Another weekend and another slate of games to help us better understand where everyone stands. Unsurprisingly, the NFC West once again managed to keep itself under the red hot spotlight for a myriad of reasons.
Even at his early stage, it feels like the clubhouse favorite for the divisional crown has established themselves convincingly, and everyone else has their work cut out for them.
Personally, I’ve had my fill of the post-lost Niners takes and need a break, so let’s get into the final scores.
Rams 34, Buccaneers 24, Los Angeles 3-0
Starting with that aforementioned clubhouse favorite, I think all that really can be said is, uh, wow. Whenever you can put the defending Super Bowl champs on skates without breaking a sweat, snapping their ten-game winning streak in the process, you can call that a pretty successful day at the office.
Cooper Kupp simply continues to be a flat-out problem for anyone he goes up against. The receiver hauled in nine balls and two touchdowns for the second straight week, which obviously helped contribute to his leading the league in those categories.
However, the biggest play of the day came from the offense’s forgotten man: DeSean Jackson. At 34 years old, the notorious burner had enough fuel in the tanks to blow the top off the Bucs D and put the Rams up two scores in the third quarter. You think Sean McVay’s having fun dialing up long-distance shots for his strong-armed QB? He said post-victory that he’s pretty sure he pulled both hammys celebrating that pyrotechnic display.
Usually, 14 points is not a particularly safe lead against Tom Brady. Still, given the stifling nature of Aaron Donald, who looked abnormally transcendent attacking from inside and on the edge, it felt as done as Matt Stafford chugging a beer. This team looks prepared for all challengers.
Cardinals 31, Jaguars 19, Arizona 3-0
Let it be known; there existed a brief and shining moment in which it looked like the Jacksonville Jaguars might actually win a game. Well, that might be overstating it, but until late in the third quarter, they had a lead, and that’s when, of course, things all fell apart.
But, how did they get there? Simple. The Cardinals wanted to close out the first half with an NFL record-setting field goal attempt, which became an NFL record-tying touchdown for the Jags. See, simple. Jacksonville rode that momentum to another touchdown before squandering it all behind an ill-conceived flea-flicker that resulted in a pick-6.
Over the course of the game, the Cardinals lost two starting linemen, and that might explain the often disjointed offensive showing against one of the league’s worst defenses. Kyler Murray never really felt in sync, throwing a try-hard interception and no touchdowns, and he never got on the same page as DeAndre Hopkins, who was oddly quiet.
However, good teams win the games they’re supposed to, they win on the road, they win when a ref’s penalty flag muffs a punt and creates a turnover. Arizona can proudly check off all three of those, as they can settle in to prepare for the biggest matchup of their season so far: The Rams.
Vikings 30, Seahawks 17, Seattle 1-2
So, the Seahawks defense is… Bad. Yeah, it’s not good. It’s bad. It’s really bad, and very not good. After the Legion of Boom, they’ve had occasional problems that manifest in small ways — a lacking pass rush or confused cornerback play — but now those issues combined with the absence of K.J. Wright at linebacker has seemingly imploded the whole operation. You can tell because Kirk Cousins threw for three TDs.
Normally, this wouldn’t be so much of an albatross on the team because Russell Wilson still happens to be their quarterback, and for the first half on Sunday, that seemed like it would be enough. The Seahawks scored three times to start the game, before a missed field goal, after which they never got close to putting up points again.
It’s the third week in a row that they didn’t score in the third quarter, and the offense appears to have legitimate difficulty sustaining their breakneck, downfield assault for four quarters. Wilson pushed for this change, as he loves to hold the ball to go for home run shots, while his head coach always preferred a more conservative grind-it-out approach. This push-and-pull seems to have trapped them in no man’s land.
This difference in ideologies has caused unrest between them in the past, and one has to wonder if this is the year it truly divides them. If this is Russ cooking, who knows how much longer Pete’s going to want to eat before speaking to the manager. Now, of course, it’s only Week Four, but in the league’s most competitive division, they can’t afford to fall behind early, so expect a kitchen sink performance when they face their bitter rival, you guessed it, the San Francisco 49ers.