Week 16 in the NFC West featured the Arizona Cardinals staying in the thick of the playoff race by giving the Seattle Seahawks their first home loss in two regular seasons. The St. Louis Rams won their second consecutive game by defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-13. The San Francisco clinched a playoff spot for the third consecutive season by defeating the Atlanta Falcons 34-24.
Here is a glimpse at one aspect from what each NFC West team did in Week 16:
The third-year wide receiver through three quarters of Sunday’s game was a non-factor and had his only catch that was a touchdown grab called back due to an offensive interference penalty. All that changed late in the fourth quarter when he made the biggest catch of the game as he caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to give the Cardinals a 17-10 lead. Floyd’s touchdown grab helped Arizona win a must-win game that has kept them in the race for a playoff position with a Week 17 matchup against the 49ers. In their first meeting with San Francisco in Week 6 the Cardinals fell 32-20 with Floyd making five catches for 44 yard and one touchdown. In the final week of the regular season in “a win and your in” game, Arizona will need Floyd to once again step up and produce.
In a defensive battle in Week 16 between the Seahawks and Cardinals, Richard Sherman once again showed why he is one of best defensive backs in the league as he made two of Seattle’s four interceptions off of Carson Palmer’s passes. The 25-year-old plays a major part in the league’s top ranked pass defense and his two interceptions against Arizona Sunday give him a league-leading eight interceptions. Since coming into the NFL three season’s ago as a fifth round pick out of Stanford, Sherman has worked his way into becoming a shutdown corner and a ball hawk with 20 interceptions so far in his young career.
The Seahawks in Week 17 will need Sherman and the defense to play lockdown defense once again against the Rams with the division crown and the top seed in the NFC on the line. In their first meeting with St. Louis, Seattle won 14-9 on the last play of the game with a goal line stand on the one-yard line and also included Sherman getting two interceptions off quarterback Kellen Clemens. The Seahawks will need Sherman to continue his dominance on defense to help his team secure the best record in the NFC.
The rookie fifth round pick out of Vanderbilt has been a model of consistency for the Rams this season as he helped carry the rams to their seventh win of the year behind 104 yards rushing and one touchdown. His touchdown came on a one-yard run in the second quarter that tied the game at 7-7. Since claiming starting running back duties in Week 3, Stacy has been a workhorse for St. Louis as he has rushed for 958 yards with seven touchdowns on the season, and this includes four games of over 100 yards rushing with his last two coming in the past two weeks.
The 22-year-old has proven to be the most important piece to the Rams’ offense with Sam Bradford out with a torn left ACL that he suffered in Week 6. St. Louis will need Stacy to continue to produce as the team’s centerpiece in the offense on road in Week 17 against Seattle, as they try to deny the Seahawks the No.1 seed in the NFC playoff bracket and also get their eight win of the season. In their first matchup with Seattle in Week 7, Stacy rushed for 134 yards on 26 carries and the Rams will likely need Stacy to dominate on the ground once again against one of the league’s best defenses.
The 30-year-old running back is as steady as they come at his position as he rushed for 97 yards on 21 carries with one touchdown in Week 16. His touchdown came on a one-yard run with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter to give San Francisco a comfortable 27-17 lead over the Falcons. Gore has been the backbone of the 49ers’ offense as he has already gone over the 1,000 yards rushing mark for the season with 1,114 rushing yards to go with nine touchdowns. In his nine-year career he has rushed over 1,000 yards in seven of the seasons including the last three years.
The success of the 49ers’ offense is almost entirely dictated on how Gore performs in each game because if the ground game is not effective it will put pressure on Colin Kaepernick to use his arm to beat teams, which is something that has not been a consistently viable option for the team all season long. With a playoff position now clinched, look for San Francisco to keep their foot on the gas pedal in Week 17 against the Cardinals as a win and a Seahawks loss to the Rams would give them a first-round bye in the playoffs. With that said, it is going to be a tough battle in the trenches for the 49ers’ third-ranked rushing attack on the road as they face the league’s top-ranked rushing defense in Arizona that in Week 16 shut down Marshawn Lynch by only allowing him to rush for 71 yards and no touchdowns.
Photo Credit: 49ers.com
Bob Garcia IV
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