB (Sam Bradford) putting up 90 passing yards, and your superstar RB (David Johnson) rushing for just 48 yards. The Rams defense is great, but not 70’s Steelers great, not yet anyway. Being held to fewer than 150 total yards in today’s NFL with all of the rules bent toward allowing video game stats is beyond ridiculous. Even if we add in their week one yardage, Bradford has passed for just 243 yards, and Johnson has contributed 85 yards on the ground for a per-game average of 164 yards.

If you didn’t know, I’ll tell you – the Cardinals are in deep trouble, and I have little confidence Steve Wilks is the solution. Guys have made the jump from one decent year as a top assistant to head coach before, but this isn’t going well. Like Willie Taggart levelof not going well. We’ll see if a change to Josh Rosen at QB helps matters, but it is increasingly rare for a rookie to catapult a team of struggling veterans. And for the record, I don’t think former head coach Bruce Arians can help this team even if he wanted to, you don’t just up and retire from a good team on the rise. It might be a job only Jeff Fischer could screw up more, and he is available in case you or the Cardinals were wondering. The Bears come to town in week three (they are who we thought they were!), and if the Cards don’t at least compete in that game, it could be time to bench everyone.

Moving on!

Seattle has played two close games, and admittedly has looked better than I thought they would, but has yet to win a game in 2018 (they closed out their 2017 campaign on December 31st). We’ll see what they have in store for the visiting Cowboys in week three, but until this passing attack blows up a quality defense, I’m not sold on this team getting to .500 by season’s end as the defense has plenty of question marks and the running game isn’t consistent enough. They get to play their home opener this week which is usually enough for teams to get right after a short losing streak, but we’ll see. For the record, since the league re-aligned to four team divisions in 2002, just 11 percent of teams that started 0-2 have made the playoffs. So not to sound crazy and say week three is “must-win”, but that number drops to less than three percent on teams that started 0-3 since 1980. So…week three is officially must-win, but no pressure.

Speaking of pressure, the 49ers travel to Kansas City in week three to take on Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Personally I hope Mahomes/Mahomie is the new favorite nickname for every friend you have, replacing “bro, bra, bruh, homes, holmes, and broseph” by the end of the year. Let’s work on that as a group. Did I mention the dude has 10 TDs in two games? That’s crazy on a level that is yet crazyier (I left the y in there to illustrate the crazyiness). You can’t find anyone that has ever done that before. Why?? Because no one ever has! We are all trying to change the game in our own way, but none of us has ever changed it like he has. He was supposed to be a project that would evolve over time, not a crazy hybrid of John Elway and Peyton Manning. By the way, Jimmy G has to face this guy while working with a bare cupboard and in the second loudest home stadium in the NFL.

I had faith in Jimmy G after he narrowly lost to the Vikings but I actually lost faith in his close win over Detroit. I’ll give you the Lions were hungry after being embarrassed in week one, but the 49ers were at home and had their own issues to work on. Instead it was a close game the 49ers barely won, and they could be 0-2 as easily as 2-0. They are 1-1, and seem to have picked up where they left off last year with an underrated team that plays beyond their ability.

That unshakable confidence could end when they meet the Kansas City BuzzsawsChiefs this week.

The Rams are really the only team I like this week as they host the cross-town Chargers in what could be an epic showdown , or just the Rams dismantling another offense past their prime. The LA b-squad rolls in to town after losing to the KC Buzzsaws, then slicing and dicing the listless Bills. The artist formerly known as “San Diego” and can score on just about anyone, but they struggle to stop good offenses. With Joey Bosa sidelined, their pass rush looks average and the secondary looks just ok. The run game one-two punch of Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler harkens back to the days of Michael Turner and Darren Sproles, and maybe even better. Philip Rivers still throws from his shoulder better than anyone, and the battle for LA should be fun to watch. But that Rams defense looks scary good, I expect them to wreak enough havoc to hold off the Chargers.

