Being the Super Bowl Champs is great, but all these Sundays without Seahawks football is getting a little tiresome. For the third time in five weeks, the NFL’s most active day will carry on without the Seahawks. Fans are forced to arrange their Sunday viewing around games that have significance to Seattle instead of actual Seahawks action. This week features two games that will tell us a lot about how the NFC West is going to play out this season.
Arizona @ Denver 1:05 PM PT FOX
Carson Palmer will once again miss a start with a dead nerve in his throwing shoulder. Nerve issues are notoriously unpredictable. Palmer might be back next week or may not throw again this year. Arizona enters this game undefeated. Two of those three wins have come with Drew Stanton at quarterback.
This game in Denver is the toughest of their season so far, but the Cardinals have not been playing patsies. They beat the Chargers and 49ers at home, and beat the Giants on the road. Denver will be eager to reassert themselves after a loss to Seattle. Another loss here would drop them to 2-2.
The smart money here is on a big Denver win. Vegas has the Broncos as 7.5-8.0 point favorites. This Cardinals defense, though, has been incredibly tough so far.
They rank #2 in points allowed (15 ppg), #5 in yards allowed (316 ypg), #2 in points per play, #8 in yards per play (5.0), and #2 in yards per carry allowed (2.9).
The Cardinals defense ranks second in the NFL in points allowed
Denver is far more reliant on the run game than people realize. If Arizona can shut them down in that aspect, this game will be closer than people expect.
The Broncos defense is significantly improved from last year and could be the reason they win this one. Losing the turnover battle will doom the Cardinals.
Should Arizona shock the world with a win, this division starts to look far tougher.
Kansas City @ San Francisco 1:25 PM PT CBS
Alex Smith returning to San Francisco is being compared by some to when Joe Montana returned to SF as a Chief. Really? Alex Smith and Joe Montana are about as comparable as Larry Bird and Jon Barry.
Regardless, this game shapes up to be an interesting matchup. The Chiefs defense is #2 in the NFL in sack percentage, sacking opposing QBs on 8.3% of their attempts. The 49ers have surrendered the fourth-most sacks per attempt (7.5%) in the league.
The Chiefs love to run the ball, and have shown a commitment to doing it even when the sledding is tough. They are fifth in the NFL in rushing attempts per game (31.8), and 6th in percentage of plays that are rushes (47%). The 49ers defense has recovered in a big way in defending the run after a terrible opener at Dallas. They are allowing the second-fewest rushing yards per game at just under 70 ypg.
One potentially critical factor will be team discipline. Kansas City is among the best in the league at playing disciplined football, ranking 3rd in fewest penalties per game. San Francisco is dead last in that category.
The 49ers have faced a rusty Tony Romo, Drew Stanton and a sore-shouldered Nick Foles. Smith, while not Montana, is the best quarterback competition they will have seen so far this year. He is not likely to turn the ball over, and the 49ers defense ranks 28th in sack percentage, so he should have some time to find receivers.
I am just not sure there will be receivers to find. Expect a lot of Jamaal Charles catching passes. The 49ers defense looked like it was regaining its swagger last week, and should carry the day.
The Chiefs can win this game if they protect the ball and find a way to put up 15+ points. Stopping the 49ers running game will be a challenge with a defense that ranks 28th yards per carry allowed (5.0).
If the Chiefs find a way to win this game, the 49ers would be 2-3, including 1-2 at home. That would make for a good Sunday.