Tag Archives: Rams

4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Jacksonville Jaguars

Moving on with the AFC South in our continuing previews of all 32 NFL teams over the course of 32 days, today it is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who finished in last place in the division last season.

A lot of people thought the Jaguars were going to take a step forward last season and have a shot at winning the division. Not only did that not happen, but the Jaguars actually took a step backward. After going 5-11 in 2015, they went 3-13 in 2016. This offseason, they traded TE Julius Thomas to the Dolphins for T Branden Albert while their big move in free agency was signing CB A.J. Bouye, who had a breakout season last year with the Texans. In the draft, the Jaguars went with LSU RB Leonard Fournette with the No. 4 overall pick. That selection is probably a sign that the team wants to put an emphasis on the running game and not rely so much on QB Blake Bortles, something that head coach Doug Marrone has also hinted at.

Like the team, Bortles regressed last year compared to 2015, completing less than 59 percent of his passes and throwing for 3,905 yards and 23 touchdowns — 12 fewer than the year before — with 16 interceptions. WR Allen Robinson led the team with 73 receptions for 883 yards and 6 touchdowns. WR Marqise Lee caught 63 balls for 851 yards and 3 touchdowns. RBs T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory put up similar stats, with Yeldon totaling 130 rushes for 465 yards and 1 touchdown, adding 50 receptions for 312 yards and 1 touchdown. Ivory carried the ball 117 times for 439 yards and 3 touchdowns. Overall, the offense ranked 25th in points scored and the defense allowed the eighth-most points in the NFL.

Fournette could be the key to the Jags’ offense this season. If he has a good rookie campaign, the team should be improved. Ivory and Yeldon will be backing him up, providing a veteran presence able to give him some rest. The more Fournette can carry the ball, the less Bortles will have to throw it. When Bortles does pass it, though, he has some good receivers on the team if he can get the ball to them. Overall, though, the offense will likely be in the bottom half of the league again and have to rely on the defense to keep the teams in games. The defense should be better this year than it was last year, but I’m not sure the improvement will be enough to keep the Jaguars in the conversation for a possible playoff run.

The Jaguars begin their schedule with two divisional games, at the Texans in Week 1 and hosting the Titans in Week 2. After that, they head to London to take on the Ravens in Week 3. When they return stateside, they visit the Jets in Week 4 and then the Steelers in Week 5. They get their first true home game in nearly a month in Week 6 when the Rams visit. The Jags then visit the Colts in Week 7, followed by a Week 8 bye. They come back from the week off to host the Bengals in Week 9. They later visit the Cardinals in Week 12, then host the Colts in Week 13. They host the Seahawks in Week 14 and have a third straight home game in Week 15, their second game with the Texans. Their final game of the season is in Nashville to take on the Titans in Week 17. I’m thinking the Jaguars will win four or five games this season, a little better than last year but still not good.

Source: http://www.jaguars.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Indianapolis Colts

Next up in the AFC South as part of our continuing previews of all 32 NFL teams over the course of 32 days, is the Indianapolis Colts, who finished in third place last season.

The Colts are coming off of consecutive .500 seasons after three straight playoff appearances from 2012-2014. With QB Andrew Luck dealing with a shoulder injury in preseason and questions about whether he’ll be ready to take the field for Week 1, the Colts may be looking at another disappointing season in 2017. The team traded TE Dwayne Allen to the Patriots in March, leaving TE Jack Doyle as the top guy at the position. As for players joining the team, the Colts tried to bolster their defense by signing DT Johnathan Hankins and a couple smaller signings in LBs Jonathan Bostic and Barkevious Mingo. They also went with defensive picks in the first two rounds of the draft, selecting Ohio State S Malik Hooker and Florida CB Quincy Wilson. Offensively, the team added to its receiver depth by signing WR Kamar Aiken.

