With the first week of the season in the books, fans can finally rejoice that football is back. They got a glimpse of what shape their teams, and their opponents, are in and things are already getting interesting – especially in the NFC West. All four teams picked up wins in the first week of the season. But how can each team separate themselves from the pack and come out on top of this bloodbath of a division?
Arizona Cardinals – Defence
To nobody’s surprise the Cardinals’ offence was firing on all cylinders against an underwhelming Titans side. Murray and Co. totalled 416 yards of total offence, scored on four out of five of their red zone trips and only turned the ball over once.
However, that’s not the biggest talking point from their 25 point victory over Tennessee. Arizona’s success against the Titans largely came from their defence – especially in their ability to slow down Derrick Henry. The 2020 Offensive Player of the Year only averaged 3.4 yards per carry on the day and was stuffed in the backfield on multiple occasions. The star of the show for the Cards was Chandler Jones – who amounted a whopping five sacks, two forced fumbles, and four tackles for a loss. On top of this, the rest of the defence played well too, JJ Watt passed the eye test and the secondary helped to hold Tannehill to a QBR of just 17.5. The Titans’ quarterback seemed overwhelmed for most of the game as his offence only managed to put up 13 points.
If this defensive unit, led by Chandler Jones, continues to match their team’s offensive firepower, the Cardinals have a great chance of taking the NFC West crown this year. And who knows, Jones might also be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation…
Los Angeles Rams – Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford made a statement against a familiar foe on Sunday Night Football The ex-Lions quarterback beat his old divisional rival – the Chicago Bears – and proved to the world that the Rams are here to compete this season. On paper he had a near perfect game. He completed 76% of his passes for 321 yards, threw three touchdowns and no interceptions, and averaged 12.3 yards per attempt.
This is how the Rams can win the West in 2021. Everyone knew the Rams defence was a top three unit in the league. Everyone also knew that Stafford was an upgrade over Goff. But there were some question marks about how long it would take Stafford to settle in. Well, he looked pretty settled in week one. Despite the loss of Cam Akers, Stafford is in the best situation he’s ever been in during his 13 year career. Great coaching from McVay mixed with the receiving options and a top tier defence – they should be tough to beat in their division if number 9 stays at the top of his game.
San Francisco 49ers – Finish Games Strong
The 49ers were the least impressive team in the NFC West in week one. If anything, that shows the strength of this division because they put up 41 points against the Lions. Jimmy Garoppolo played well enough to keep his starting job and the defence held the Lions to 10 points and scored a defensive touchdown in the first half. However, mistakes on offence, defence and special teams in the fourth quarter helped the Lions close the gap to eight points and have an opportunity to tie things up. Back-to-back Lions’ touchdowns with a recovered onside kick in between as well as a Deebo Samuel fumble made this game a lot closer than it needed to be.
For this team to truly compete in their division this year, they’ll need to show that they can comfortably put away the weaker opponents on their schedule. They have the potential to go far, but they struggled to seal a win in week one. If they had faced a stronger opponent, the result could have been very different.
Seattle Seahawks – Can Russ Cook All Year?
The first week of the 2021 season showed Russel Wilson is on track to repeat the early success of his 2020 campaign. Throwing for four touchdowns and 254 passing yards whilst completing 78% of his attempts is incredibly impressive. The Seahawks just need this version of their quarterback to stick around all year.
When he’s in form, Wilson has the potential to be a top three quarterback in the league. However, this side of the 33-year-old doesn’t always show up and when this is the case, it affects the whole team. Consistent play from the quarterback might see him pick up some MVP votes for the first time in his career – which he more than deserves. No pressure, Russ but the Seahawks’ chances in the NFC West rest on your shoulders.
Which team do you think will come out on top of the NFC West this year, and why? Let me know on Twitter @WiddowsonOwen.