Even with Seattle taking the week off, week six was still a sight to behold.
On Sunday night, Los Angeles travelled to San Francisco looking to shorten the gap between the Rams and Seahawks against a struggling 49ers squad. It was not to be, as the 49ers showed much more poise on offense than they had in recent memory, and caught the Rams off guard in a 24-16 victory while evening their record at 3-3 to remain in competition for the division. As bad as the 49ers have looked at times in this still young season, being .500 is honestly a testament to their team and their ability to overcome adversity. Perhaps no other well-respected franchise has had as much attrition so early, but they appear to be rebounding, at least for now. For the Rams, they get back on the road with more questions than answers, as they just cannot seem to avoid trap games. Now that they are done with their tour of the NFC East, we’ll see what they can do against opponents that know how to hit back. That starts with a game against Chicago this week, and while the Bears have not looked dominant, they have found multiple ways to win against a variety of opponents.
On Monday night, Arizona travelled to Dallas for what many assumed would be a well and evenly fought battle, but all of us (myself included) were mistaken. The Cardinals struck first, struck hard, and showed absolutely no mercy in a 38-10 dominant victory. The Cowboys were missing QB Dak Prescott, and replacement starter Andy Dalton was not able to carry the offense the way Dak can. There was plenty of blame to go around, as the offense and defense struggled collectively, and Arizona looked like a team ready to turn the corner from rebuilding to competing. They get the rested and healthier Seahawks this week, and that should be among the best games of the week.
Seattle now stands two games ahead of their closest division rival (based on winning percentage), and could make that gap even wider with a win this week and a Rams loss. Right now this is the only division where all four teams have a .500 record or better, so the rumors about this being the NFL’s most competitive division are true after all.
So what can we expect this week?
San Francisco At New England, Sunday 1:25pm on CBS
What would we have given to have seen this showdown at any point last year? Tommy vs Jimmy, the defending champions vs the upstart and newly elite. Instead, we get it this year, when the Patriots have a struggling offense, and their defense is also severely lacking – and yet they are still head and shoulders above where many of us think the 49ers stand. Jimmy looked better last week than he has all year, but it was still just barely enough to keep his team afloat against an opponent that did almost nothing for three quarters. He did get the upset win at home though, which is also a first this year, so credit where credit is due. Cam Newton is a more than worthy adversary, but even for a guy that spent what feels like two decades in Carolina throwing to guys we have never heard of, he seems to be seriously lacking playmakers in his first year on the upper east coast. Both guys are in systems tailored to their strengths, but we might have to live with the fact that other than an ideal season here or there, neither QB is truly elite. San Francisco has been competitive in all but one game this year, so while I think they will keep it close, I also believe the Patriots will take care of business at home and perhaps need this one a bit more than the 49ers do. But that Denver game looked pretty bad a week ago and that was at home also, so don’t take my word for it. With the Seattle game shifting to Sunday night, you might get more of a chance to watch this game than you’d like to. With this being a rare 49ers game broadcast on CBS, if you don’t have a ton of interest in this game, you can flip over to FOX for the Raiders-Buccaneers game that should be good if it lives up to the hype.
Seattle At Arizona, Sunday 5:20pm on NBC
The Seahawks are rested and fresh off a bye week following their surprising 5-0 start. The Cardinals looked average for a few weeks, not doing many impressive things, but not looking too bad either. Despite beating up an inferior opponent that just seemed to want to get back on the bus, they looked elite last Monday night. Including Monday’s game, this will be the 5th prime time game for the NFC West in two weeks. If you didn’t already know this was the division the NFL wants you to see, now you know – it’s no longer just a regional thing. We know Seattle can score as well as any team, and finally has the week to week stars to be nearly matchup proof. We know Arizona has a versatile and deadly attack on both sides, and with DeAndre Hopkins on the team, they also have the playmakers week to week to line up with just about anyone. Two weeks ago, I would have said this game should easily be in Seattle’s favor. But the Seahawks struggled against Miami and Minnesota, even though they won both games, and now have had the last week off. Did that help them get their poise back, or did they accumulate rust? We’ll find out Sunday night I suppose. As for Arizona, was the Dallas game the new normal, or were the Cowboys just overmatched for an entire game for the first time this season without their superhero QB to bail them out? I would bet on the latter, but you never know for sure in this 2020 season. Seattle will be the first team Arizona has played that has a winning record, and while you can’t read into that as much as you used to, it still matters. Seattle doesn’t have much left to prove, and one could argue the Cardinals need to win this game to prove the last game wasn’t a fluke. Whichever is true, we’ll find out on Sunday night, but I expect Seattle to take care of business even if they allow the game to be more competitive than it probably should be.
Los Angeles Vs Chicago, Monday 5:15pm on ESPN
The 4-2 Rams travel to Chicago this week for a showdown with the 5-1 Bears. A week ago, both teams were just a hair behind a sleeping undefeated division leader, and while the Bears took advantage of their opponents both on the field and off to take the division lead, the Rams struggled and lost their second game of the year and strengthened their opponent’s lead, which I’m just guessing here, was not what they were after. Without Brandin Cooks pressuring the defense with go routes, to put it nicely, this offense looks cooked. The big plays from everyone’s best buddy Cooper Kupp are either not happening or they happen when they aren’t really needed. Robert Woods is doing his job as the clutch performer well, but I’ll save you some time and tell you this guy is never going to convince me he’s a true number one wideout. Defenses are not tailoring game plans around him, what does that tell you? I feel the same way about Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. That doesn’t mean any of them are not quality players, but they are not guys that can regularly take over a game when the defense is paying attention to them. There’s a reason Russell Wilson is so excited about DK Metcalf. On defense, the Rams still have some big names like Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, but as a unit they are not the elite group of playmakers they once were. Without Todd Gurley and Cooks the offense lacks smash plays, and the defense seems to be half awake. This team is heading into the meat of their schedule with a lot to prove, and it starts this week. The Bears have kept every game close, and do what good teams do – win the games they are supposed, and don’t lose the games they’re not supposed to. Their offense leaves a lot to be desired, but their defense is among the best in the league and has kept each game within reach. You may recall this matchup two years ago was one of the first that exposed Jared Goff as perhaps not being elite, as the host Bears held the Rams to a season low six total points. Bears QB Nick Foles is crafty, but he doesn’t make a lot of splash plays, and the running game needs a lot of work. It really comes down to this – assuming Goff and Foles are a wash (and so are the offenses as a whole), who do you trust more – the Rams defense or the Bears? For me, it’s the Bears in a close one, and that sends the Rams home at 4-3 and still makes us wonder how good they are.