Luck played in 15 games last season, throwing for 4,240 yards and 31 touchdowns with 13 interceptions, a nice comeback season after missing much of 2015 with injuries. WR T.Y. Hilton led the receivers with 91 receptions for 1,448 yards and 6 touchdowns. Doyle was next with 59 catches for 584 yards and 5 touchdowns. WRs Phillip Dorsett and Donte Moncrief had 33 and 30 receptions, respectively in seven starts apiece. RB Frank Gore carried the ball 263 times for 1,025 yards and 4 touchdowns, in addition to 38 receptions for 277 yards and 4 receiving touchdowns. Backup RB Robert Turbin only had 47 attempts but made the most of them with 7 rushing touchdowns. The offense ranked in the top 10 in both points scored and yards gained last season, but the defense allowed the third-most yards and was in the bottom third of the league in points allowed.

Luck’s health will be important for the Colts to have a good season. He is currently on the PUP list, but the team said he should not still be on the list to start the season — which would require him to sit out the first six games — but that doesn’t mean he’ll be ready to go in Week 1. QB Scott Tolzien is Luck’s backup; he threw for 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions in his lone start last season. If Luck is able to play for most of the season, the passing game should be fine with some good receivers for him to pass to, with Doyle likely getting more involved in the offense with Allen now in New England. The running game, however, is a question mark with Gore now 34 and a veteran who has gotten a lot of reps in the league and due to start breaking down sooner rather than later, as most players do. Turbin, the likely No. 2 on the depth chart, has never had more than 80 rushes in a season. And the defense will have to do better than last season to help keep the team in games in prevent the offense from being forced to put a lot of points on the board to win games.

The schedule has the Colts starting the season in Los Angeles to play the Rams in Week 1, then head home to take on the Cardinals in Week 2. The Colts visit the Seahawks in the Sunday night game in Week 4. Their first divisional game comes in Week 6, playing at the Titans on Monday Night Football. Another divisional foe follows when the Colts host the Jaguars in Week 7. The Colts are at the Bengals in Week 8 and at the Texans in Week 9. They then host the Steelers in Week 10 before getting a late bye in Week 11. They host the Titans coming off the bye in Week 12. They get a Thursday night game in Week 15 when they host the Broncos, then finish the season at the Ravens in Week 16 and hosting the Texans in Week 17. I’m projecting the Colts to be right around .500 for a third straight season, maybe finishing the year at 9-7.

Source: http://www.colts.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Green Bay Packers

The next NFC North team in our continuing preview of all 32 NFL teams over the course of 32 days (or so) leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the Green Bay Packers, who are coming off a first-place finish in the division.

The Packers came within a game of making Super Bowl LI last season, falling to the Falcons in the NFC Championship. In the Aaron Rodgers era, the Packers have consistently had one of the top offenses in the NFL, and they added to it in the offseason by signing free-agent TEs Lance Kendricks and Martellus Bennett in an attempt to beef up a weak point of their offense. They’ll join a receiving core led by WRs Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. There could be some questions with their running game, with WR-turned-RB Ty Montgomery expected to be the No. 1 back heading into the season.

Rodgers had one of the best seasons of his career last year — a high bar to cross — throwing for 4,428 yards and a league-leading 40 touchdowns, with 7 interceptions. He threw 14 of those touchdown passes to Nelson, who had 97 receptions for 1,257 yards. Adams had 75 receptions for 997 yards and 12 scores. WR Randall Cobb had decent production in the 10 games he played, grabbing 60 balls for 610 yards and 4 touchdowns. Montgomery had 44 catches for 348 yards. After being converted to a running back in the latter part of the season due to injuries, he became the team’s lead running back. Overall for the season, he had a team-high 77 attempts for 457 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns. Rodgers had the second-most rushing yards on the team, with RBs Eddie Lacy — who is now with the Seahawks — and James Starks limited in playing time by injuries. With the Patriots last season, Bennett had 55 receptions for 701 yards and 7 touchdowns, and Kendricks totaled 499 yards and 2 touchdowns on 50 catches for the Rams. The offense scored the fourth-most points in the league last season, and the defense was ranked in the bottom third of the league in points allowed.

If the Packers can get good production out of the running game, they should have one of the league’s best offenses again in 2017. The Rodgers-Nelson combo has been one of the best over the last several years when both are healthy. Adams is a strong No. 2 receiver, and the tight ends the team signed should be a vast improvement over what they got out of TEs Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers a season ago. With the defense not doing well last season and no major players signed on that side of the ball, the Packers are likely going to have to put a lot of points on the board to win games. They went with defensive players with their first four picks of the draft, including Washington CB Kevin King in the second round, but you never know how much success a player will have in his rookie year in the league.

