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NFC West Watch, Week 6: Rams are NFL’s last unbeaten team

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The NFC West Watch took a break for a couple of weeks while the Seattle Seahawks played divisional opponents. It’s back this week with a look around the division, and the admittance that the race for first place is already almost over.

Los Angeles Rams 23 Denver Broncos 20

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It was a cold, snowy day in Denver (although the snow stopped before kickoff), and the Los Angeles Rams relied heavily on their running game and defense to hold off a Broncos team that looks like it’s in need of a rebuild. Denver’s vaunted defense of 2015 is a shell of itself, as they became the first team in NFL history to allow consecutive 200-yard rushing performances to opposing running backs. It was Isaiah Crowell two weeks ago, and it was Todd Gurley on Sunday, who gained 208 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns, as Jared Goff struggled and only completed half of his passes, throwing an interception along the way.

While the Rams secondary got picked on by Case Keenum, who went 25/41 for 322 yards and 2 touchdowns (with an interception), the run defense that got destroyed by the Seahawks tightened up this time around, holding the Broncos to just 60 yards on 17 attempts. A moment of controversy occurred in the 1st quarter when Emmanuel Sanders was penalized for taunting on an apparent touchdown pass, except he was ruled down at the 1 and the penalty put the Broncos back to the Rams’ 16 instead of those 15 yards being assessed on the kickoff. Denver wound up kicking a field goal. Ouch.

Perhaps the biggest thing of note from this Rams win beyond maintaining their undefeated record is the fact that star WR Cooper Kupp is somehow not out long-term after this gruesome looking knee injury. He won’t play this Sunday, though.

At 6-0 and three games ahead of the Seahawks with the tiebreaker in hand, it’s safe to say that it’ll take a miracle for Seattle to win back the NFC West.

Side note, I wish the Seahawks had played the Broncos later in the season. Just imagine how many yards Chris Carson and Mike Davis would gain with DJ Fluker and JR Sweezy at the guard positions.

Minnesota Vikings 27 Arizona Cardinals 17

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Well the first thing to take away from this picture is the fact that a linebacker shouldn’t be the nearest man in coverage on Adam Thielen. Arizona’s pass defense was actually more than respectable, as Kirk Cousins committed two turnovers, one which ended up being a fumble return touchdown by Budd Baker, but they were gashed for nearly 200 yards on the ground by one of the NFL’s worst rushing offenses. Josh Rosen was a respectable 21/31 for 240 yards and an interception, although he was sacked four times.

David Johnson had the Cardinals’ only offensive touchdown, and he could’ve had another but was stopped on 4th-and-goal from the 1, at a time when the game was 10-3 Minnesota. Shockingly, jamming the square peg through the round hole is not working out for Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

Green Bay Packers 33 San Francisco 49ers 30

San Francisco 49ers v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

As much as we rag on the San Francisco 49ers, their point differential is only -31, which isn’t awful for a 1-5 team. Their heaviest defeat was by 15 against the Kansas City Chiefs, and obviously they lost Jimmy Garoppolo for the season in that game. Even with C.J. Beathard at the helm, they only came up short by 2 points at the Los Angeles Chargers and 3 points at the Green Bay Packers. Yes, the 10-point loss against the Arizona Cardinals was terrible, but they doubled Arizona in terms of total yards on offense and had 33 first-downs to 10 for the Cardinals... it’s just that you won’t win when the turnover count is 5-0 in the opposition’s favor.

Looking at Monday night’s thriller at Lambeau Field, the first quarter was back-and-forth chaos, with Green Bay coming out of it up 17-14. From there, the much-maligned 49ers defense actually frustrated Aaron Rodgers and company, keeping them out of the end zone until late in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately for the Niners, even with their spell of four consecutive scoring drives, they were still only up 30-23 with 13 minutes left in the game. Two impressive stands were made defensively, but the offense bogged down and only managed 13 net yards on its final three possessions, including a Beathard interception thrown to Kevin King in the two-minute drill.

You give Aaron Rodgers another opportunity and he’ll make you pay, isn’t that right Richard Sherman?

The non-Sherman 49ers secondary is a dumpster fire, and Rodgers picked on poor Greg Mabin for several plays, setting up Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal as time expired. Great redemption for Crosby after missing four field goals and an extra point in Detroit the week prior. It honestly looks as if the Packers aren’t a very good team at all, but a win is a win.

NFC West Standings

Rams (6-0, 2-0 div)

Seahawks (3-3, 1-1 div)

Cardinals (1-5, 1-1 div)

49ers (1-5, 0-1 div)

Next Week’s Schedule

Rams at 49ers (1:25 PM PT, CBS)

Broncos at Cardinals (5:20 PM PT, FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime - Thursday Night Football)

Seahawks on a Bye Week