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Rest of the NFC West, Week 16: Entire division implodes simultaneously (except the Rams)

Syndication: Arizona Republic Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Seattle Seahawks weren’t the only team to fold late this week in the NFC West. Both San Francisco and Arizona crumbled under fourth-quarter pressure in their games, and the Rams (and especially Matthew Stafford) tried their best to do so. Let’s briefly look over what you should know from the other games around the division this week.

Jimmy G throws two picks, 49ers lose in Tennessee

Despite being up 10-0 at half, the 49ers found a way to lose to the Titans Thursday night, who came in having lost three of four and with a number of key players on the COVID list. The 49ers dominated the Titans for much of the game, but an end-zone interception and another pick in the second half that set up a short Tennessee touchdown drive proved to be enough to derail the Niners.

The key, as is typical, to the Niners loss was having too much on Garoppolo’s shoulders. He excels best as a game manager, but with starting running back Jeff Wilson managing just 45 yards, Garoppolo was asked to do more than his skill allows, and he didn’t succeed, despite a late valiant effort. Deebo Samuel was once again the bright spot for San Francisco, who picked up 159 receiving yards on nine catches.

The 49ers still have a good shot at the playoffs, meaning Garoppolo is almost certain to remain the starter, but I wonder if the 49ers are regretting not having given Trey Lance more of a shot earlier this year. Is a Wild Card exit worth denying an already-inexperienced Lance (who started for just one season in college) an entire season of valuable in-game experience? It’s definitely a question worth asking.

Cardinals perform annual collapse, lose at home to Carson Wentz

Wow, the Cardinals are choking. After starting 7-0, Arizona is just 3-5 in their last eight, including an 18-point loss against the Lions last weekend. In an eerily familiar slide to their 2-5 finish to the 2020 season, the Cardinals offense has stalled without DeAndre Hopkins and with a half-healthy James Conner. Combine these injuries with the often head-scratching game management and play calling of Kliff Kingsbury, and the uncharacteristic struggles of Matt Prater, and you have a recipe for collapse.

Jonathan Taylor ran for over 100 yards on the Cardinals on Saturday, and the opportunistic Colts did just enough to get the win on Christmas. They have left the Cardinals in the 5th seed in the NFC.

Stafford’s struggles continue, but Rams win in Minnesota

Well, Matthew Stafford surely hasn’t inspired confidence with his play lately, throwing multiple interceptions in three of the last seven games, but the Rams had a talented enough team to beat the always-dangerous Vikings Sunday. Stafford tossed three picks to the Vikings en route to a 30-23 win. Cooper Kupp was dominant as always, setting an NFL record for most consecutive games with 90+ receiving yards (13 and going strong), and the Rams are now the number two seed in the NFC West. And, given the way the Cardinals have played lately, I can’t say I feel confident in their ability to catch up.

Standings

Arizona Cardinals - 10-5 (4-1 DIV)

Los Angeles Rams - 11-4 (3-2 DIV)

San Francisco 49ers - 8-7 (1-4 DIV)

Seattle Seahawks - 5-10 (2-3 DIV)

Next Week

Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys

Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens

Seattle Seahawks vs. Detroit Lions

San Francisco 49ers vs. Houston Texans