The Packers’ schedule kicks off with a home game in Week 1 against the Seahawks, who should be among the better teams in the NFC this season. It doesn’t get easier in Week 2 when the Packers do battle with the Falcons as they open up their new stadium in the Sunday night game. They have a primetime rivalry game, taking on the Bears at Lambeau Field in Week 4’s Thursday nighter. The Packers then face the Cowboys on the road in Week 5, then travel to Minneapolis to take on the Vikings — likely their biggest competition in the division — in Week 6. They host the Saints in Week 7, then get their bye and come back to host the Lions in Week 9. The Packers face the Steelers in Pittsburgh in a primetime contest in Week 12. They end the season with back-to-back divisional contests, hosting the Vikings in a Saturday night special in Week 16 and visiting the Lions in Week 17. I think the Packers should at least match last year’s 10-win total, and they could improve upon that by a game or two, depending on how well the defense plays.

Sources: http://www.packers.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Cleveland Browns

Up next in our continuing preview of all 32 NFL teams over the course of 32 days (or so) leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the Cleveland Browns, coming off a last-place finish in the AFC North last season.

Last year was the sixth straight season the Browns finished in last place in the division, and there’s really nowhere to go but up after finishing 2016 with a 1-15 record. The team made one of the more surprising moves of the offseason, trading for QB Brock Osweiler, who was a major disappointment for the Texans after they signed him to a big free-agent contract last offseason. Despite his $16 million salary this season, he’s going to have to compete for the starting job with QBs Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer, the team’s second-round pick in this year’s draft. They went defense with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, selecting DL Myles Garrett out of Texas A&M. Other additions of note include DB Calvin Pryor, who they acquired in a trade with the Jets, and WR Kenny Britt. The team lossed its two best pass-catchers from last season, with WR Terrelle Pryor and TE Gary Barnidge no longer on the roster.

Three different quarterbacks started games for the Browns last season, but Kessler is the only one left on the roster. He started eight games, and played in nine total, throwing for 1,380 yards and 6 touchdowns with 2 interceptions in 195 passes. With Houston, Osweiler started 14 games, going 301-for-510 for 2,957 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he threw 16 interceptions and was sacked 27 times. Of the holdovers from last year’s team, the two most successful pass-catchers were RBs Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell; they caught 53 and 40 passes, respectively, but neither scored a receiving touchdown. WR Corey Coleman had 33 receptions for 413 yards and 3 touchdowns, while Britt caught 68 passes for 1,002 yards and 5 touchdowns with the Rams last season. Crowell was the team’s leading rusher, tallying 952 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground. As the No. 2, Johnson ran for 358 yards and 1 touchdown. Overall, the offense finished as the second-worst in the league with points scored and third-worst in yards. Defensively, the Browns gave up  the third-most points and second-most yards.

No matter who gets the nod at starting quarterback, and Kessler seems to be the favorite early in camp, will have a tough time finding success without many strong weapons in the passing game. Britt is a veteran but has only had a single 1,000-yard season in eight years in the league. Coleman put up decent numbers in his rookie campaign, but he is unproven in the No. 2 role. He could be a good complementary piece, but I’m not sure he’s ready to be a reliable option for 16 games. Johnson can provide a receiving option out of the backfield. And while Crowell probably isn’t one of the 10 best running backs in the game, he almost reached 1,000 rushing yards last season and could reach that mark in 2017. The offense might not be able to score enough to win many games if the defense doesn’t show improvement over last season. If Garrett can live up to the hype of being the top overall draft pick, that would be go a long way to getting the defense to be better than last season.

