And the NFL regular season has concluded. The division was pretty much decided before Week 18, but we will be consistent and give you your final NFC West recap for the season.
Nothing really could change for the San Francisco 49ers. The Los Angeles Rams already had a playoff spot. The Seattle Seahawks needed help from the Chicago Bears, which they didn’t get as they lost to the Green Bay Packers 17-9—so much for that, and so much for the Seahawks going to the postseason.
Let’s do the final rundown:
Los Angeles Rams (9-7)/San Francisco 49ers (12-5)
Twelve wins got you the NFC No. 1 Seed if you are the 49ers. Since these 12 wins were obtained before this week, the 49ers began pulling starters as the game continued. The Rams could have had better seeding, but they decided to give some starters rest as well. The result looked more like an exhibition game and a glimpse of 49ers backup quarterback Sam Darnold vs. Rams backup quarterback Carson Wentz.
The Rams kept wide receiver Puka Nacua in the game long enough to get the record for most receiving yards as a rookie (breaking a record from 1960 set by Bill Groman) as they also thinned out the starters.
The 49ers had a 20-7 lead at one point, but then the defense couldn’t get off the field on fourth downs (yes, plural). Steve Wilks’ reactions are what many fans may have had, despite this game “not mattering.” The next thing you know is that it’s 21-20, and Rams and Sam Darnold have one more chance to win this thing. This led to a fumble and the game-ending.
Sam Darnold had some nice passes. His receivers had some bad drops. The Rams are off to Detroit—the end.
Despite mostly backups, the fourth-down sluggishness may not sit down with 49ers fans. Neither will the two Jake Moody kicks that changed the course of the game and let the Rams back into it.
Either way, the game “didn’t matter,” and Wild Card Weekend begins.
Arizona Cardinals (4-13)/Seattle Seahawks (9-8)
And you thought the 49ers were the only team having kicking problems Sunday. The Cardinals squared off against the Seahawks in a fun game that ended with some bad kicks by the Cardinals.
The Seahawks beat the Cardinals. They end the season with a winning record and a worst draft pick. So, yay?
All jokes aside. The Seahawks and Cardinals played what ended up being a fun game. The Seahawks had some momentum until the 3rd quarter hit, and Kyler Murray did Kyler Murray things to get the game tied up and eventually a lead. Unfortunately, Matt Prater missed two field goals that could have put the game away. The first would give the Cardinals a 10-point lead, barring an onside kick, probably the win.
He missed that.
The Seahawks went down the field and got a touchdown. Then, I went for a two-point conversion to make it 21-20. Kyler Murray again moved the Cardinals down the field into a generous field goal range for Matt Prater.
He missed that one, too.
Besides extra points, Prater's only use in that game was being a decoy during a fake field goal that gave the Cardinals the lead. The Cardinals lined up for what was a field goal try, but then Prater moved out of the way for Kyler Murray to scurry in and take the snap.
Geno Smith is far from the problem in Seattle. The problem is more how much they’ve spent on that defense in the draft, and it seems unable to show up. They benefitted from a fluky missed kick that probably should have been made. It will be interesting to see what happens to the rivals in the Pacific Northwest.
Into The Postseason
The 49ers will be kicking back and watching the first round from home as the rest of the NFL slugs it out to make it to the divisional round. Once wild card weekend concludes, we’ll see who they host. They’ll play the lowest seed that advances, and you can see the schedule here.
The Rams will be going to the Detroit Lions in what should be a fun Sunday Night game. It’s quarterback Matthew Stafford’s return to Detroit. In contrast, current Lions quarterback Jared Goff has a chance to stick it to Sean McVay and the Rams, the team that drafted him first overall, gave him a huge contract, then gave the Lions draft picks just to get him off the books (while getting Stafford also in return).
The Seahawks and Cardinals will begin looking to the draft, holding the 16th and fourth picks, respectively. There was some speculation that the Seahawks and head coach Pete Carroll would separate, but it sounds like he’ll be back in 2024. Both teams have some work to do but seem to have different trajectories; there was a lot of good stuff from the Cardinals, who had a terrible roster, while the Seahawks seem slowly going downwards.
1st [Clinched, No 1 Seed]: San Francisco 49ers; Next: BYE
3rd [Eliminated from Postseason]: Seattle Seahawks; Next: Season Over