(CBS San Francisco) — Back in August and early September, the Arizona Cardinals were not favored to win the NFC West. But they currently lead the division as the NFL’s only remaining undefeated team. And their 37-14 thrashing of the Cleveland Browns convinced many doubters that this Cardinals team is for real. But can they continue to outpace the Los Angeles Rams?
The Rams, behind new quarterback Matthew Stafford, continue to win and impress. They dominated the New York Giants, 38-11, in Week 6. While the San Francisco 49ers enjoyed a bye, the Seattle Seahawks dropped a heartbreaker to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
CBS San Francisco sports anchor Vern Glenn looks at the four NFC West matchups in Week 7.
All times listed are Eastern.
Detroit Lions @ Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, October 24 @ 4:05 p.m.
The Lions and Rams traded quarterbacks this past offseason. Jared Goff, who led the Rams to Super Bowl LIII, went to Detroit. And longtime Lions’ signal-caller Matthew Stafford became the starter in Los Angeles. Both QBs needed a change of scenery. The Rams couldn’t repeat that 2018 season, and it became clear that maybe Goff wasn’t the best fit in Sean McVay’s offense. The Lions had been perennially bad, despite Stafford’s impressive numbers.
“This is the game that I’m sure Jared Goff has had circled ever since he was traded from the Rams to the Lions.” Glenn said. “And locally here, Jared Goff is our guy. He grew up in Marin County, right outside of San Francisco. So he has been looking forward to this one. It wasn’t the smoothest transition this trade from the Rams to the Lions for him. But here they come, SoFi stadium. We have all that drama, McVay and Goff.”
The Rams come into Week 7 with a 5-1 record. Stafford remains one of the game’s best passers, averaging 306.3 yards per game and 9.2 yards per attempt, both among the league’s top five. The Lions, despite some close calls, continue to look for that elusive first win. Goff’s numbers — 250.8 yards per game, 6.3 yards per attempt — pale in comparison to Stafford’s. He also doesn’t have the weapons around him that he once did. A dominant Rams defense suggests he’ll have limited success again this Sunday.
“Bottom line, end zone to end zone, it has to be the Rams’ day,” Glenn said. “For as good as Goff is and as much revenge he wants to invoke, he doesn’t play defense. And then Stafford, in that high-powered Rams offense, they’re going to go up and down the field. It is a win for the Rams, who I believe are a double-digit favorite to close at home.”
Houston Texans @ Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, October 24 @ 4:25 p.m.
The Cardinals are the NFL’s last remaining undefeated team, as Kyler Murray tossed four touchdown passes in their 37-14 win last week over the Cleveland Browns. Arizona is playing for a Super Bowl, based on all of their offseason moves, though few people saw them as serious contenders going into the season.
“I have to come clean with this one,” Glenn admits. “At the beginning of the year, I did not give any love to the Arizona Cardinals. I thought this was an organization that, outside of Kyler Murray, this was the organization where a lot of aged NFL veterans would would go and finish up their career. And I’m citing J.J. Watt as one of them, following along the lines of, say, Emmitt Smith, who ended his career with the Arizona Cardinals. But 6-0 is 6-0.”
There’s a good chance the Cardinals’ winning streak will continue against Houston. The Texans were clobbered last week, 31-3, by the Indianapolis Colts, leaving them at 1-5. Davis Mills has not looked up to the task at quarterback, except for his 312-yard, three-TD showing against the New England Patriots in Week 5.
According to Glenn, “that offensive attack for the Texans [is] just not enough to get it done on the road against Kyler Murray and Arizona, who have been the surprise of the NFL. They have to. Numbers don’t lie, 6-0 is 6-0. And again double-digit favorites to win at home.”
Indianapolis Colts @ San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, October 24 @ 8:20 p.m.
The 49ers are coming off their bye week. Jimmy Garoppolo looks probable for Sunday, though Trey Lance still seems hobbled by a knee injury. Overall, the team should be rested and ready for the Colts. Indianapolis easily knocked off the Texans in Week 6, with Carson Wentz spreading the ball around and looking a little more like he did a few years ago with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“The Niners come in a five-point home favorite,” Glenn said. “The 49ers, it doesn’t matter whether Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance are at quarterback. It’s not a matter what happens when they’re in the red zone, because of the 11 trips, they’ve scored 10 times. It’s getting to the red zone and establishing some kind of rhythm to get there.”
Coach Kyle Shanahan has had two weeks to figure out the consistency issue. But the problems also extend to the other side of the ball. The defense has been solid against the pass, allowing just 216.6 yards per game, but the quarterback pressure hasn’t been there. They’ve sacked opposing quarterbacks just 11 times all season.
“The Colts are a pretty good football team, I’ll give them that,” Glenn admits. “They’re much better than that a lot of people expected. But the 49ers almost have to close it out. It is a Sunday night primetime football game. And I just don’t believe that Shanahan could go two weeks without preparing for this one, to come out and shine and come out on top. I’m going 49ers.”
New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks, Monday, October 25 @ 8:15 p.m.
The Saints are also coming out of a bye week. At 3-2, they face the unenviable task of keeping pace with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who lead the NFC South. New Orleans heads to Seattle to meet the 2-4 Seahawks, who will once again be without Russell Wilson. The team’s longtime QB is out until at least Week 10 after his recent hand surgery. Geno Smith was 23-32 for 209 yards and a touchdown in the Seahawks’ overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week.
Smith will have Seattle’s formidable 12th man behind him this week. Lumen Field is “…one of the loudest places to play in the entire NFL,” Glenn said. “I’ve experienced times where I’ve actually tried to have a conversation with someone right next to me, and they could not hear the words coming out of my mouth because it is so, so loud.”
The Saints have been a little hit or miss this season. After dominating the Green Bay Packers in the opener, they fell to the Carolina Panthers and then the New York Giants two weeks after. The Saints dispensed with the Washington Football Team before the break. And the extra rest should help them return some key players from injuries.
“They have four guys that were injured that are going to be able to participate in this game. Especially Michael Thomas, another offensive weapon. They got their left tackle back. They’ve got a linebacker Kwon Alexander back.”
The offense still runs behind Alvin Kamara, who has topped 100 combined yards in his last three outings. Jameis Winston has also picked up his production in his last couple of outings, which included four TD passes in the Saints’ most recent win.