The Browns’ schedule begins with back-to-back divisional games, hosting the Steelers then visiting the Ravens. They stay on the road in Week 3 to take on the Colts in Indianapolis. Osweiler may get a chance to face his former team in Week 6 when the Browns head to Houston to take on the Texans. In Week 8, the Browns go overseas to take on the Vikings in London, followed by their bye. They visit the Lions in Week 11 coming off their bye. In Week 14, the Browns host the Packers. They end the season with consecutive road games, at the Bears in Week 16 and at the Steelers — bringing the schedule full circle — in Week 17. The Browns almost certainly have to win more games than last year, but with their schedule I’m having a hard time finding more than about three or four games that I think they can win, so they’ll likely finish in last place in the AFC North yet again.

Sources: http;//www.clevelandbrowns.com, http;//www.pro-football-reference.com

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Texans trade Osweiler on first day of NFL free agency

For the second straight season, the Texans made headlines on the first day of NFL free agency, but this time it was for getting rid of a player instead of signing one. Also making significant moves today were the Jaguars, Browns and Bears.

Last year, the Texans gave free-agent QB Brock Osweiler a four-year, $72 million contract, but his performance this season left a lot to be desired and led many people to consider that one of the worst free-agent signings in NFL history. Texans GM Rick Smith righted that wrong today, trading Osweiler —  and the $16 million guaranteed to him for the 2017 season — along with their sixth-round pick in this year’s draft and a second-rounder next year to the Browns in exchange for Cleveland’s fourth-round pick in this year’s draft and, more importantly, salary-cap relief. Getting Osweiler’s salary off the books for this season gives the Texans more flexibility to potentially sign a quarterback. Reports have been running wild of late that Cowboys QB Tony Romo is on their radar, and moving Osweiler makes it seem like they are closing in acquiring Romo, either by trade or signing him if the Cowboys cut him.

For the Browns, it’s not exactly clear what they want with Osweiler. There have been reports that teams have already contacted them about possibly trading for the Browns’ newly acquired quarterback. The possibility also exists that the Browns could simply cut Osweiler and take the cap hit. They have plenty of cap room so it wouldn’t have a significant negative effect on them. If the Browns don’t keep Osweiler, they can use the No. 1 overall draft pick to get a quarterback or sign a veteran quarterback to act as a bridge to QB Cody Kessler when he’s ready to take the reins as the starter.

That trade wasn’t the only move the Browns made today, They also tried to bolster their offensive line by re-signing OL Joel Bitonio and signing free-agent OLs JC Tretter and Kevin Zeitler to multi-year deals. They also signed WR Kenny Britt, who is coming off of a career year in 2016 with the Rams.

The Jaguars signed some free agents they hope to help their defense, signing CB A.J. Bouye, DE Calais Campbell, S Barry Church and LB Lerentee McCray, which should help them compete in the AFC South. The Bears made a quarterback swap today, releasing QB Jay Cutler and signing QB Mike Glennon to a three-year contract. They lost one of their key players on offense, though, as WR Alshon Jeffery signed with the Eagles.

Other notable players who changed teams today, either through free agency or trade, include:

WR DeSean JacksonBuccaneers
WR Torrey Smith — Eagles
RB Danny WoodheadRavens
CB Stephon GilmorePatriots
QB Brian Hoyer49ers
WR Pierre Garcon — 49ers
WR Brandon MarshallGiants
TE Julius ThomasDolphins
OT Branden Albert — Jaguars
OL Russell OkungChargers

In non-player news from today, the Redskins fired GM Scott McCloughan

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Will the Chargers start 2017 by ending their tenure in San Diego?

The Chargers have called San Diego home since 1961, when they were in the AFL before eventually moving to the NFL when the leagues merged, after playing in Los Angeles in their inaugural season of 1960. When they take the field against the Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday, it could be their final home game in San Diego. There is rampant speculation that they will be moving back to Los Angeles for the 2017 season, eventually playing in the Rams’ new stadium when that is finished, which is expected to be in time for the 2019 season.

When the NFL owners approved the Rams’ move to Los Angeles last January they also approved a move of the Chargers to the City of Angels, giving them an option that, if exercised, would allow them to move about 125 miles up the Southern California coast to Inglewood. The Chargers were given a year to exercise the option, which means they have just a few weeks left to pull the trigger if they choose to do so. With that in mind, when they host the Chiefs on Sunday in the final game of a sub-.500 season for the Chargers, their players, coaches and fans won’t know if it’ll be the last time they take the field in the city that the team has called home for more than five decades. It will be an emotional game, as it was last season when the possibility of it being the team’s final game in San Diego was already on people’s minds.

