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With 25% of the season in the books, we now know a little more than before…and a little less. The NFC West division is as expected; extremely potent defensively and full of competition and intrigue. We expected drama, however, we probably didn’t expect to find it in as many areas as it’s been turning up.

Arizona Cardinals

Carson Palmer and the Cardinals continued where they left off in 2014 before the quarterback’s leg buckled under pressure but untouched by the St. Louis Rams. With even more weapons, and continued health overall, the Cardinals are now the front-runner and favorite to represent this division in the post-season. The newfound youth of veteran receiver and future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald has lifted the team to heights that has surprised most everyone outside the state of Arizona and fantasy football players everywhere. The addition of running back Chris Johnson has been a perfect fit with starter Andre Ellington injured, and with his return and David Johnson now a confirmed threat, they are stacked in the backfield.

Things to consider:

Despite running into a brick wall in Week 4, it remains a scary thought that all things considered, mainly injuries to no less than three of their offensive weapons, we have not seen this team at their very best consistently yet. With their secondary having a firm choke hold on being ” the best secondary in the league” despite what they call themselves in Seattle, the Cardinals need only to stay healthy to make the playoffs. Coach Bruce Arians is not about to let up or let his team let up, and this effective killer instinct has been contagious. They are 1-and-1 in division play, and in the second quarter of the season they play Detroit, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland, not exactly world beaters, especially if Big Ben has not returned by then.

The Bottom Line:

I doubt that this team will not bounce back from the brutal week 4 loss and make the playoffs, their schedule is much too soft overall for the remainder of the season. The question may only be if they can survive the physicality of the division to go deep enough into them. The rest of the division is simply too inconsistent or not as talented.

St. Louis Rams

The Rams continue to be the NFL team voted Most Likely to Cause Money and Hair Loss with their play-to-the-level-of-competition mentality. However, the table can turn in the coming weeks as some younger players further develop and as quarterback Nick Foles settles into a new offensive system while working with lesser receivers than Jeremy Maclin, his target in Philadelphia. Their well-respected defensive front keeps them in games and is steadily becoming the fear of QBs throughout the league. The main problem in St. Louis appears to be the two-sided blade that comes with being the youngest team in the NFL: the tendency to cut their own throats. As young and talented as they are, penalties and botched assignments are costly and can derail the train they occasionally show other teams.

Things to consider:

Being a fan myself, I can tell you that in recent years the Rams would start slow and improve or solidify during the season, something they can do this year as well as the pieces fit. However, this year, the defense has stayed true to their off-season goal of doing what they do from Day 1. The only bad game defensively was the week 2 loss to Kirk Cousins and the Redskins who have since since surprised the masses by being a much better team than previously thought by most experts and media analysts. There might be a light further down the tunnel in who is said to be the newest best running back to come along since Adrian Peterson, Todd Gurley. In the final game of the first quarter of the season we got a glimpse of things to come. He is, as of now, everything they say he is and more. I was personally impressed at not only his physical ability but at how football savvy and instinctively smart he is already as a mere rookie, and I’m sure Coach Fisher doesn’t need anyone to tell him that this is the player to build a team around.

The Bottom Line: 

At this point of the season it’s clear the Rams are not playoff-ready, but there is time to focus, learn and grow… mainly focus and there is an outside shot at the wild-card spot as, at 2-and-0, they are the only undefeated team in division play in the NFC West. This past week’s re-signing of linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar can help with the lack of veteran leadership, but it wouldn’t hurt to sign (or hire) an old pro at the receiver/coach position.

Seattle Seahawks

Well, the ‘BOOM’ in the Legion of Boom is back and all is well with the Seahawks world again, or is it? Note to Packers LB Clay Matthews who was recently quoted when confronting 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, saying to him, “You’re no Russell Wilson, bro!,” Russell Wilson is no Aaron Rodgers, either. It was expected to be Wilson’s finest season to date during the off-season when Jimmy Graham was signed but the team has so far appeared to take steps backward. Even Beast Mode is malfunctioning and you can’t tell who is the go-to receiver on any given weekend.

Things to consider:

Consider the play of the offensive line, first and foremost. Wilson is running for his life throughout games, and let them say what they want about height not being a factor, but it’s a factor indeed when you’re forced to scramble as much as he’s had to. Marshawn Lynch is only effective running downhill-styled plays but blocking is a huge part of that. Plus, there are now indications that the wheels are starting to go bad on that abused vehicle and incorporating rookie running back Thomas Rawls into future game plans early on will be the smartest thing Coach Carroll can do this season.

The Bottom Line: 

[Luckily beating Detroit], the Seahawks are 2-and-0 in the past two weeks, the easiest part of their schedule until December, but 0-and-1 in division play. Their next six games include three division games (two with San Francisco) and two opponents that are currently undefeated, plus the Cardinals who are playing as well or better than the undefeated teams. Seattle’s 2015 success is probably made or broken during this stretch.

San Francisco 49ers

From Day 1 of the regular season, the ‘Niners are not exactly the dumpster fire most expected, despite the 1-and-3 record. The three losses have been to top-tier teams, a great measuring stick to gauge their performance, and the last quarter-of-the-season game against Green Bay was near mind-boggling as they held Aaron Rodgers and Company to 17 points. This is something to build on if the team ignores the media and buys into the current coaching staff more than the name-brand talent on the team.

Things to consider: 

This past week, the 49ers held a meeting in which the end results were to thoroughly examine where they stand, what needs to be corrected and ways to get on the same page. It was decided that not everything was on the shoulders of the quarterback, and that receivers could do a better job at running routes, blocking, pursuing…basically, at doing the job they get paid to do. That being said, it’s not easy to make young athletes stare themselves in the mirror, dig down deep and find their inner adult while leaving egos (and headlines) in the parking lot. Injuries to players like Vernon Davis (knee issues) don’t help their chances of going far, but I have to assume the front office is not expecting a Super Bowl trip after the off-season from hell.

The Bottom Line: 

The 49ers are way too talent-deficient on defense to be a contender but I’m fairly impressed with Coach Jim Tomsula and staff so far, and let’s keep tabs on where the coming-together meeting takes them from here. It may indeed be a building foundation as adversity sometimes brings people closer and more willing to fight wars as one. The next seven games on their schedule are mostly brutal ones with teams that have better defenses than the one the offense faces in practice. At 1-and-3 currently, it won’t take much longer to tell if wild-card dreams are just dreams or a welcomed slim-chanced hope. Still, the 49ers might just rise up enough to become the thorn in the foot of a division rival.

About Author

Tony Lopez

Tony Lopez is a die-hard Rams fan and Rams representing writer at Fanosis, as well as an avid fantasy football player that has won championships at Yahoo, ESPN, NFL(dot)com and FOX. An ex-employment specialist at Goodwill of Southern California's main headquarters, he has work with prison programs and has L.A. certified training to aid people with disabilities. He is also a poet and ghostwriter.