NFC West: Final Word NFC 2012 Week 8

Final Word: NFC West

October, 26, 2012
10/26/12
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 8:

Three streaks to the test: NFC West teams are 4-0 at home in division games. The Arizona Cardinals will try to keep that streak going at home against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. Also, the Seattle Seahawks are 4-0 outside the NFC West. They’ll try to make it 5-0 with a victory at Detroit. However, quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown all seven of his interceptions on the road this season. Finally, the Cardinals’ John Skelton has thrown an interception in 10 consecutive games, the NFL’s longest active streak.

[+] EnlargePete Carroll
Joe Nicholson/US PresswirePete Carroll and the Seahawks face a Lions team that has thrived in the fourth quarter.
Finishing power: The cliche about needing to play a full 60 minutes sounds less trite for the Seattle Seahawks heading into their game at Detroit. The Lions have gained 992 of their 1,926 yards passing in fourth quarters this season. They have thrown all seven of their touchdown passes in fourth quarters. The Lions have 1,075 yards passing in fourth quarters and overtimes. That is 448 more than any other team has gained and 723 more than the Seahawks have gained. Seattle has only 1,230 yards passing for the season. The Seahawks' defense has held opponents to one touchdown pass with two interceptions and a 73.4 NFL passer rating (eighth-lowest) after the third quarter. However, Seattle has allowed 26 passing first downs (eighth-most) and a 67.1 Total QBR (12th highest) across the same span.

Best of both worlds: The 49ers’ defense generally doesn’t blitz much. There should be little need for sending added pressure against the Cardinals. Minnesota got seven sacks against Arizona last week without rushing more than four players on any dropback. Skelton has thrown 17 picks over the past two seasons, all but one against defenses rushing four or fewer defenders. Former starter Kevin Kolb had six touchdowns with only one pick in those situations this season. That could mean Skelton isn’t reading the coverages well enough.

Rediscovering Fitzgerald: Larry Fitzgerald’s production has dropped by 6.1 yards per reception from last season (17.6 to 11.5). He has zero receptions for 40-plus yards after collecting eight of them in 2011. He ranks 36th in receptions of 25-plus yards with three after tying for the NFL lead in that category with 17 last season. Average target depth could be one of the variables at play for Fitzgerald. His depth has fallen from 13.2 yards last season to 5.7 this season out of double formations (one back in the backfield, two skill players per side); it has dropped from 16.0 to 7.1 on the handful of empty formations the team has used. This suggests, on the surface, that Fitzgerald has less time to get downfield when the Cardinals send additional players into pass routes. Target depths have been about the same from two-back and trips formations. However, it’s also true that 2011 was an unusually strong season, even by Fitzgerald’s standards. He set a single-season career high for yards per catch by 2.7 yards.

Missing mainstays: The St. Louis Rams miss injured receiver Danny Amendola, who probably will not play against New England. The Patriots miss injured tight end Aaron Hernandez, who did not make the trip to London for the game. Football is a team sport, however. The Rams have run about as many snaps with Amendola on the field as they have run without him on the field, before and after the injury. They’re averaging slightly more yards per play without him (7.6 to 7.0). They have five offensive touchdowns without him and four with him. The Patriots are averaging slightly more yards per play (5.7 to 5.3) without Hernandez on the field. Their yards per pass attempt is much higher with Hernandez off the field or unavailable through injury (8.1 to 6.0), especially on first and third downs. Amendola and Hernandez are missed, but life must go on, and it has.

Note: ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this item.

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