The Los Angeles Rams secured a big victory this weekend over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the challenges the team will face over the course of the next two weeks may be more significant in terms of standings.
LA’s Week 3 victory was emotional but the team downplayed the notion that this was a measuring stick game. Los Angeles has looked as good as any team through the first three contests, though they haven’t yet earned the top standing within their own division - the opportunity for that will come on Sunday when the Rams host the Arizona Cardinals.
Weeks 4 and 5 of the 2021 regular season will be feature four important divisional matchups that could turn the current NFC West standings on its head. Over the course of the next two weeks the wheat will be separated from the chaff, and and we will have a more solid understanding of who the real contenders for the divisional crown may be.
The Rams cannot be complacent, and they must approach the next two games with the same vigor that was evident against Tampa Bay.
Current NFC West Standings
Los Angeles Rams: 3-0
Arizona Cardinals: 3-0
San Francisco 49ers: 2-1
Seattle Seahawks: 1-2
Week 4 Matchups:
Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams, Sunday 10/3 1:05pm PT
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers, Sunday 10/3 1:05pm PT
The Rams and Cardinals will battle it out for the first place in the division standings on Sunday.
A victory for the Rams would be confirmation that LA should be considered the best team in the NFC conference, and perhaps the best unit in the NFL.
Should the Cardinals topple the Rams, it would be a sign that they have arrived and should not be taken lightly this season. Arizona would still have to prove they can maintain level of play for a full season after the wheels came off in the second half of the year in 2020.
A loss for the Seahawks would put them three games back from the first place team with a tough Week 5 matchup on the horizon. It’s tough to count this team out considering the historical success Seattle has had under Pete Carroll; however, the NFC West is the toughest it has been in recent years and the Seahawks defense has been porous at best through 3 games.
The 49ers will need to win in order to keep pace with the Rams and Cardinals, and a loss may indicate that both Seattle and San Francisco could quickly be left behind. Would a 2-2 49ers team consider a switch at starting quarterback, benching Jimmy Garoppolo in favor of rookie Trey Lance?
Week 5 Matchups:
Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle Seahawks, Thursday 10/7 5:20pm PT
San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals, Sunday 10/10 1:25pm PT
Seattle could reasonably limp into this game with a 1-3 record; however, the Seahawks still feature a potent offense and a number of capable defenders on the other side of the ball. This is not a team that should be taken lightly, even for a potentially 4-0 Rams squad that is formidable on both offense and defense. There’s not a lot of true “must win” games in week 5, though Seattle’s season could imaginably be on the line in this matchup.
The 49ers versus Cardinals contest could likely become a battle for 2nd place in the NFC West and a chance for San Francisco to emerge as a capable contender after being knocked off by the Green Bay Packers last minute in Week 3. There is also a chance that the 49ers enter this game with a 2-2 record and the Cardinals with a 4-0 record, providing Arizona with an opportunity to possibly pad a lead atop the divisional standings.
How do you see the NFC West competition working out over the course of the next two weeks and through the first quarter of the young season? Do the Rams have what it takes to come out on top of two tough matchups, or will the Matthew Stafford era be faced with significant adversity for the first time?