St. Louis Rams (4-4) at San Francisco 49ers (2-6)
Under normal circumstances, a Week 10 matchup between a 4-4 team and a 2-6 team shouldn’t have many playoff implications.
Heck, it really shouldn’t have any playoff implications at all.
But in the completely-up-for-grabs NFC West division, it’s a pretty big deal.
This Sunday, the Rams will look to claim sole possession of first place in the division (they’re currently tied with the 4-4 Seattle Seahawks) while the Niners continue their improbable “stayin’ alive” campaign. Two weeks ago at Wembley Stadium in London, England, the Niners beat the Denver Broncos for just their second win of the season — but given what transpired over this past weekend, that win ended up being much, much more.
The Seahawks were destroyed at home, 41-7, by the New York Giants, their second consecutive loss. The Arizona Cardinals lost in dramatic fashion to the Vikings, dropping them to 3-5 on the year. Those two results meant that the 49ers are now just two games out of first place in the NFC West and within one game of Arizona for third spot.
San Francisco should also be buoyed by the fact St. Louis has not won a road game this year, and Sunday’s contest will be in the friendly confines of Candlestick Park. This promises to be a very difficult scenario for Rams QB Sam Bradford — while he’s been decent after losing leading receivers Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton for the year, Bradford will be going up against a stout defense led by reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Patrick Willis.
But the Rams do play some defense at well, and it should be a stern test for 49ers RB Frank Gore on Sunday. The rush defense has benefitted from the strong play of defensive ends James Hall (27 tackles. 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles) and Chris Long (16 tackles, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles), while second-year CB Bradley Fletcher is second on the team with 39 tackles.
Seattle Seahawks (4-4) at Arizona Cardinals (3-5)
The other noteworthy NFC West battle this weekend takes place in Arizona, where two reeling clubs look to get a win. The Seahawks have been flat-out awful as of late — they’ve been outscored by 64 points in consecutive losses (to Oakland and the New York Giants) while conceding over 1,000 yards of total offense — and their injury woes aren’t helping matters any. The offensive line is in shambles and prized rookie LT Russell Okung is still on the limp.
The Cardinals have also lost two games in a row, but in far less emphatic fashion. A narrow 38-35 loss to Tampa Bay two weeks ago was followed up by a devastating 27-24 OT loss to Minnesota last Sunday — a game which the Cardinals led by 14 points with just over four minutes remaining.
The big key for this game will be Cards QB Derek Anderson. Three weeks ago, he appeared in relief of Max Hall in a 22-10 loss to Seattle and lit a small spark under the offense. Since taking over, Arizona has scored 59 points in two games, leading to speculation that Anderson is the clear-cut No. 1 QB (and that he should’ve been all along). If he can keep the momentum going against Seattle, he might be able to salvage the Cardinals’ season.