Focusing on the two teams rounding out the bottom of the NFC west power rankings, it becomes aware that one is at a make it or break stage of the season, and the other is strong enough to lead the division. Where their destinies take them is uncertain yet, but it’s certainly a crossroads week for them. With season altering injuries and brutally tough schedules ahead, it’s anyone’s guess as to how the rest of the season will end up for them. Both have displayed strong elements to their perspective teams, one with a top-notch defense that will rival any in the league and the other with an uncanny and relentless desire to overcome their shortcomings against all odds. This is the fork stuck in the road for these two teams, the path they choose to travel will determine their future.
St. Louis Rams: The Rams remain in the third position in the power rankings in the NFC west division after week five with a 3-2 record. But it may not be for very long. They retain the position for two reasons, one is that they are 2-0 in the division, and the second reason is that they beat their division rival Arizona Cardinals last week 17-3. Unfortunately for the Rams, their outlook is just about as bad as the Cardinals outlook. Moving up in the rankings will be determined mainly by luck on their own part and by how far the Cardinals are willing to fall before they make any changes.
Their win against Arizona last week was huge for their divisional race and it was huge in that they are on a two game winning streak after beating their other division rival the Seattle Seahawks the week before. Next week they have a very favorable game against the 2-3 Miami Dolphins, so it isn’t out of the question that after next week we see them sporting a three game winning streak.
That’s about all the good news concerning the Rams though. The biggest and probably the worst news coming out of Rams camp is the injury to wide receiver Danny Amendola. Amendola suffered a potentially fatal clavicle injury in the fourth quarter of the game against the Cardinals last week. And though no surgery is needed, he will be out for an undetermined length of time. The loss of Amendola might be too big for the Rams to overcome. He has been nearly the only contributor to the Rams success thus far, collecting 32 receptions for 395 yards and one touchdown.
The Rams also, like the Cardinals, have serious offensive line concerns that need to be addressed if they have any hope of improving on their season. Currently the Rams have allowed 15 sacks on the year, tying them for third most in the league. They also have the fourth most quarterback hits in the league at 30. And just like the Cardinals, the offensive line is having a lot of trouble opening holes for the running game. Evident by the lack of production that is being provided by running back Steven Jackson. Through five games, Jackson hasn’t sniffed a hundred yard performance. He currently only has 271 total yards of rushing and zero touchdowns. As a matter of fact, the offensive line has basically put the brakes on the entire offense this year. The Rams as a whole rank 29th in the league in total offensive yards and they rank 26th in the league in total touchdowns with only eight.
It’s fair to say that if the Rams look to improve on their record, they too need to make some changes. With Amendola out for a while, the Rams will have to find offense somewhere. And they need to do it soon. After a very winnable Dolphins game next on the docket, the Rams then face the Green Bay Packers, the New England Patriots, and the San Francisco 49ers. So they need to shore up their issues before things get out of hand.
Seattle Seahawks: Though ranked last in their division, strictly because of their 0-2 record in the division, the Seahawks stand the best chance of moving up the ladder. At 3-2 the Seahawks have the best upside of anyone in the division, for the exception of the 49ers. Their record is not indicative of how good the team really is. There is definitely an argument that the team could be 5-0, as their only losses were to division rivals Cardinals and Rams. And both of those games were decided by a total of ten points. They have a defense that is near the top of almost every defensive category in the league. And their offense, though a work in progress with a rookie quarterback, is only steps away from finding their stride. The only downside to them improving is their upcoming schedule.
Offensively, the Seahawks continue to ride atop the broad shoulders of Marshawn Lynch who is putting up career numbers. Already at 508 total yards, an average of 101.6 yards per game, through 5 games, he is on pace to rack up over 1,600 total rushing yards. That amount would crush his previous high of 1,204 yards set last year in 2011. The only concern the Seahawks should have regarding Lynch is the wear and tear leaning on him so much will have. If he does continue to put up these kinds of numbers, one can expect the rest of the offense to follow. His on the field leadership will only make the continuing learning curve for rookie quarterback Russell Wilson an easier process. Thus far Wilson has not been bad, his interception to touchdown ratio isn’t good, but he has been working the ball to nearly every single one of his receivers and tight ends. The offense as a whole might not push them to the playoffs this year, but with their strong defense as the cornerstone of the team, they are only maybe a year away.
The defense on the other hand, is Super Bowl caliber already. Statistically, they are the best defense in the league, ranking in the top five of seven different defensive categories. They are first in total touchdowns allowed with 6 on the year. They are first yards per game allowed, averaging 258.6 yard. They are second in total points allowed at 70 total. They are third in total rushing yards allowed on the season at 333 yards. They are third in quarterback sacks with 16. They rank fourth in total passing yards allowed at 1,053. And they are fifth in passing yards per game average with 192. To make them even scarier, they have two stud defensive ends both ranked in the top six in the league for quarterback sacks. Chris Clemons has five and one half sacks and Bruce Irvin has four and a one half. There is not a team in the league that is looking forward to playing them.
The only other thing that will keep them from moving up the ranks will be their upcoming schedule. They have arguably the toughest schedule in the league. Next up they play the New England Patriots, and their superstar quarterback that can find weaknesses in any defense. After that they get the division leading and Super Bowl hopeful 49ers. If that wasn’t tough enough, then they get the high powered Detroit Lions. Then the surprise talent of 2012, the Minnesota Vikings. It will not be an easy climb up the ladder by any means, but the Seahawks are about the only team in the division to accomplish the feat.
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