The St. Louis Rams can gain ground on two division foes without playing a single snap Sunday.
The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks are both in action Sunday afternoon, and both have tough matchups against NFC North opponents. At 4-4, both teams could be just a half game in front of the Rams in the NFC West by the end of the day.
The Cardinals have the tougher test of the two Sunday. They travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers, a team the Rams know well, at noon. Two weeks ago the Packers came to the Edward Jones Dome and showed what they’re capable of, beating the Rams 30-20 on the strength of QB Aaron Rodgers’ 30-for-37, 342-yard performance. Rodgers had a tougher week last week in Jacksonville, but the Packers won the game and have won three in a row overall.
The Cardinals offense will have a long day if they’re unable to protect QB John Skelton. LB Clay Matthews, whom the Rams kept relatively in check, has nine sacks and one forced fumble on the year, and he’ll certainly be looking to bury Skelton if he gets into the Cardinals backfield. The Packers run defense has allowed 4.1 yards per rush, but the Cardinals are still without the services of starting RB Beanie Wells and backup Ryan Williams.
If the Cardinals are to win, it’ll be behind their defense that has far-and-away the most sacks in the league with 39 through eight games. Still, the Cardinals have won some surprising games this year – they beat the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium in week two – but they’ll need another shocking performance to pull out the victory on the not-yet-frozen tundra.
The Seahawks have a much clearer path to victory. The Minnesota Vikings will visit the great northwest at 3:05 p.m. in hopes of dealing the Seahawks their first home loss of the season. The Seahawks are 3-0 at CenturyLink Field, with victories over the aforementioned Packers and Patriots under their belt.
The Vikings win behind all-everything RB Adrian Peterson and a middle-of-the-pack defense that can still get after the quarterback. It’ll be strength versus strength, though, as the Seahawks have allowed only 14 sacks all season while the Vikings have recorded 19 sacks through eight games.
The bigger matchup will be Peterson against the Seahawks stout run defense. The Vikings are 7th in the league in rushing yards per game, but the Seahawks are even better at defending the run, allowing just 84.9 yards per game, good for 5th in the NFL. It’s not hard to see the winner of this game being the team that wins that one battle.
If both division rivals fall on Sunday, the Rams have a chance to be alone in second place in the NFC West with a win next Sunday at also-dormant San Francisco. There’s a lot to root for – and against – even with the Rams on a bye Sunday.