Arizona…what can I say? I have as much faith in them as they have scored points. I understand why scoring on the Rams was difficult, but you couldn’t score more than six points against a team that just lost handily to the Colts? Granted teams match up differently but this is just sad. I expect another rough loss for them against the Bears and then maybe some wholesale changes in week four when they realize their season has already ended a month in to the season. It’s not good timing after signing a monster deal, but it might be time for David Johnson to request a trade to a team in contention.

And finally, back to the Seahawks. Dallas is in a similar position, down to just two star players on offense and a relatively unknown on defense. But they have Ezekiel Elliot and a capable passing game, so I expect the Seahawks to keep it close but to come up short. Seattle is shorthanded seemingly everywhere, and until they have a player breakout on either side of the ball, I just have a hard time picking them over quality teams. Even if they were healthy I would question taking them over decent opponents. Dallas has issues of their own on both sides of the ball, and they aren’t going to light any teams up through the air, but their ground game is great and they can play enough defense to get by. That takes some pressure off of Dak Prescott to complete passes to guys you’ve never heard of. The Cowboys can limit Seattle’s opportunities by keeping them off the field via the run game, and then put pressure on Wilson to score quickly with a limited supporting cast and average protection, and we’ve seen how that goes.

Through two games, Wilson has completed 41 of 69 passes for 524 yards with 5 TDs, 3 INTs and one fumble to go along with 12 sacks. Simply put, Seattle cannot win playing this way. They do not have the playmakers on the perimeter until Doug Baldwin is back and they are still figuring out their new offensive scheme and their running game, and more importantly, who they want running the ball. There is too much pressure on Wilson to make up for the lack of established talent on both sides of the ball.

They have looked competitive against two quality teams but their two losses have been more their shooting themselves in the foot with poor execution than their opponents simply being better.  If Wilson continues to get hit at the rate he has the last two weeks, it’s only a matter of time before the team has to turn to a backup as he recovers from a serious injury.  Of course in the NFL winning fixes everything but a win this week against Dallas could just gloss over some deep concerns.

In a strange twist, even Pete Carroll admitted Wilson is trying to do too much, and he should calm down and live to fight another play. That’s easier said than done when your best options are bad and you’re constantly in undesirable yardage situations, but that’s sometimes the life of an $84.6M player that touches the ball on every offensive play and has watched many of his most impactful teammates leave in the last couple of seasons.

Again, a win on Sunday could fix everything, but some of these issues go beyond winning, it illustrates that the core is not as deep as it once was. There is plenty of talent on the roster, but most of these guys have never played together before this year, that’s going to take time to develop and produce wins, and it might not happen all that frequently this year. Take it as one person’s hot take if you must, but the trend they are on is not inspiring confidence.

In the meantime, the Rams look primed for an even bigger year than 2017, and may see the Buzzsaws in the Super Bowl. You can’t count on that, so I for one am extremely excited for the week 11 showdown in Mexico between the Los Angeles Carneros and the Kansas Ciudad  Jefes (or Kansas Ciudad Zumbido Sierras if you’ve been following along).

Best of luck to all teams in the division this week, and hopefully we can keep the trend alive of a new team getting a win each week. And hopefully that team is Seattle, and not the Cardinals.

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Casey Mabbott

Casey Mabbott is a writer and podcast host born and raised in West Philadelphia where he spent most of his days on the basketball court perfecting his million dollar jumpshot. Wait, no, that’s all wrong. Casey has spent his entire life here in the Pacific NorthWest other than his one year stint as mayor of Hill Valley in an alternate reality 1985. He’s never been to Philadelphia, and his closest friends will tell you that his jumpshot is the farthest thing from being worth a million bucks. Casey enjoys all sports and covering them with written words or spoken rants. He has made an art of movie references, and is a devout follower of 80's movies and music. I don't know why you would to, but you can probably find him on the street corner waiting for the trolley to take him to the stadium or his favorite pub, where he will be telling people the answers to questions they don’t remember asking. And it only goes downhill from there if he drinks. He’s a real treat.

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