The issue leading to the possible relocation to Los Angeles is a new stadium. The team feels Qualcomm Stadium isn’t good enough anymore but the city isn’t willing to put up the money to pay for a new facility for the team. Talk of leaving San Diego picked up steam in November when a ballot measure that would have raised hotel taxes to help fund a new downtown stadium failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed for approval. Had that passed, the team and the league would have contributed $650 million toward the project. In a seemingly last-ditch effort to save the team, city officials including Mayor Kevin Faulconer reportedly met with team owner Dean Spanos last week to try to reach an agreement. Earlier in the month, the city council offered to lease the land where Qualcomm Stadium sits to the Chargers for $1 a year over 99 years, allowing them to remain there while discussions about a new stadium continue into the future.

If this is it in San Diego for the Chargers, their run in the city will end with Week 16’s loss against a Browns team that was 0-14 entering the game and could be looking at another loss with a tough game against the division-rival Chiefs, who will be going all-out as they need a win — coupled with a Raiders loss — to have a chance at winning the division and earning a first-round bye in the playoffs.

NFL Quarterly Report: Are the Cowboys and Raiders the best teams in the league?

All 32 NFL teams have now played 12 games, which means we’re three-quarters through the regular season. With just 25% of the season remaining, the playoff picture is becoming much clearer. It appears as if the Cowboys are continuing to coast to the top seed in the NFC as they are the first team to clinch a playoff spot, while the Patriots likely won’t be as dominant in the postseason as people thought they could be earlier on, and the Raiders could be heading toward the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

The Patriots took a hit a couple weeks ago when TE Rob Gronkowski suffered a back injury that required surgery and will sideline him for the rest of the season. While the Patriots are still the best team in the AFC East and will make the playoffs, their chances of making a deep postseason run are not as good as they would have been if they had Gronkowski, who is QB Tom Brady’s favorite target and best receiver. TE Martellus Bennett has not yet stepped up in Gronk’s absence. For the rest of the division, the Dolphins are currently in second place at 7-5 but coming off a bad loss to the Ravens to end their winning streak. At 6-6, the Bills are in third place but gave up 29 unanswered points on Sunday to lose at the Raiders. The Jets, meanwhile, are playing out the string for the final four games of what has been a disappointing season. Judging by how their defense played on Monday night, it could be a long four games for the Jets. The Patriots are likely going to be the only playoff team coming out of the division.

Things are going better for the first-place team in the NFC East as the Cowboys have won 11 in a row behind QB Dak Prescott after dropping their season opener. At 11-1, they have clinched a playoff spot, the only team to do so to this point, and are the front-runners to land home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Giants lost a tough game to the Steelers this weekend, with QB Eli Manning not playing well, to end their six-game win streak and put them at 8-4, good for second place. They will continue to try to hold off the 6-5-1 Redskins for second place in the division and a potential Wild Card berth. The Giants currently hold the No. 5 seed in the conference, while the Redskins have fallen out of the NFC’s second Wild Card but are still in the hunt. The Eagles continue their downward spiral into last place in the division at 5-7, having lost their last three games and five of their last six. QB Carson Wentz has regressed significantly from his hot start and the team is now likely out of playoff contention.

The Ravens and Steelers are tied at 7-5, though the Ravens lead the AFC North due to tiebreakers. Baltimore’s convincing Week 13 win over the Dolphins was the team’s second straight win, and the Steelers have won three in a row but are on the outside of the playoff race. The Bengals picked up their first win since October on Sunday, but it won’t do them much good at this point as they sit at 4-7-1. The only thing keeping them out of last place in the division is the Browns, who are still winless at 0-12. After their bye in Week 13, they host the Bengals this week as they look to finally get in the win column. It appears as though QB Robert Griffin III could get the start after missing much of the season with an injury. Will that be what the Browns need to win a game? If not, their final three games are at the Bills, hosting the Chargers and visiting the Steelers. I think San Diego is the best shot for the Browns to pick up a win but it’s obviously not a certainty.

