Sun. May 26th, 2024

Week 7 was not kind to the NFC West as the Rams and 49ers dropped tough games outside the division. The Seattle Seahawks were the only NFC West team to win, beating division rival Arizona. Things might not get better for the division in Week 8. 

Los Angeles Rams (3-4) at Dallas Cowboys (4-2): The Rams dropped a tough, ugly game to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 7, and the competition is going to get much tougher Sunday. Dallas is coming off a bye, and Mike McCarthy teams tend to do well after a week off. (He is 11-5 overall, 2-1 with Dallas.)

Wide receiver Cooper Kupp’s return improves the Rams passing game, but protecting QB Matthew Stafford could be an issue with Dallas superstar Micah Parsons coming off the edge. The Cowboys defense — fifth in the NFL in yards allowed per game (288.7) — is one of the best and could unload on Stafford (18 sacks) if the line does not protect him well.

PREDICTION: Cowboys, 34-24

Cleveland Browns (4-2) at Seattle Seahawks (4-2):  In Cleveland’s wild 39-38 win over Indianapolis in Week 7, QB Deshaun Watson apparently re-injured his throwing shoulder. He’ll sit while backup P.J. Walker starts and aims to steer the Browns to their third consecutive win.

Walker will be a favorable matchup for a Seattle defense that has significantly improved over last season (322.2 yards per game in 2023 vs. 369.7 in 2022). Rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon is a game-changer and could get opportunities for interceptions. (Browns QBs have combined for nine.)

The more pressing question for Seattle will be moving the ball on Cleveland’s defense and containing edge-rusher Myles Garrett, who’s on a tear (7.5 sacks overall). Cleveland “D” uncharacteristically got rocked against the Colts and QB Gardner Minshew. Seattle has a better offense than Indianapolis — one loaded with playmakers. Watch out for RB Kenneth Walker III (450 yards rushing) and WR D.K. Metcalf (337 yards receiving).

PREDICTION: Seahawks, 24-20

Baltimore Ravens (5-2) at Arizona Cardinals (1-6): The Ravens looked like a buzz saw in Week 7 against Detroit, an apparent NFC power. Now they get to play one of the NFL’s worst teams.

Despite their record, the Cardinals are not a total pushover, but the talent disparity will show in this game. Arizona typically starts strongly but fades in the second half. 

In Week 7, Budda Baker — Arizona’s best defensive player — returned from injury. He’ll aid a defense that ranks 28th in yards allowed per game (368.3) and 26th in points per game (26). Expect the Cardinals to struggle, however, against QB Lamar Jackson, a leading candidate for MVP. His numbers are impressive (71% completion percentage, 1,610 passing yards, team-leading 363 yards rushing).  

PREDICTION: Ravens, 34-14

Cincinnati Bengals (3-3) at San Francisco 49ers (5-2):  After looking like the most dominant team in the NFL over the first five games, the 49ers have looked average in losing to Cleveland and Minnesota on consecutive weeks. Now the Niners must deal with the rested Bengals, who are coming off of a bye. 

With running back Christian McCaffrey, wide receiver Deebo Samuel and offensive tackle Trent Williams dealing with injuries, more pressure is on second-year quarterback Brock Purdy (67.9 completion percentage, 1,668 yards passing, 11 TDs). He’s starting to show some of the limitations that made him a seventh-round draft pick. 

Now the question is whether Purdy will play — per NFL.com, he’s in the concussion protocol. His backup is NFL journeyman Sam Darnold, a former first-round pick.

PREDICTION: Bengals, 24-14

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