The year 2020 has been weird enough, but adding to the anguish has been what happened to the San Francisco 49ers this season. The team looked primed for a multiple-year run as a contender, but after making the Super Bowl in 2019, injuries have pushed the Niners back into the basement of the NFC West.
Three teams are tied for the top spot in the division through Week 10. The Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks are all 6-3 and will likely play musical chairs through the rest of the season to see who ends up in first place.
Unfortunately for San Francisco fans, it’ll be a “what-if?” season. Without the likes of Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Richard Sherman, Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel, Raheem Mostert and Richard Sherman throughout the season, the 49ers are headed for a fourth-place finish in the NFC West.
All three of the teams ahead of the Niners in the standings have flaws, but each of them currently sits in one of the seven NFC playoff spots.
Arizona Cardinals (6-3) defeated the Buffalo Bills 32-30
The Cardinals pulled off one of the wildest finishes in recent history. Quarterback Kyler Murray and the offense were on Buffalo’s 43-yard line for the final play of the game, and this happened:
KYLER MURRAY HAIL MARY TO DEANDRE HOPKINS— PFF (@PFF) November 16, 2020
What an incredible throw by Murray and an even more ridiculous catch by DeAndre Hopkins; I hope that second-round pick is worth it, Houston!
Arizona is for real. Pundits expected the Cardinals to challenge for a playoff spot coming into the season, and now they can control their own destiny to win the division. Arizona’s resurgence is led by Murray, who has been All-World in his second season.
The 23-year-old dual-threat QB ranks eighth in total rushing yards and is tied for third in the NFL in total touchdowns. The Cardinals have the No. 1 ranked offense in the league, putting up 425 yards per game.
Without injured pass-rusher Chandler Jones, Arizona is blitzing more at 34.9%, and the defense has 22 total sacks on the season. Much like the Seahawks, the Cardinals’ defense will be the deciding factor in what happens down the stretch.
Next three games: @ Seahawks, @ Patriots, vs. Rams
Los Angeles Rams (6-3) defeated the Seattle Seahawks 23-16
The final score makes this game appear closer than it was. Led by a nasty defense, The Rams dominated the Seahawks throughout this contest. L.A. swarmed Seattle QB Russell Wilson, sacking him 6 times, getting 12 QB hits and forcing Wilson to turn the ball over three times. The defense did that without superstar defensive lineman Aaron Donald finishing with a single tackle or sack. The Rams held the former No. 1 ranked offense in the NFL to just 220 net passing yards and only 333 total.
L.A. QB Jared Goff took advantage of a poor Seahawks’ defense, finishing the game 27-of-37 for 302 yards and, more importantly, no picks. Head coach Sean McVay used a ton of play-action to get Goff in his comfort zone and used a running back by committee approach that netted 98 yards and three scores.
The Rams’ defense ranks second in yards against, points against and sacks per game. If McVay can keep Goff in his comfort zone and limit the turnovers, L.A. will be a tough out come January.
Next three games: @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, vs. 49ers, @ Cardinals
Seattle Seahawks (6-3) lost 23-16 to the Rams
It was only a month ago that the Seahawks were 5-0 and talked about as the best team in the NFC. Now, four games later, the panic meter has shot up. Seattle is 1-3 in its last four games (we all know who the win came against), and Wilson has thrown seven interceptions over that span. The deficiencies in Pete Carroll’s team are starting to show. The offensive line was manhandled by the Rams and couldn’t keep Wilson upright. Jalen Ramsey nullified DK Metcalf, and without Chris Carson, the running game sputtered.
The Seahawks’ defense continues to struggle, despite All-Pro safety Jamal Adams returning to the lineup. Seattle has lost both games with Adams and Carlos Dunlap in the lineup and it doesn’t look like it will get better anytime soon. The Seahawks’ defense is comfortably the worst in football, giving up 448.3 yards per game.
Seattle has surrendered 3,180 total yards through nine games and is on pace to shatter the record for most yards given up by a team in a single season. The 2011 Green Bay Packers gave up 4,796 yards, and the Seahawks are currently on pace to beat that by almost 1,600 yards.
The good news for Carroll is that after this week’s game, his team’s schedule will be Charmin-soft, and they could be in the driver’s seat to win the division going into the final two weeks of the season.
Next three games: vs. Cardinals, @ Eagles, vs. New York Giants