By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG
After the Thursday night game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks, the NFC West got really interesting. With the slugfest that happened in Seattle, it showed that fighting for every game is going to be key in this division. San Francisco 49ers are on top of the division, but with their early bye week, they have a very long road of games ahead of them. Arizona is still trying to find their identity, but if they figure it out, they could play spoiler down the way.
I decided to get a second opinion on the division and thought who better than Bill Alvstad. Bill hosts The Hawks Playbook Podcast along with Keith Myers, and I have to say, if you want brutal honesty, they are the guys to talk to.
I started with the Thursday night game, asking if Bill thought that Seattle had taken over as division favorites or if it was still way too early to tell. He said he didn’t think so.
” I’ve always been one of those guys that believes that the team that won it last year is the favorite to repeat until they don’t. With the Rams coming off a year they represented the NFC in the Super Bowl, they were certain to have earned the “favorite” moniker in the NFC West and maybe in the entire NFC. However, at this point, you can’t ignore how well the Seahawks are playing right now.”
“Russell Wilson is having a career year (1,409 yards, 12 TD’s and zero Interceptions) inside of an almost certain trip to the Hall of Fame when he is finished. The team seems to have found its ground and pound mentality at the same time with running back Chris Carson, and the defense seems to be doing just enough at this point to have them in a great position going forward.”
“But you’re right in that it is a bit early to crown a new division favorite, and you can’t ignore the other team in the division who happens to be undefeated and currently in first place, the San Fransisco 49ers. One thing is certain. This division is back to being competitive again and the NFC Playoffs could once again run through the Pacific Northwest and the NFC West.”
We moved on to the Rams. I asked Bill about the media saying the Rams have regressed even though they have monster stats each game. I asked him if they thought there was actually something not working well for them.
“No team wants to lose two in a row, but that’s where the Rams find themselves and with the next opponent being the 3-0 Forty-Niners, the urgency to stop that streak will be palatable. The offense seems to not be the problem overall, but you can point to some key mistakes that have hurt them. Over the last two games, (QB Jared) Goff is 74 of 117 for 912 yards and 3 TD’s, but he has also thrown 4 interceptions as well.”
“On the defensive side, (defensive tackle) Aaron Donald is as good as they come. They like to rush 4 to get to the QB, but if that doesn’t happen, the back end duo of (defensive backs) Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters have not been able to get it done and offenses have taken advantage of that. You saw that last year in the Super Bowl, and it happened with Tampa Bay last week, and again with the Seahawks.”
“I do expect the Rams to turn things around and have shown they can beat solid teams this year with victories against the Panthers and Browns on the road and a weakened but still dangerous team in the Saints at home.”
San Francisco is on top of the division, the only undefeated team left in the NFC, and has looked great in their first three games. I asked him if he thought the 49ers were for real and how the felt they would do against the Cleveland Browns on Monday night.
“I have appreciated how General Manager John Lynch has come in and rebuilt the 49ers. It’s a classic model really. Bring in a great coaching hire in Kyle Shanahan, find your franchise QB in Jimmy Garoppolo and gather a solid core of veterans to build around and go draft really well. They have done all of those things but were obviously delayed last year with the ACL injury to Garoppalo in week 3 of the 2018 season. But he’s back this year and looks as good as ever, completing 69% of his passes for 739 yards, 5 TD’s and 4 Int.”
“On the defensive side of the ball, they are for real. Like the Rams, it all starts up front for the 49ers with four first-round picks on the defensive line. Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner in the middle of the line and 2nd overall pick in the 2019 draft Nick Bosa on one side and free-agent acquisition Dee Ford on the other side. This group has been nothing short of great in their first three games. I do expect the 49ers to win at home this Monday night. The 49ers have shown enough that it’s clear to see that they will be right in the hunt until the end, in a tight 3-way race to win the division and get into the playoffs.”
And finally, we came to the Arizona Cardinals. I asked Bill a simple question that has no simple answer. Will this year be another wash for the Cardinals or can they start making something of this team? His answer…a wash.
“Arizona is not a very good team this season. Seams like I could copy/paste that answer over and over again, doesn’t it? The difference is I believe that they have bottomed out this year and instead of descending further, this team should be on the rise, if not during the last 12 games of the season, in 2020 and beyond. The problem is, they have to climb out of a pretty deep hole.”
“Hopefully they have given their new head coach Kliff Kingsbury a long leash. He’s got a brand new shiny toy in 1st overall pick, QB Kyler Murray. Murray has got a great future in the NFL if the Cardinals build this thing the right way. They’ll need help on their offensive line and continue to give Murray the weapons he needs. The Cardinals need even more help on defense and almost need to start over on that side of the ball, to build a team that can keep up with its division leaders. It’s going to take some time and a lot of patience, something Cardinals fans have been asked to have for a very long time.”
I want to thank Bill for taking the time to talk with me about the NFC West. I highly encourage you to check out the podcast!
Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG