RENTON, Wash. – Less than a year after the Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams faced off to determine the NFC West champion, the teams battle again with only a single game separating them in the standings.
But when Seattle plays at St. Louis this afternoon, it will be a far cry from a battle for first place.
The Rams, most people’s preseason pick to win the division, are 2-7 after starting the year with six straight losses. The 3-6 Seahawks, meanwhile, have struggled through their season, showing promise at times, but still losing twice as often as they win.
Both teams hope a win today over a division rival can spark a second-half turnaround, but unlike last season, neither will be in a playoff battle in the final weeks of the season, not with San Francisco (8-1) running away with the division.
Just more than halfway through the season, the division is almost completely upside-down from the way a lot of people were expecting it to be. This game, a rematch of last year’s Week 17 winner-take-all finale, is another reminder of what an odd year it’s been in the NFC West.
The 49ers, who looked like a complete mess last year, and who were starting over with a new coaching staff coming out of the lockout, are suddenly one of the best teams in the league.
Arizona, meanwhile, despite adding what it hopes is its quarterback of the future in Kevin Kolb, is as bad, if not worse, as last year.
Then there’s St. Louis, which showed so much progress last year, improving from 1-15 in 2009 to 7-9 last year with rookie quarterback Sam Bradford leading the way. With a strong defense and more experienced Bradford, the Rams looked like the team to beat this season. Instead, injuries, a tough schedule and inconsistent play have the Rams back near the bottom of the standings.
“Obviously, to start off the way we did and to struggle, and to not get a win until week seven, that was tough,” Bradford said. “It’s definitely been tougher to not get frustrated, because last year we saw our hard work rewarded with victories, whereas this year, I feel like we’ve put in the same amount if not more work, trying to get better.”
This season has been a struggle for Bradford just like the rest of his team. After bursting on the scene as the top pick in last year’s draft, Bradford’s numbers have decreased this season as he has adjusted to a new offensive coordinator, battled an ankle injury, and also dealt with other injuries that have weakened his offense. Today, the Rams will be without both starting tackles, which is awful news for a team that has given up more sacks than any NFL team.
Despite all of that, the Seahawks certainly won’t be taking Bradford or the Rams’ offense lightly.
“You have a young quarterback and a new coach and a new notebook and all of that, that’s hard on anybody, and then they got banged up,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Sam is a very talented football player. He can do everything. He can just do it all. He’s got a great arm, he’s got great vision and he’s got all of the throws. … I think we’re playing an elite quarterback on the rise. We saw him last year and we thought he did a fantastic job as a rookie. We have great respect for his talent.”