Red Alert Week 4 - The Cardinals
Two wins on the spin guys!! We’re streaking. Streaking straight into the white hot Rams at home this week, sans an All Pro Safety while trying to defend the hottest offense in football. But enough worrying about that. There’s plenty else to talk about this week. GET YOUR PANIC METERS OUT!!
From Last Week
Well that’s it. I’m never doing another single player special in this series. Not 3 days after the publication of last weeks Red Alert, in which I professed my undying love for Earl Thomas, he goes and breaks his leg, ending his season. Then, as a parting gesture, flips the bird to, simultaneously, the entire coaching staff, and any hopes we may have had of achieving any trade value for him.
This is now a very difficult situation for the Seahawks. We have no hope of achieving any trade value for Thomas, and he will walk if left to hit free agency next year. To avoid such a circumstance, Seattle would have to either franchise tag him, or offer him a long term deal while recovering from injury.
Both carry risks. Tagging Earl could very well lead to a situation similar to the one in Pittsburgh, where Le’veon Bell has yet to turn up for work. Although I can’t see Earl churning out any sub-par rap tracks dissing seemingly everyone. On the other hand, tagging him may be the most sensible way of keeping him around; as a long term deal carries risks. Risks made all the more real if the rumours linking this latest leg break to his previous injury are true.
I still stand by my thoughts of last week though. If Earl plays, he’s the best safety in the league, and has proved it so far this season. The injuries do shed a new light on the saga though.
Rest of the West
As we’re now 25% of the way though our season, and while we’re sandwiched in the middle of two divisional fixtures, now would be a good time to take the opportunity to examine the state of the NFC West and how we should fare moving forward. We’ll take each team individually, starting with our opponents from this past week.
The Cardinals aren’t great. I’d hesitate to say that they’re good. According to youtube’s “5 Points Vids” they are statistically the worst franchise in NFL history. They are dangerous when they get it right though and if Josh Rosen pans out the way the team hopes, they could be significantly better than their current 0-4 record would suggest.
The offense, directed by a competent field general, can be dangerous. They boast one of the most electric running backs in the League in David Johnson. Couple that with an above average receiving corps (pending Larry Fitzgerald’s ability to stave off father time for another year), and they are at the very least, a potential banana skin that we managed to dodge away from home this past week.
THE 49ERS ARE RELEVANT AGAIN!!! Or at least they were for two and a half weeks. The red and gold will now have to grind out the rest of the season with CJ Beathard under center, free agent signings and trades notwithstanding. With apparent franchise messiah Jimmy Garoppolo on the field, the 49ers looked as though they could at least contend. And although they did run the Chargers close this past week, the team just isn’t the same without him.
Moving forward I see the 49ers winning a minimal amount of games and I’ve adjusted my prediction from Seattle splitting our fixtures to now sweeping them. Barring anything drastic, I have confidence that this prediction should run true.
We’re looking like the underdog for this Sunday’s game at home. I think that’s pretty certain. The Rams have taken what they achieved last season, sprinkled it with last season’s playoff disappointment and mixed it with some seriously nasty looking free agents and trades.
The result: The most complete team in the NFL through the first quarter of the season. I think it’s too early to compare this version of the Rams to the Greatest Show on Turf but they’re earning those comparisons thus far. With our flawed offensive line and a now depleted secondary, we match up horribly with the Rams. If we can give ourselves a chance to compete going into the 4th quarter this Sunday I’ll be happy. It’s more than a lot of teams will get against them this season.
Panic Level: GREEN
The eternal optimist in me says we can sneak a home win against the Rams this week, but realistically we don’t have the means to live with their offense. I see us getting swept by the Rams. I’ve already mentioned I think we’ll go 2-0 in matchups with San Francisco, and with a win in Phoenix already under our belt, I think 4-2 within our division would be a realistic prediction, and that ain’t too bad in my book.
This is not going to be me clamouring for the return of Blair Walsh, nor am I trying to say our kicking is losing us games, because it hasn’t. Yet.
Against Arizona, Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 52 yard Field goal in the dying seconds to clinch the game. So why, you ask, is our kicking game on your radar? The kicking game worries me. Like all of you, I looked on in horror as, firstly, we signed a kicker who handed us a playoff win by missing a chip shot field goal. Then secondly, as said kicker carried out what some might see as a sort of karmic revenge on us by missing what seemed like every crucial field goal he lined up. The worry for this season: I can see it happening again.
Sunday’s game shouldn’t have been that close. Janikowski missed two kickable field goals in the first half that should have given us a cushion going into the final minutes, allowing us to further control time of possession, and close out the game in a more comfortable fashion. The saving grace is that the former first round pick came through in the clutch and eventually won us the game. Which is more than Walsh ever did. But it only takes a little more sliding down this slippery slope for us to be losing key games in a season where we’re already in danger of giving ourselves an insurmountable task to make the playoffs.
Panic Level: AMBER
This situation isn’t critical, but neither is it comforting. Janikowski is better than Walsh, but he’s not the guy he used to be, and I just hope he can become the automaton the Raiders deemed good enough to spend an unprecedented amount of draft capital on in 2000.