OSN Column: Wild NFC West Week Two Preview – Are There Four Juggernauts In The Same Division?

By: Casey Mabbott/Oregon Sports News

A week ago, NFC West QBs combined for this ridiculous stat line, and we may never see one like it again. Until this Sunday, at least.

Seventy-six completions on 106 attempts for 1,178 yards with twelve touchdowns and just one interception and a completion percentage of 72%.

Now, you could chalk that up to week one, and that other teams fared just as well, that we shouldn’t blow it out of proportion. Fine, let’s look at how their opponents did?

Opposing QBs had 111 completions on 168 attempts for 1007 yards, six touchdowns, three interceptions, and a completion percentage of 65%. Other than worse numbers, what else do these QBs have in common? That’s right, they all lost.

The QBs facing the NFC West averaged 15 more pass attempts than the team they were facing. That’s crazy! That tells you that this wasn’t a fluke, that all four offenses are very efficient, and that their opponents had to chuck a lot of balls in the air to try and keep up – after they fell behind by multiple scores. Arizona destroyed the Tennessee running game, Seattle scored too quickly and too often for Indianapolis to stick with their running attack, Los Angeles forced Chicago into a shootout from the onset. San Fransicso toyed with Detroit so much that the Lions thought they had a chance at a comeback bid after being down 38-10 in the third quarter.

The QBs these teams faced are no slouches either. Sure, Andy Dalton isn’t a guy you gameplan around, but he still had a very efficient game and could not even come close to what Matthew Stafford was doing. Carson Wentz looked a lot more like his 2017 self than whatever he showed the last three years, and it wasn’t even close to the otherworldly wizardry Russell Wilson was performing. Kyler Murray looked like he was throwing on his scout team, not the Titans’ starters. Ryan Tannehill looked out of sorts without a running game to lean on, and the stats don’t look as shaken as he did last weekend. Jared Goff had very pedestrian numbers before putting together a great second half and didn’t make a significant mistake until he threw a bad pass to ice the game with just seconds remaining.

So what can we expect this week? More of the same, most likely.

Seattle VS Tennessee Sunday 1:25 PM on CBS (in region)

When the Seahawks host the Titans this Sunday afternoon, Seattle will have a tall task of containing Derrick Henry after Arizona made him look like a third-stringer for most of their matchup. Seattle has a very talented defensive line, but I think we’d all be surprised if they can hold Henry to less than 60 yards for the second week in a row.

The Titans have their own avalanche to hold back, as Russell Wilson looked very comfortable running a new offense, finding receivers in open space for significant gains on repeat. The Colts tried to force Seattle to beat them without DK Metcalf by using bracket coverage on him most of the first half, but it didn’t work as Seattle’s other weapons found big holes in the secondary. The Colts were forced to adjust and cover Metcalf one on one in the second half, and the offense was off to the races. Tennessee will have to figure out how to slow the Seattle offense down, and the best way to do that is to keep them off the field by running the ball and finishing drives with touchdowns. Field goals and short drives won’t win this game or many others in the league this year, so Tannehill and his new offensive coordinator better have a better plan for Wilson than they did for Murray a week ago.

I will be shocked if Seattle lets the Titans hang around too long in their first home game of the season. A week ago, Wilson had only one more incompletion than touchdowns and only had to attempt 23 passes the entire game – with an outstanding Colts pass rush getting near him repeatedly. That’s efficiency other QBs only dream of. Look for Wilson to continue throwing darts and stealing hope from the other side this week. Even if Henry can eclipse 100 yards, it’s too much to ask of the Titans defense to hold this Seattle offense back long enough to keep up. Just like the Colts, the Titans are going to have to try and survive a shootout, and it’s not likely to work out.

Prediction: Seattle wins 38-17

San Francisco at Philadelphia Sunday 10 AM FOX (in region)

It’s really too bad this isn’t a game of Trey Lance vs. Jalen Hurts, although we’re bound to be treated to those matchups in the years to come. Jimmy Garopplo isn’t a bad QB; he’s just not the dynamic playmaker that his peers in the division are. The Eagles have many weapons on offense, and they have a lot of different ways to get after your team on defense. The same thing can be said of the 49ers, although we’ll have to see which version of them shows up this week – the one that was destroying the Lions in the first three quarters or the one that barely produced when it came time to finish the job. If you’re up 38-10 in the second half and are outscored 23-3 the rest of the way, it leads to a lot of questioning. We’ll see how the 49ers answer this week.

