Week 4 was a fairly quiet week across the NFC West as the Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams all had an early bye. The lone division representative in action during week 4 was the San Francisco 49ers as they hosted the 3-0 Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles and the 49ers each showed their fair share of positives and negatives, and it was actually a fairly entertaining game. This week's article wont be quite as long as usual, due to the level of inactivity around the division but lets get at it anyway.
The Cardinals entered their week 4 bye as one of three unbeatens left, and now following week 4 action there are just the Cardinals and the Cincinnati Bengals standing in the way of the 1972 Dolphins and their annual champagne toast. In spite of all the time off, Quarterback Carson Palmer is still questionable for their upcoming game, and if he can't go Drew Stanton will get his 3rd straight start for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals will put their undefeated record to the test in week 5 as they will be on the road at the Denver Broncos. Denver is also coming off their bye week, with the last time they were in action was the thrilling overtime loss in Seattle. The Seahawks defense was able to keep Peyton Manning under wraps for roughly 50 minutes in their week 3 contest, if the Cardinals could accomplish the same task they may be able to escape Denver with a win. On the other hand, if Peyton and company find the groove they had during the finall 50 seconds of regulation in Seattle it will be a very long day for the Cardinals. The Cardinals first 3 victories came against the Chargers, Giants and 49ers and if they could notch a W against the Broncos they would generate serious Super Bowl contender buzz.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers defense was nothing short of superb against the Philadelphia Eagles in week 4. Unfortunately for the 49ers the other two phases of the game showed major flaws. The offense sputtered most of the day, with some very questionable decision making and time management by the offense really sticking out. In spite of all the mistakes the 49ers gutted out a 26-21 come from behind win, and held the Eagles offense scoreless. The Eagles scored their 21 points on a Blocked Punt for a TD, a 53 yard pick-six, and an 82 yard punt return TD. The 49ers troubles weren't limited to special teams as they racked up 10 penalties for a total of 80 yards. While there were ups and downs in the game (including injuries to Anthony Davis and Vernon Davis) there were two consistent bright spots, the 49ers defense and the seemingly ageless Frank Gore who rushed for 119 yards on 24 carries.
The 49ers will host the Kansas City Chiefs in week 5 as Alex Smith returns to San Francisco. The Chiefs are fresh off their dismantling of the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. This game will pit one of the leagues top run defenses (49ers) against the two headed monster running game of the Chiefs. On MNF Knile Davis and Jamaal Charles combined for 199 yards rushing on 34 carries (5.85 yards per carry). Each team will enter this game at 2-2 and hoping to make up some ground on their division leaders with a W, but the Alex Smith storyline will likely get most of the media buzz leading into this one.
The Seahawks were also on their bye in week 4, and get a little extended break as they don't play until Monday Night. The Seahawks bye week did come with some bad news, as tight end Zach Miller underwent foot surgery and could miss several games. The loss of Miller will likely be felt in ways that wont show up on the stat sheet, as Miller was being relied upon heavily to help with pass protection on the right side of the Seahawks line.
The Seahawks will go on the road to take on the Washington Redskins on Monday NIght Football. The Redskins will be coming off a little extra rest following the pummeling they received on Thursday Night Football courtesy of the New York Giants. A 31 point loss to the Giants doesn't really build confidence heading into this matchup with the Seahawks, but fortunately for the Redskins they wont be in Seattle for this one. While the Seahawks are easily the better team here, they don't always play that way on the road. If the Redskins get a lucky bounce or two early they just may be able to make it interesting.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams used the bye week to continue to heal up, as some key players could be returning to the lineup in the coming weeks. It is still yet to be seen when Shaun HIll is cleared to return, but it seems as long as Austin Davis doesn't implode there is no rush. Hopefully the Rams defensive staff spent the entire bye week tweaking their gameplans, because the unit has been a major disappointment so far. Most notably the defensive line has failed to generate the pressure we all expected, and it has kept the defense from entering the top 10 status which seemed all but assured this offseason.
The Rams will travel to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the Eagles. The Eagles offensive line has been in absolute shambles all season long, but will get a little help with the return of Lane Johnson. Even with the return of Johnson, this offensive line struggled mightily against the 49ers (sans Aldon Smith). The Eagles defense really struggled with the 49ers running game as well, and currently sits at 23rd in passing and 26th in rushing defense. What I had penciled in as perhaps the most difficult of the Rams first 8 games has suddenly become less daunting. While betting on a team who blew a 21 point lead to the Cowboys would be foolish, I wouldn't put a checkmark in the loss column just yet.
The Rams will officially enter the "Octet of Pain" this weekend, and if they can't shore up their defense and get the running game established, it will be a very miserable two months for Rams fans. Thanks for reading and as always, Go Rams!!!