By Kevin Garber
Let’s see what Week 7 holds for the NFC West:
Seattle Seahawks @ St. Louis Rams
Seattle heads into St. Louis posting a 3-2 record coming off a frustrating loss against the Cowboys. St. Louis finds its way to a game against the defending Super Bowl Champions at 1-4 after looking like stiff competition in the first half against the 49ers before folding in the second half and losing by two touchdowns.
Who’s that man putting up NFL Starter type numbers? Why Austin Davis of course. Wait, what? Yes, the 2nd year UDFA from Southern Miss is neither a slow burning tire fire nor a dumpster fire in the mold of Matt Cassel this year. He hasn’t been a world beater, but he has been likely the best part of the Rams’ offense this year.
Lining up against him? Well, that’d be your friendly neighborhood Legion of Boom. So far this year Davis has put up near or above 70% completion against middling Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Minnesota defenses. Against the better units of Philadelphia and San Francisco? Sub 60%. As explained in last week’s What to Watch, even with the injuries (which keep mounting sadly) the Seattle secondary is holding it’s own quite well.
Arizona Cardinals @ Oakland Raiders
If the playoffs started today, the 4-1 Arizona Cardinals would be in as NFC West Champions. They are riding a stellar run defense, and an offense that must be very happy to see Carson Palmer back. The Oakland Raiders? Well…they’ve shed a lot of payroll the last few years! At 0-5 they don’t have a ton to be happy about right now.
Not much to be happy for except the young talent that appears to be showing itsself on the roster at long last. Derek Carr has been up and down, really not surprising for a rookie QB, but shown a lot of ability this year. Despite battling injuries, a lack of much running game, and being a Raider, Carr has shown himself to be a potential piece of the puzzle, really a best case scenario for Oakland management after taking him in the 2nd round of the draft.
On the other side stands an Arizona Defense that is giving up a ton of yards in the air, but not a ton of points and is very stingy on the ground game as well. Sporting 8 interceptions on the year, they’ll look to add to that total (including Patrick Peterson looking for his first of the year) against the Raider rookie.
San Francisco 49ers @ Denver Broncos
These two teams have gotten to 4 wins in very different ways. The 49ers started the year 1-2 with collapses and drama. The Broncos lost a close contest to Seattle in Week 3 but have otherwise been anywhere from good to dominant.
Peyton Manning is 38 years old. Just a few short years ago many were certain they’d seen him play his last snap in the NFL after a neck injury. How does he keep doing this? He is once again off to a strong start to the season, orchestrating an exceptional passing attack that keeps Denver in or up in every game. Make no mistake folks, week in and week out he is still the main reason the Broncos are playing offense at a high level. It sure isn’t the run game carrying them.
Still, the 49ers sport a top 5 defense against both the run and pass this year, while having suffered injuries or idiotic decisions from several key defensive players. The question coming into the season was about San Francisco defending the pass, and if ever there were a test Peyton Manning is it. That being said, 207 passing yards given up per game and 7 INTs on the season sort of says it all. This squad is a force.