For starters, the 49ers will travel again and will play in the morning – again. The Eagles toyed with the Falcons before putting them away for good; we’ll see if they can do the same to a team that appears to enjoy playing football. Hurts is a great passer and runner, so this game will be good homework for the 49ers when they face Wilson and Murray later on.

Both teams should get their share of points, and the game should feature a lot of lead changes and highlight plays. You have to gameplan around a guy on either side; the challenge is figuring out who the play is designed for and stopping that route. Good luck, as it seems like the play-callers themselves don’t know who is getting the ball next from play to play.

San Francisco should win a close battle, but they will struggle with the same things that almost cost them the game last week – a defensive collapse late in the game. They have to find ways to stop drives early and force the young QB on the other side to make mistakes. If they find themselves holding onto a big lead well before the game is over, they need to run the ball effectively and stay aggressive on defense. One of the biggest mistakes many NFL teams make in the second half of lopsided games is getting complacent.

Prediction: San Francisco wins 24-17

Arizona VS Minnesota Sunday 1:25 PM FOX (out of region)

The Vikings have everything they need on offense, but they just can’t seem to put it together. I expect to see more of that this weekend when they have to try and solve the puzzle of the Cardinals’ new defense that absolutely killed the spirit of the Titans a week ago. The Vikings are a lot like the Titans, only with less talent overall. RB Dalvin Cook is a great playmaker out of the backfield, and wide receivers Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson are very tough to cover for an entire game. But you can stop all that by pressuring Kirk Cousins, and that seems to be easier than ever before.

On the flip side, Murray is an elite passer now with elite weapons and a running game that is just good enough to keep their air-raid offense honest. The defensive line – now anchored by JJ Watt – is giving Chandler Jones the chance to impose his will as a pass rusher, and that’s exactly what he did a week ago, harassing Tannehill and forcing him into mistakes. No running game, and your QB running for his life? Not a good sign, but that’s likely what the Vikings will get this Sunday.

Even if you manage to keep pace, you have to deal with Murray’s unfair rapport with all-pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and if you think their connection is unjust, wait until you see the body control Hopkins has near the sideline. A mobile QB shouldn’t be allowed to throw a bullseye to a contortionist, and yet that’s what you get when you see Murray and Hopkins in the same offense.

It’s a tall task to contain the Cardinals on either side, but they appear to have a complete team for the first time in years. The Vikings will have to head back to the great north at 0-2.

Prediction – Arizona wins 31-10

Los Angeles Rams at Indianapolis Colts 10 AM FOX (out of region)

Finally, we get to see Goff vs. Wentz for all the marbles. Wait, no, this isn’t the Super Bowl, and Goff plays for Detroit. Still, Stafford vs. Wentz should be a lot of fun, you know, if you don’t like the Colts. I’ll say this for Wentz, he has had a really bad run of bad luck, and it extends to this week. After having to try and match Russell Wilson a week ago, now he has to see if he can keep up with a supercharged Rams offense that looks somehow better than it did in 2018. As much as we wanted to believe that offense was the second coming of the Greatest Show on Turf, it might be the one we’re getting this season. Van Jefferson looks like a perfect fit as the third option, Cooper Kupp has developed an unfair connection with Stafford, and then you have the two guys everyone seems to forget about – Robert Woods and Tyler Higbee. And that’s just four guys; there’s always at least one or two more to worry about.

As big of an arm as Goff had, Stafford brings a different level to this offense, and you could see it in the win over the Bears last week. Stafford averaged 16 yards per completion and was just toying with the Chicago secondary late in the game. Goff had games where he looked great, but it was rare to see him playing with the big smile Stafford had on his face. This guy looks like he just got out of the Chateau d’If after a decade, and maybe that’s how it felt to play in Detroit and then move to LA.

The Colts tried many things against the Seahawks last week, and frankly, none of them worked out. Even if they get Xavier Rhodes back this week, they have to face an even better corner in Jalen Ramsey and the doctor of destruction in Aaron Donald. Seattle has a very talented defense, but they don’t have a player on the level of Donald upfront. Darrell Taylor might get to that point someday, but he’s not anywhere close yet. Wentz could not come up with enough completions or points at home last week, and I don’t expect him to suddenly find those plays this week against a similar opponent that can defeat you in seventeen different ways.

The Rams will be smiling again at the end of this one, and they won’t even have to wait until Sunday night this time.

Prediction – Los Angeles wins 31-10