First quarter review: NFC West

Dayna O’Gorman
Senior NFL Reporter
NFC West/AFC West

By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG

Yes I realize we are going into week 6 so the first quarter of the season has already come and gone, but as I’ve always said, you don’t really know who a team will be until week 6, so I’m glad I waited.

The first few weeks in the NFC West was wild, but things are starting to settle in. We are starting to get a feel of what we can expect from these four teams, some good, some not so much. Is it still the best division in football? Well, it’s no NFC East (kidding) but I’d still have to say yes.

Let’s take a look at the NFC West and how they have fared after 5 weeks of the 2020 season.

Let’s start with the division-leading Seattle Seahawks. Seattle is 5-0 for the first time in franchise history. Yes, even the famed 2013 and 2014 teams didn’t manage to stay undefeated through 5 games. As we have seen in both of their Sunday Night Football games, we know the Seahawks like to take it down to the wire before they get their wins…yet, they still manage to win.

Quarterback Russell Wilson is on an MVP level run, putting this team on his back, carrying the team to the wins. This season he already has 1,502 yards passing and 153 yards rushing, 19 touchdowns, and just 3 interceptions. He has a QB rating of 81. He is THE MAN, and no one is arguing that.

Where the surprises in the team lie are with the defense. Seattle is known for having as good or better defenses than it does offenses. Well, not in the last few years. While the addition of Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Quinton Dunbar had fans thinking they were on the right path defensively, both have been injured in the first few games so their impact hasn’t been felt yet. However there has been some improvement in the defense over the last few games, especially in pass defense, and when Adams gets back to the field, we should see an even bigger jump.

The Los Angeles Rams are sitting in 2nd place in the division with a 3-1 record and look much like the Super Bowl team from a few years ago. Now some would say “look at who they have played”, but that’s exactly why we know they are good.

They have played a couple of 0 or 1 win teams, but the Rams blew those teams out of the water. That is what good teams do to bad teams, leave no questions. The Dallas Cowboys gave them a run for the money, but we expected that as the Cowboys always play the NFC West well. The only loss they’ve had was to the very strong Buffalo Bills, but even in that game, the Rams came back from a huge deficit and almost won.

Their offense is looking good, with two 300 yard receivers in Cooper Kupp (363 yds) and Robert Woods (300 yds). They also have two 200 yard rushers in Darrell Henderson (260 yds) and Malcolm Brown (216 yds). QB Jared Goff has had a better year, with 1,372 yards and 8 TDs.

But, as we all know, it’s their defense that shines in games. Defensive end Aaron Donald already has 7.5 sacks on the year, and is the front runner for Defensive Player of the Year…again! To put this into perspective, the Seahawks only have 9 sacks for their entire team. It’s hard for teams to score against the Rams, which is a good thing looking at the teams they have coming up.

The Arizona Cardinals are in third place in the division with a record of 3-2. The team that started out super hot had cooled down a bit in weeks 3 and 4. But in week 5 they crushed the 0-5 New York Jets, keeping the Cardinals above the San Francisco 49ers in the division rankings.

QB Kyler Murray has shown major versatility on the field. And while he has 8 TDs (6 interceptions) passing, he has managed to run for an amazing 296 yards and 5 TDs. His feet and quick decision making have completely changed the offense in Arizona. The question will be whether or not he can continue that pace or if the passing game will start to take over more, and if it does, can Murray stop turning the ball over so much?

The defense took a big hit last game. Linebacker Chandler Jones left the game with a bicep injury. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury believes it will be a season-ending injury, however, it has been reported that they are looking into any and all treatments available, including nonsurgical ones. The loss of Jones is huge to this defense as he is a leader on the field and in the locker room. The Cardinals do have options to fill in for Jones, but if he is gone for the season, they may need to look to free agents to fill that void.

And that brings us to the San Francisco 49ers, who are in last place in the NFC West at 2-3. I have repeated myself a million times when talking about injuries to this team. The injury bug bit them hard. However, with some players coming back, will we see a resurgence of this team? After the way they played in week 5, I’m not so sure.

Listen, there is no other way to say it, the 49ers are struggling. They’ve played 3 quarterbacks and between the three of them, they only have 7 TDs, with 5 interceptions. Of course, it’s easy to understand why the offense is having a hard time gelling with having had 3 QBs in 5 games. Plus, the 49ers offensive line has given up a league-high 40 QB hits this season. They are completely out of sync.

When starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo was picked off twice in back to back series, and only had 77 yards in the first two quarters against the Miami Dolphins, its easy to see why there are some major questions surrounding this offense.

The troubles on defense make more sense. San Francisco is missing its top 3 cornerbacks, Richard Sherman, Emmanuel Moseley, and K’Waun Williams. Add to that the pass rush is completely lacking due to the loss of DEs Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. The injuries on defense have forced the team to rely on the offense to keep them in games, and it just hasn’t happened.

The next stretch of games is ugly for San Francisco, facing the LA Rams twice, the Seahawks, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, and the Green Bay Packers. They’ve got to get it together quickly if they want to stay in the playoff hunt.

Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG

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