The Lions are in control of the NFC North, with an 8-4 record and two-game lead over the Vikings and Packers, who are each 6-6. The Lions appear to have the advantage in the division, facing the lowly Bears this week while the Vikings battle the Jaguars, which should be a winnable game, and the Packers face a stiff test against the Seahawks. If the Packers can gain a game on the Lions in the next couple of weeks, Week 17 could feature a win-and-in game for the division title with the Lions hosting the Packers. Winning the division will be important because there will likely be just one playoff team coming out of the NFC North. And it won’t be the Bears, who are 3-9, with their most recent win coming at the expense of the 1-11 49ers.

The AFC South is up for grabs after the Texans dropped their third straight this week, losing a snowy contest at Lambeau Field, putting them in a dead heat with the Titans, who had their bye this week, and the Colts at 6-6; the Texans, who are a perfect 3-0 in the division, hold the tiebreakers and are technically in first pace. The Texans’ offseason signing of QB Brock Osweiler is looking worse every week as he has not shown much improvement as the season as progressed. Houston’s defense, still without DE J.J. Watt of course, will have to continue to play well enough to keep scoring low and the Texans offense in games if they want to have a chance to repeat as division champs. An 8-8 record could win this division with the way things are looking right now. And the Jaguars are on their way to a last-place finish as the breakout season that many predicted for QB Blake Bortles and the Jags offense has not materialized. The Texans play the Titans in Nashville in Week 17, which could be a winner-take-all battle for the division title.

The NFC South has turned into a good two-team race between the Falcons and Buccaneers as the former suffered a tough loss to the Chiefs in Week 13 and the latter continued their winning ways, winning their fourth straight game to tie the Falcons at 7-5. The Falcons currently hold the tiebreaker over Tampa and technically lead the division, but the Bucs have a hold on the NFC’s second Wild Card. The Saints, at 5-7, hold third place in the division, but the biggest surprise in the South is the 4-8 Panthers, who were blown out by the Seahawks on Sunday night. After making it to Super Bowl 50 last season, the Panthers have really dropped off this year with QB Cam Newton not able to live up to expectations that were set for him after his MVP campaign in 2015. Back at the top of the division, winning the division is obviously important to get a home playoff game, but it may not be the only way to get into the postseason as one of the Wild Cards could come out of the NFC South.

The Raiders’ successful season continues after coming back to beat the BIlls in Week 13 to improve their record to 10-2, putting them at the top of the AFC. With Gronkowski out for the Patriots, the Raiders may be able to make a deep playoff run, possibly even making it to Super Bowl LI in Houston. Oakland isn’t the only good team in the AFC West, though, with the Chiefs at 9-3 and the Broncos right behind them at 8-4. I believe both of the AFC’s Wild Card teams will come out of the West, meaning all three of those teams will make the playoffs. The division winner will likely get one of the top two seeds in the conference and the important first-round bye that comes along with that. The Raiders visit the Chiefs on Thursday night, which could be a key game in determining the division champion. The Chargers, who aren’t having a bad season but have given up leads late to lose some games, round out the division with a 5-7 record heading into the last quarter of the regular season.

The NFC West race is all but over, with the 8-3-1 Seahawks holding a three-game lead over the 5-6-1 Cardinals, who picked up a surprising win against the Redskins in Week 13. The Rams, who recently gave head coach Jeff Fisher a contract extension, sit at 4-8 and the 49ers are just 1-11 after losing to the Bears on Sunday. The Cardinals’ lack of success is sort of surprising but people weren’t expecting much out of the Rams or 49ers this season. The Seahawks are currently the No. 2 seed in the NFC so they could be on their way to a first-round bye in the playoffs as QB Russell Wilson appears to be as healthy as he has been all season at the best time for that to happen.

With four weeks left in the regular season, just one team has punched its ticket into the postseason, but others are well on their way to doing that and will clinch playoff berths in the next week or two. At the bottom of the league, the most interesting storyline is whether the Browns will win a game. They have only four more chances to avoid becoming the second team in NFL history to finish a season 0-16.

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