Around the NFC West

Storylines are plentiful around the NFL this time of year and the NFC West is no exception. San Francisco and St Louis have already made coaching changes while Seattle has been plagued by injuries. Although Arizona enjoys a two-game lead in the division, they aren't out of the woods yet. Brad Wilbricht takes a look at the Cardinals competition halfway through the regular season.

The NFC West is arguably the worst division in the NFL this year, and the Cardinals main competition for the remainder of the season may be the St. Louis Rams. The Rams have been much improved since firing head coach Scott Linehan and replacing him with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. St. Louis is currently 2-5 but has won two of its last three contests and can trim Arizona's division lead to just one game with a win this week.

Although RB Steven Jackson didn't play against the New England Patriots, his return to form and the emergence of rookie WR Donnie Avery have helped fuel the Rams resurgence. Jackson ran for 160 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-14 win against the Dallas Cowboys while Avery has reeled in 10 passes for 218 yards in his last two outings. QB Marc Bulger broke out of an early season funk and had his first 300-yard passing performance of the year against the Patriots.

The Seattle Seahawks run of four straight NFC West titles will likely come to an end this year in Mike Holmgren's final season as head coach. Seattle snapped a three-game losing streak with a 34-13 win over the slumping San Francisco 49ers but still holds a record of only 2-5. Injuries have been the story in Seattle as QB Matt Hasselbeck has missed multiple games while starting wide receivers Deion Branch and Nate Burleson have been sidelined for the majority of the year.

QB Matt Hasselbeck

Hasselbeck's absence has forced backup QB Seneca Wallace under center for the Seahawks. While Wallace has performed admirably with an 83.5 QB rating, Seattle's injury depleted receiving corps has left him little to work with. Rookie TE John Carlson currently leads the team in receiving with 20 catches for 214 yards. Veteran WR Bobby Engram has also been dinged up and is the team's leading wide receiver with 12 receptions for 109 yards.

While expectations were high in the Bay Area, the 49ers are in turmoil after new head coach Mike Singletary took over for the recently dismissed Mike Nolan. Following a 2-1 start, San Francisco has dropped five consecutive decisions. Singletary's intense nature took center stage on the sidelines against Seattle and in a post-game press conference where he berated TE Vernon Davis. Singletary also benched QB J.T. O'Sullivan in favor of backup Shaun Hill with hopes of jump starting a stagnant offense.

After a fast start, O'Sullivan's QB rating had sunk to 74.0 and he's tossed 11 interceptions opposed to only eight touchdown passes. Hill was excellent in relief against the Seahawks, completing 15-of-23 passes for 173 yards and one touchdown. The lone bright spot for the 49ers has been the outstanding play of RB Frank Gore. Gore is ranked fourth in the NFL with 629 yards rushing and has reached pay dirt four times on the year.

Brad Wilbricht can be contacted at

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