Friday, December 17, 2010
Final Word: NFC West
By Mike Sando
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 15:
Taking aim at Cassel.Matt Cassel appears likely to start for Kansas City against St. Louis in a game with playoff implications for both teams. Cassel has 13 touchdowns and three interceptions on the road this season. The Rams have generally fared well at home against "name" quarterbacks, including MVP candidate Philip Rivers (77.4 rating in the Chargers' 27-20 defeat at St. Louis). Visiting quarterbacks have six touchdowns, six interceptions and a 76.0 rating against the Rams. The Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan (101.8) and the Arizona Cardinals' Derek Anderson (85.1) were the only ones with ratings of 80 or higher.
Rams rookie quarterback Sam Bradford has struggled at times in the fourth quarter. He has thrown two touchdowns and seven interceptions in the final period.
Bradford's fourth-quarter push. Cassel has seven touchdowns and no interceptions in fourth quarters this season. The Rams' Sam Bradford, though impressive during a fourth-quarter push against San Francisco, needs to finish stronger more consistently. He has two touchdowns and seven picks in fourth quarters, same as Carolina's Matt Moore. A little better luck would help Bradford. The intercepted shovel pass he threw near the goal line while leading a rally against the Falcons comes to mind. Still, Bradford's fourth-quarter rating ranks 38th among the 47 quarterbacks with at least 15 attempts.
Playoff picture not yet in focus. The Rams and Seattle Seahawks, both 6-7, will earn playoff spots if they win their final three games. They play one another in Week 17, making it impossible for both to finish 9-7. Arizona could win the division at 7-9 if the Rams and Seahawks tied one another to finish 6-9-1 apiece. San Francisco could win the division at 7-9 if the Rams and Seahawks lost their next two (the 49ers visit St. Louis in Week 16). The 49ers would be 5-1 in the division under that scenario.
Seattle's defense on the run. The matchup with Michael Turner and the Falcons' running game appears problematic for Seattle. The Falcons have finished with more than 30 rushing attempts six times this season, including four times on the road (topped by a 50-carry game at New Orleans). They are averaging 152.3 yards rushing per game against the NFC West this season (221 vs. Arizona, 98 vs. San Francisco and 138 vs. St. Louis). Turner has seven 100-yard rushing games overall. The Seahawks have allowed 155 yards rushing per game over their last seven games.
Returning to Carolina. The Arizona Cardinals have set a franchise record with nine return touchdowns. The Carolina Panthers have allowed five return touchdowns this season. Only Cincinnati (eight), San Diego (six) and Minnesota (six) have allowed more. The Cardinals' Adrian Wilson might be due for one. He has watched teammate and fellow safety Kerry Rhodes score two return touchdowns this season. If Wilson is going to get one, where better than in his native North Carolina?