Things are starting to heat up in the NFC West divisional race.
For a moment there, as the Los Angeles Rams suffered a three-game losing streak, the Cardinals looked to have an easy path to the division title. However, a Rams win in Glendale on Monday night makes things more complicated for the Arizona Cardinals moving forward. Meanwhile, in the rear-view mirror of the two teams jockeying for the division title, the San Francisco 49ers look to shore up the second Wild Card spot. Let’s dig in to what you need to know from this week’s divisional action.
49ers show resiliency, knock off Bengals in OT
The 49ers did all they could in an attempt to blow this game. After leading 20-6 at the end of the third quarter, they allowed Cincinnati to come all the way back and force overtime. The Bengals took the lead in OT before a pass-heavy drive from San Francisco ended in a brilliant 12-yard catch and run from 49ers receiver Brandon Aiyuk, ultimately winning the game for the 49ers. In a bizarre twist of fate, it was Tre Flowers that granted George Kittle a key third down conversion on the 49ers’ game-winning drive. That’s one way to get revenge, I guess.
Oddly enough, it was the passing game that did most of the work for the typically run-heavy San Francisco. And while Deebo Samuel begins to see more work in the backfield (8 carries, 37 yards) he is falling out of the picture through the air (1 catch, 22 yards). The 49ers didn’t need Samuel in this game though, as George Kittle torched the Bengals’ secondary all day long, going for 13 catches and 151 yards. When he and Jimmy G have things going, they are one of the most dangerous duos in the NFL (as they proved against Seattle two weeks ago).
Even though playoff odds were slim for the ‘Hawks coming in, they got worse with this win, as the Seahawks are now effectively two games out of a Wild Card spot, losing the tie-breaker to every team they are one loss behind.
Stafford, Rams continue rebound, winning in Glendale, 30-23
When Matthew Stafford doesn’t turn the ball over, the Rams offense is very hard to stop. Cooper Kupp just keeps putting up video game numbers (13 rec, 123 yards), and nobody has an answer for him. And while OBJ’s impact hasn’t been nearly as large as Kupp’s since his signing with the Rams, he’s now the team’s clear WR2, picking up a touchdown for his third straight game Monday night.
The Rams are now one game back of the Cardinals, with neither team holding the head-to-head tiebreaker. Both teams have an identical conference record, at 6-3 apiece. The Rams have a fairly challenging schedule the rest of the way with the Seahawks, Vikings, Ravens, and 49ers left to play. The Cardinals will beat Detroit before playing Indianapolis, Dallas, and Seattle.
Cardinals begin to show cracks offensively in loss
The Cardinals’ defense was never going to be the thing that drove them to victory this year, so when the offense falters, they are in serious trouble. And even though the Cardinals were able to move the ball well against the Rams, the two interceptions from Kyler Murray ultimately cost the Cardinals 14 net points.
Even though Murray wasn’t great, the Cardinals’ biggest concern has to be the underperformance of DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has only had more than 80 yards twice in 10 appearances this year, and has been held under 60 yards four of the past five games. He will have a good chance to break out against the Lions next weekend.
Arizona Cardinals - 10-3 (4-1 DIV)
Los Angeles Rams - 9-4 (2-2 DIV)
San Francisco 49ers - 7-6 (1-4 DIV)
Seattle Seahawks - 5-8 (2-2 DIV)
Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions
Los Angeles Rams vs. Seattle Seahawks
San Francisco 49ers vs. Atlanta Falcons