Week 16 NFC West Preview

We’ll scale back to just our own division in this Week 16 look at the NFC West:


San Diego Chargers @ San Francisco 49ers
5:25 PST SAT



At 8-6 San Diego walks into Santa Clara with a chance at still making the playoffs as a wild card, though they hold fewer tiebreakers than they’d like. The 49ers however were eliminated from the playoffs as last week’s loss to Seattle dropped their record to 7-7.




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Ryan Matthews is the most effective runner of the football that San Diego has, but they only seem to have him part time. Matthews has only played 6 weeks this season, but when he is on the field he offers the alternative threat that Phillip Rivers and the passing game needs in order to really be fully effective.

This may prove especially critical against a still formidable 49ers defense. This 49ers team is in some turmoil, and they have been eliminated from playoff contention, and they did just release DT Ray McDonald. All of that combines to either look like reasons for the team to fall apart or reasons for the team to band together. The 49er defense is a wild card this week, but a solid rushing attack would make Chargers fans breath much easier about their chances to keep the season going.


New York Giants @ St. Louis Rams
1:05 PST



The Giants (5-9) and Rams (6-8) have both long ago waved good-bye to their playoff chances, but each still have some things to play for. The Rams still have a chance to climb out of the division basement, and the Giants want to ensure the Redskins occupy the basement out East.












Last week we looked at Tre Mason as a young bright spot on the Rams offense. This week we look at Aaron Donald, who is more like a young black hole, threatening to swallow opposing offenses whole. Since receiving more regular playing time starting in Week 6, Donald has been a terror for opposing teams. He has 8 sacks on the year, but he is heating up with 7 in his last 8 games, including 6 games in a row with a sack. Throw in above average run defense and the Rams look to have found themselves an interior wrecking ball nobody wants to face.

That nobody includes Eli Manning, who sits square in the middle of the league at 15th in sacks, but is very susceptible to a top shelf pass rush. With Jennings out and Williams in at runningback, pressure will be all the more on the passing game of the Giants. This could end up being a very long afternoon for Eli, and a very fun one for the rookie Donald.


Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals
5:30 PST



This is the biggest matchup in the division this week, and one of the biggest in the NFL. The Cardinals are 11-3 and still in control of the division and their playoff future, but a Week 12 loss to the 10-4 Seahawks looms large. If the Cardinals win that puts them effectively three games up with two to go and clenches the division due to tiebreakers. If Seattle wins it ties the team on record but clenches the tiebreaker with a season sweep and would leave Seattle one game up with two games left.



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I know in theory Ryan Lindley isn’t the same QB he was in 2012, but that is also the last time he recorded statistical data in a game in the NFL, which also kind of says something. Even a better Lindley is still not a particularly good quarterback, and with the running game showing little life Arizona is showing up to a battle for the division firing blanks. They scored just 12 points against a good Rams defense, and even with the higher regarded Drew Stanton at QB managed 20+ points in a game since Week 10 when Carson Palmer went down.

Lindley gets to rush his legs back under him against a Seahawks defense that has hit it’s stride the last few weeks. This is not the team that Arizona would want to face with Lindley or really even Stanton at QB, and they are doing so with a chance to put themselves behind in the division. Seattle is playing for a chance at the NFC West title and at least one home game in the playoffs, so there is no chance they will be letting off the gas this week (it could be argued there is almost never a chance of that…). Things are not looking good for Arizona in the stretch run to the playoffs.

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