Tough Roads Ahead For Seattle Seahawks’ NFC West Foes
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By Chris Cluff
As the Seahawks take a week off to get healthy for a run to the playoffs, some of their divisional opponents are not so healthy — either physically or in the standings.
The Seahawks play all three NFC West foes at home in the final seven weeks, and all three teams are having their problems.
The San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1) are a game and a half up on the Seahawks (6-4), but both their coach and quarterback are ailing.
Coach Jim Harbaugh was away Thursday while he underwent a procedure to fix an irregular heartbeat. Why is no one surprised that the hyper coach had arrhythmia?
On top of that, quarterback Alex Smith suffered a concussion in the 49ers’ 24-24 tie against St. Louis on Sunday. He is expected to return against Chicago, but Colin Kaepernick might have earned more time after completing 11 of 17 passes for 117 yards and running for 66 yards and a touchdown in relief of Smith on Sunday.
The 49ers are coming off three straight games against the division, in which they have gone 2-0-1. They resume Monday against a Chicago team that also lost quarterback Jay Cutler to a concussion last weekend. Then the 49ers go on the road for four of their last six games — and all of those teams are capable of beating them. With the Seahawks breathing down their necks, the 49ers are far from a lock to win the division for the second straight year.
Although the Seahawks lost to Arizona and St. Louis earlier in the season, their odds seem pretty good of beating both at home.
After a 4-0 start, the Cardinals have lost five straight. It probably will stretch to six after they play Atlanta this week, and they have a rough finish to the season that includes road games against the Jets, Seahawks and 49ers and home games against the Rams, Lions and Bears.
The Cardinals just can’t get much done on offense — they have the worst rushing attack in the league — and their defense has not been playing well lately either.
Meanwhile, Jeff Fisher has done a good job with the Rams, even if their 3-5-1 record doesn’t completely reflect it.
The Rams surprisingly forced a tie against the 49ers last week, and now they host a horrible Jets squad.
“We have a young football team that’s growing,” Fisher told reporters. “We’re playing younger players.”
Fisher has focused on making sure his team gets better, and — other than a blowout loss to New England in London — it seems to have.
“We’ve played some nearly complete games,” Fisher said. “In the victories in the division against Arizona and Seattle, we played pretty well. This (the 49ers) was a different game in that it was on the road and there were all different types of challenges. But, I think I can look the team in the eye and say we took a step forward; we have to continue to do that.”
The Rams play four of the last six on the road, and their home games are against the 49ers and Vikings, so it won’t be an easy climb to .500.
The bottom line: The division figures to come down to the 49ers and Seahawks, who play each other in Seattle on Dec. 23.
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Chris Cluff worked as a sports editor and writer for The Seattle Times for 11 years and has written two books on the Seattle Seahawks. Since leaving the Times, he has written about the Seahawks and Seattle sports for Bleacher Report and the blog he shares with a fellow sportswriter, outsidethepressbox.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.