NFC West grades: How have Cardinals, Rams, 49ers and Seahawks fared in 2022?

Up is down and down is up within the NFC West by way of the midpoint of this season.

The Seattle Seahawks, predicted to complete final by most pundits nationally after buying and selling franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, shockingly lead the division at 6-3.

“We love this team, we love this group,” Seahawks security Ryan Neal stated about Seattle’s promising begin. “We’re led by great people who have been through it all, been through the ups and downs and have been counted out before. It’s just the makeup of the guys we have. 

“When you could have a gaggle like that, everyone knows the deal. It is nearly us.”

The Seahawks are the only team with a winning record in the NFC West, considered one of the toughest divisions in the NFL to start the season. But many league observers believe the 4-4 San Francisco 49ers are an ascending team with the addition of running back Christian McCaffrey after a midseason trade with the Carolina Panthers.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Rams, the defending Super Bowl champs, find themselves near the bottom of the standings at 3-5 overall. 

Here’s how the NFC West teams grade out as the division heads toward the backstretch of the 2022 NFL campaign.

Arizona Cardinals

After Arizona entered this season having won 11 games and reaching the playoffs last year, Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill certainly did not expect to see his team at the bottom of the standings at 3-6.

Bidwell signed general manager Steve Keim and head coach Kliff Kingsbury to new deals last offseason through 2027, then delivered a five-year, $230.5 contract to 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick Kyler Murray. The contract created a stir nationally when a report surfaced that Murray’s deal included an independent study clause that required the star quarterback to do homework for four hours during a game week.

After Murray and the organization received a barrage of criticism nationally, the clause was hastily removed. However, the unwanted attention was a precursor of things to come for the Cardinals. Arizona struggled to a 2-4 start without star receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who served a six-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs.

But even with Hopkins back, the offense has been plagued by pre-snap penalties, dropped passes, bad snaps, timeouts frenetically called with the clock winding down and overall disjointed play, leaving some to wonder if Kingsbury will make it through the year. 

Grade: D

Los Angeles Rams

Coming off a magical run where everything went right for Sean McVay’s team in a Super Bowl-winning season, 2022 has been the opposite for the Rams.

They’ve been plagued by a rash of injuries along the offensive line, which has led to porous pass protection for veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford and an anemic running game. The Rams are the eighth defending Super Bowl champion to fall below .500 through eight games and the first since the 2013 Baltimore Ravens. 

Are Rams on the brink of missing playoffs?

Are Rams on the brink of missing playoffs?

Nick Wright, Chris Broussard and Kevin Wildes talk about the 49ers’ uphill battle to qualify for the NFL playoffs only a yr faraway from their Tremendous Bowl run.

Los Angeles by no means discovered productive replacements for key gamers who didn’t return for numerous causes: left sort out Andrew Whitworth, proper guard Austin Corbett, edge rusher Von Miller, and receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Robert Woods. 

The Rams are No. 29 within the league in factors scored (16.4 per sport). Stafford has been sacked 28 occasions and is in concussion protocol this week. Los Angeles has turned the ball over 13 occasions. Cooper Kupp (863 scrimmage yards) accounts for practically 40% of L.A.’s manufacturing on offense. 

And naturally, in any case their wheeling and dealing, the Rams don’t have any first- or second-round picks in subsequent yr’s draft. Dangerous occasions throughout.

However, the Rams are only a sport again of San Francisco for the ultimate playoff spot within the NFC. The 49ers had been in the identical place final yr at 3-5 and someway clawed their approach to the NFC Championship Recreation. 

And the Rams nonetheless have the Lombardi trophy from final season. So, there’s that. 

Grade: F

San Francisco 49ers 

The season started inauspiciously, with second-year professional Trey Lance taking on at quarterback whereas former starter Jimmy Garoppolo rehabbed a shoulder damage on a aspect area away from the workforce and waited to be traded. He did not even obtain a playbook.

After which San Francisco surprisingly re-signed Garoppolo as insurance coverage in case Lance struggled or suffered a season-ending damage, which occurred after he ran the ball 16 occasions in his 5 quarters because the starter. 

Together with Lance, the Niners have handled a number of accidents to frontline gamers. Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley is finished for the yr, however San Francisco is hopeful to get again defensive sort out Arik Armstead, defensive sort out Javon Kinlaw, operating again Elijah Mitchell, receiver Jauan Jennings and linebacker Dre Greenlaw.

Christian McCaffrey goes for a hat-trick vs. Rams

Christian McCaffrey goes for a hat-trick vs. Rams

FOX Sports activities NFL Analyst Sean Payton joins Colin Cowherd to recap Christian McCaffrey’s three-TD efficiency in opposition to the Rams in Week 8.

Together with that, the Niners protection is likely one of the finest within the league, and McCaffrey provides juice to an offense that already featured a number of playmakers. Garoppolo simply must persistently get them the ball in house and handle the soccer. 

Grade: B

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle coach Pete Carroll and common supervisor John Schneider used the bevy of gamers and draft picks acquired within the blockbuster commerce with Denver to shortly rebuild the Seahawks right into a playoff contender.

Six picks from this yr’s draft have been important contributors, together with bookend offensive tackles Charles Cross and Abe Lucas, operating again Ken Walker III, cornerbacks Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant, and edge rusher Boye Mafe.

However the revelation amongst this group has been the play of 10-year professional Geno Smith. Incomes a beginning QB function for the primary time since 2014 and after sitting three years behind Wilson, Smith leads the league in completion share. He has accomplished 73% of his passes for two,199 yards with 15 touchdowns and simply 4 interceptions. 

What has made Geno Smith, Seahawks profitable

What has made Geno Smith, Seahawks successful

Colin Cowherd breaks down how Seattle has shocked the league this season.

Smith is an MVP candidate and within the operating for Comeback Participant of the 12 months honors, and the Seahawks could possibly be headed again to the playoffs after ending 7-10 final season. 

“It’s all about discipline right now,” Carroll stated. “Just staying with it, one week at a time. Everybody says that stuff, but that’s because it’s the truth.”

Grade: A

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for greater than a decade, overlaying the Los Angeles Rams for Sports activities Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma Information Tribune. Observe him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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