NFL

Six Things To Know About the NFC West

on

After going to the Super Bowl back-to-back seasons, the Seattle Seahawks were expected to win the NFC West once again by many, especially after they were able to obtain tight end, Jimmy Graham. However, things haven’t gone as planned.

Seattle sacrificed their offensive line in order to get Graham, which proved to be an epic fail. Graham only caught 48 passes in 11 games and now he’s out for the season due to a knee injury. While not being able to utilize Graham properly affected Seattle’s offense, what hurt even more was their inept offensive line play throughout the first half of the season.

Fortunately for the reigning two-time NFC champs, they’ve been able to figure things out offensively over the past month.

During Seattle’s struggles, the Arizona Cardinals have been running through the division behind the arm of Carson Palmer and their top five defense.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers have been holding down the bottom of the barrel.

With a few weeks remaining in the regular season, let’s take a look at six things you need to know about the NFC West.

Carson Palmer Deserves More MVP Consideration

The two primary names you hear when someone talks MVP are Cam Newton and Tom Brady. Now, those guys deserve all the praise they’ve been receiving, but what about Carson Palmer?

On the season, the 36-year-old veteran has a touchdown to interception ratio of 29 to 9, while throwing for 3,693 yards with a completion percentage of 63.9.

Palmer’s teammate, Larry Fitzgerald, truly believes his quarterback needs more recognition.

“Carson, what he does for us is equally important to any special quarterback you want to put in there,” the future Hall of Fame wide receiver said. “Cam Newton, Tom Brady, I mean, you saw what happened to us last year at this point. If we had Carson last year there’s no telling how deep we would’ve gone in the playoffs. He’s that important to us.”

Unless the Panthers lose a game or two, odds are Palmer won’t win the MVP award and I’m not suggesting that he should, but whenever you mention candidates he needs to be in the discussion.

Seahawks Back to Super Bowl Form

After starting off the season 2-3, fans and media alike were questioning if this team’s run of greatness was nearing an end. Nonetheless, those questions have been quickly erased as they’ve won their last four games, while averaging over 32 points per game during the winning streak.

While the offense has been playing at a high level, the defense has been contributing in a major way as well.

Yes, they gave up 30 points to the Pittsburgh Steelers a few weeks ago, but in the other three games during their streak, they allowed just 26 points combined.

Winning the division is probably unrealistic at this point, but when looking at their remaining schedule, it’s not far fetched to believe they can win out heading into the playoffs.

Rams Stuck in Mud

Before the season, there was tons of pressure on head coach Jeff Fisher. After all, this is his fourth season in St. Louis and fans in that city have been thirsty for a winner for quite some time now.

To make matters worse, the team may not even be in St. Louis pass this season with all of the Los Angeles movement going on and Fisher may not be around either.

“I’ve been doing this for probably short of 20 years, and I’ve never gone into a game or into a season worried about my job security,” Fisher stressed. “That would be unfair to the organization and unfair to the players. So I’m not concerned about that.

In order for this franchise to move forward, they’ll have to figure out who their quarterback of the future will be, because Nick Foles is clearly not the answer.

Russell Wilson On Another Level

As mentioned before, the Seahawks are back to playing at an elite level and it’s primarily due to the play of Russell Wilson. The former Super Bowl champion has been performing so well over the past four weeks that some are wondering if he deserves some MVP consideration.

Over the past four weeks, Wilson has thrown 16 touchdowns with zero interceptions, while doing what many were skeptical of, winning from the pocket.

There’s no question Wilson is playing the best football of his young career right how. He’s been delivering the ball with great accuracy, eluding pressure and making plays with his feet down the field.

If Wilson is able to keep up this level of play heading into the postseason, Seattle has as good of a chance as anyone to get to Santa Clara in February.

Blaine Gabbert Making Things Interesting in SF

There were little to no expectations for the San Francisco 49ers heading into this season and deservedly so. This franchise underwent one of the most bizarre off-seasons in sports history. Players retired, guys were traded and their head coach bolted for the collegiate ranks.

With all of that being said, one of the supposedly bright spots was suppose to be Colin Kaepernick. The Niners invested a lot of stock into him, after giving the dual-threat quarterback a six-year, $126 million extension last year.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned as Kaepernick’s poor play resulted into him getting benched, which opened up the door for Blaine Gabbert.

Gabbert has performed better than Kaepernick. He’s thrown six touchdowns with three picks, while completing 63 percent of his passes.

Head coach Jim Tomsula has liked what he’s seen from Gabbert.

“Yeah, he’s been really steady,” Tomsula stated. “Again, the way he’s approached his job since he’s been here has been really impressive. I think since you’ve seen him in games on Sundays, you’ve seen him progress. He’s moving along well. Blaine is a talented, talented quarterback, obviously. But, we’re really excited about where he’s at and where he’s heading. We still need to keep getting better. And the way he interacts with everybody and the way he handles the offense, all of those things are really good.”

Things can’t be as crazy as last off-season in the Bay Area, but this quarterback carosuel will be interesting to see it play itself out for sure.

Rams Neglecting Todd Gurley?

With the Rams sitting at 5-8 and in last place of the NFC West, there haven’t been too many bright spots in St. Louis. However, rookie running back Todd Gurley, has been one of them.

Despite missing the first two games of the season, Gurley ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing to go along with eight rushing touchdowns.

In Gurley’s first four starts, he garnered 88 carries, but in the last four games prior to Sunday’s win over the Detroit Lions, he only carried the ball 55 times. His lack of touches may have been part of the reason offensive coordinator Steve Cignetti was fired.

New offensive coordinator, Rob Boras, doesn’t plan on making the same mistake.

“Todd’s a special player. We have a number of special players on offense,” Boras said. “Between Todd and Tav’ (Austin), we’ve got special guys. For that to happen, obviously, it’s got to be the type of game where we can keep handing him the ball. He’s too good a player.”

We’ll see if the Rams ride Gurley more during the final stretch of the season.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.