While it may sound too soon for some and about right for others (those who find themselves in the latter category can close this tab; thanks for visiting but you’re most likely needed elsewhere), it’s week 11 of the 2019-20 NFL regular season and there are just seven short weeks of football glory left.
The 8-2 Seattle Seahawks roll into their bye week on a high note having slayed the previously undefeated San Francisco 49ers on the SF home turf in front of a national Veterans Day audience in a dramatic back-and-forth game that ended with a field goal to win it with less than a minute remaining in the overtime. Both teams lost a key player to injury during the game and will need to regroup after such an exhausting grudge match. Seattle needed and got its first signature win of the season after beating a mostly listless group of opponents en route to a 7-2 record, their two losses coming against the only quality teams they had faced prior to Monday night.
When the Seahawks get back from their well-deserved break, they will travel to Philadelphia for a showdown on Sunday Night Football.
In a top-heavy NFC West race that suddenly does not include the Los Angeles Rams (3.5 games back with 7 games to go and showing no signs of recovering from their Super Bowl hangover), this division appears to belong to either San Francisco or Seattle, and it may come down to week 17 to decide.
Here are previews of this week’s two games in the division:
Los Angeles Rams (5-4) vs Chicago Bears (4-5) Sunday 5:20 PM on NBC
There’s no nice way to say this, but the Rams appear to be interested in joining the 2016 Carolina Panthers and the 2017 Atlanta Falcons as the only teams in the last decade to fail to make the postseason the following year after losing the Super Bowl. Even if the Rams finish with a 9-7 or 10-6 record, it may not be enough in a loaded NFC. This week, the Rams draw the struggling Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football, and we will all get to see a pair of 2018 Super Bowl favorites struggle to maintain a winning record in this 2019 season. Both teams feature young supposedly good QBs who are not having their way with defenses this year, a head coach and play caller who was the darling of the NFL last season, but have faced a lot of scrutiny this year. On the flip side of the ball, both teams’ defensive coordinators have their squads near the top of the league with LA ranking 11th in yards and 15th in points, and Chicago ranking 9th in yards and 4th in points.
The Bears rank near the bottom of the league in yards per game (29th) and points (27th) while the Rams are 12th in yards and 10th in points, so it’s a head-scratcher why they aren’t putting together more wins given their schedule. With wins over the Panthers, Saints, Browns, Falcons, and Bengals, this is not a season to write home about as the Rams were 9-1 this time last season. The Rams should win this one before going on a tough second half schedule starting next week when they host Baltimore, then travel to Arizona, host Seattle, travel to Dallas and San Francisco, then host Arizona to close out their season. LA should go at least 3-3 over that stretch, which if they win Sunday would put them at 9-7, and most likely on the outside looking in.
Arizona Cardinals (3-6-1) at San Francisco 49ers (8-1) Sunday 1:05 PM on FOX
What can I say, both of these teams need a win. While the 49ers may not seem like it, they need this win to get back on track before an absolutely brutal schedule to close out their season where they host Green Bay, travel to Baltimore and New Orleans, host Atlanta and the Rams, then travel to Seattle in the final game of 2019. If they can go 5-2 over that span I’ll be very impressed since it would be too easy to overlook one of the “easier” opponents and get caught looking ahead to the next week. As badly as San Francisco needs the win, Arizona hasn’t won a game since October 20th and is just hanging on to its hope of a winning record this year, which is not honestly in its best interest with so many young players and a lack of quality depth that a higher draft pick would certainly help.
These teams played to a near stalemate two weeks ago on Thursday Night Football, so who knows—maybe when the rest of the world isn’t watching they might create the one-sided blowout many were expecting. Both teams were breaking in new players that night (WR Emmanuel Sanders for the 49ers, and Kenyan Drake for the Cardinals) so perhaps the previous game film didn’t help. They both will know each other better this time, especially with the two games occurring so close together.
I expect the 49ers to take care of business in this one, and then move on to their prime time matchup with Green Bay the following Sunday night.