(CBS San Francisco) — The NFC West has a pretty wide gap going into Week 10. The Arizona Cardinals have the NFL’s best record at 8-1, while the Los Angeles Rams are one of only a few teams to reach seven wins. The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, on the other hand, have each only won three games. Their odds of making a playoff run seem to grow longer by the week.
Coming off a win, the Seahawks will get another boost in Week 10, when quarterback Russell Wilson returns. But they face the unenviable challenge of meeting the Packers in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers’ status, a key point for both teams, remains uncertain. The 49ers face a Rams team looking to bounce back from their recent loss to the Tennessee Titans. And the soaring Cardinals try to add another win against the fading Carolina Panthers.
CBS San Francisco sports anchor Vern Glenn breaks down the three NFC West matchups in Week 10.
All times listed are Eastern.
Carolina Panthers @ Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, November 14 @ 4:05 p.m.
The Panthers just re-signed their former quarterback Cam Newton. But that won’t change anything for them on the field when they had to Arizona to face the Cardinals. Carolina has struggled behind quarterback Sam Darnold, losing five of their last six games. His production is down, and turnovers are up, likely because of the shoulder injury that has now landed him on injured reserve. P.J. Walker will get the start against the Cardinals, but his tenure as the top signal caller may be limited to the time it takes Newton to get re-acclimated.
“Carolina on the road, they’re going to be 10-point underdogs at Arizona,” Glenn speculated. “But just the thought of Cam Newton rejoining a franchise that needed a hypodermic into that arm I think is exciting. So he’s going to walk in. He’s going to be revered as the old man, the OG, as the kids say, around that team. I kind of feel bad for P.J. Walker, who’s going to be starting this game for the Panthers, because he’s been getting all the reps.”
Walker will be leading the Panthers against the NFL’s top team, at least in terms of record. The Cardinals defense allows just 321 yards and 17.2 points per game, both among the NFL’s top five best. The offense, led by Kyler Murray until an ankle injury sidelined him in favor of Colt McCoy, puts up 398.4 yards and 30.8 points per game, also among the league’s best. Murray starting will be a game-time decision. But McCoy was an effective 22-26 for 249 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers last week. And whoever starts under center will also get back wide receiver A.J. Green.
The Panthers have their work cut out for them. “I don’t think there’s any way they’re going to walk into Arizona and take care of a team that’s got the best record in the NFC, that has all systems go,” said Glenn.
Seattle Seahawks @ Green Bay Packers, Sunday, November 14 @ 4:25 p.m. on CBS
The Week 10 matchup between the Seahawks and Packers could set up as a battle of legendary quarterbacks. Russell Wilson has been cleared to return from finger surgery, which made him miss three games for the Seahawks. Aaron Rodgers, who tested positive for COVID and was later revealed to be unvaccinated, can rejoin the Packers this coming Saturday if he clears the NFL’s protocols.
The Seahawks have dropped to 3-5 without Wilson and are seeing their playoff chances dwindle each week. Under backup Geno Smith, they lost by a field goal to both the Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints before routing the Jacksonville Jaguars. Coming off a Week 9 bye, they’ll be well rested heading into Lambeau Field.
“They need to not make any mistakes,” Glenn emphasized. “Wilson, we know, is going to make good decisions directing the offense, and he gets DK Metcalf back. That said Seattle’s going to be on the road. They’re a different team on the road. They’re at Green Bay, they’re at Lambeau Field… there’s an effect that they have, an advantage that they just automatically have when you walk into that stadium.”
But the Packers are a different team when Mr. Rodgers isn’t under center. That was clear in last week’s 13-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Backup QB Jordan Love didn’t find the end zone until the fourth quarter. He only managed to go 19-34 for 190 yards against one of the NFL’s worst defenses.
If Rodgers returns Saturday, he will have missed a week of preparation. But that probably won’t make much difference for the future Hall of Famer.
According to Glenn, “he’s the one guy that doesn’t have to practice, doesn’t need any reps. He can just walk in there and direct the offense. He’s going to have Davante Adams with him. And a combination of those two at home, along with that defense… by the way, they have the October Defensive Player of the Month in De’Vondre Campbell, the linebacker there. I just think Green Bay wins this one, especially if Aaron Rodgers plays.
Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 49ers, Monday, November 15 @ 8:15 p.m.
The Rams offense, behind Matthew Stafford, seemed to have reached much more of their potential than they did under Jared Goff. The Rams are averaging 296.3 yards per game passing, and Stafford has piled up 2,771 passing yards on the season. They struggled in their 28-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans, who are finding their way without Derrick Henry. The Titans sacked Stafford five times, which clearly had the desired effect.
“The only way the 49ers have a chance to win this game is to win the matchup up front,” said Glenn. “Eric Armstead has to go [hard]. Nick Bosa has to go [hard]. Fred Warner has to run that defense, he makes all the calls there. That defense has to have a bounceback game and a peak performance if the Niners are going to have a chance to win that game. If any one of those three dominoes do not perform, they have no chance of stopping the Rams.”
The 49ers were picked apart by Colt McCoy and the Cardinals in Week 9. McCoy’s efficient passing was bolstered by a strong showing from running back James Conner, who ran for 96 yards and two TDs on 21 carries. The 49ers defense will have to do better this week if San Francisco is to have any hope.
“If the defense can create a push and force Matthew Stafford into the third and long and make bad decisions, then the Niners have a chance,” said Glenn. “But my spider sense says the Niners are looking at a 3-6 record coming out of that game and the Rams win it.”
That said, this has been a crazy season in the NFL. Plenty of obvious wins for the league’s elite have turned into embarrassing losses. The Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Buffalo Bills and the Denver Broncos beat the Dallas Cowboys just last week.
“You still have to roll the ball out and play the game,” said Glenn.