Posted on November 20, 2022
It’s a light week for fans of the west teams, kind of.
Seven of the eight teams play this week (everybody but the Seahawks), but six of those teams are in west-on-west matchups.
That means there are just four games with west teams this week. Luckily there are some good college football matchups on this side of the country this week to keep you entertained this weekend.
But Sunday at least has a game that could have some pretty big ramifications on the AFC West race (no, it’s not Raiders vs. Broncos).
And then Monday will give us an NFC West game with some international flavor when the 49ers and Cardinals face off in Mexico.
This may not end up being the best week of football for the west teams but weeks like this are necessary. A little palate cleanser to get us prepared for the home stretch.
And now, here are some quick previews for each of the four games featuring west teams this week.
Rams (3-6-0) at Saints (3-7-0)
Sunday, November 20
10:00 a.m., PT, FOX
This game certainly won’t have the same appeal with the Rams playing without wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who is on IR with an ankle injury, and possibly quarterback Matthew Stafford, who missed last week’s game.
It also doesn’t help that the Saints are coming off a loss to the Steelers, which is not necessarily an indicator of being a good football team.
At least the defenses for both of these teams are good. Well, the defenses are alright.
Both teams are in the bottom half of the league in points allowed but are also in the Top 10 in yards per play.
Neither unit has been great, but with the Rams and Saints averaging 16.4 and 22.2 points per game, respectively, the defenses have been leading the way.
So this game will come down to whoever can hold their opponent to fewer points. Yes, that is literally how all games are won but what that means in this scenario is whichever defense plays better will win.
The Saints have given up less than 20 points in a game once this season, and that was a shutout victory over the Raiders.
They are also tied for last with two interceptions, which means they likely won’t be able to take advantage of mistakes by Stafford or backup quarterback John Wolford.
The Rams, meanwhile, are still one of the stingier defenses when it comes to the ground game, allowing just 3.9 yards per carry this year. That could lead to them having success against a Saints team whose best offensive weapon is running back Alvin Kamara.
The bottom line is that this game will probably be sloppy, at least on offense. It may only take two touchdowns for a team to win, and luckily for the Rams, that’s about all they can manage in a game.
If one of the offenses is surprisingly effective then that team will obviously win, but if that isn’t the case then the best defense will emerge victorious.
Raiders (2-7-0) at Broncos (3-6-0)
Sunday, November 20
1:05 p.m., PT, FOX
While the two top teams in the AFC West will square off this week (more on that in a second), the Raiders and Broncos will battle for last place in the division, or third place if you’re an optimist.
Both of these teams are having bad seasons (as was covered in yesterday’s power rankings), but one of their seasons is much worse.
The Raiders have legitimately turned into one of the worst teams in the league this year, somehow. They are giving up the fifth-most points in the league as well as the second-most yards per pass attempt.
The offense has been solid, scoring 22.6 points per game, but it just has not translated to wins.
The Raiders have been so bad this year that the Broncos are probably confident that they can win this game, but they probably shouldn’t be.
Denver has been pretty bad itself this year, but at least it has a defense that is for real.
The Raiders have several playmakers on offense that can beat a defense, mainly wide receiver Davante Adams and running back Josh Jacobs.
Luckily for the Broncos, they have answers for each of them.
The answer for Adams is simple, cornerback Patrick Surtain. He is the biggest reason why the Broncos are allowing the fewest passing yards per game and per attempt.
The Raiders should struggle to move the ball through the air even with an elite receiver like Adams.
For Jacobs, the Broncos will rely on a rush defense that is giving up the 13th-fewest rushing yards per game and has allowed just five rushing touchdowns.
The big question, though, is whether or not the Broncos will be able to score.
The Raiders, as previously mentioned, love to give up points, but the Broncos, who are averaging the fewest points per game in the league, hate to score points.
If quarterback Russell Wilson once again leads an inefficient offense then the Broncos probably won’t win this game. But if the Broncos take advantage of a bad Raiders defense, then they have a chance to win and stay out of last place in the division.
Chiefs (7-2-0) at Chargers (5-4-0)
Sunday, November 20
5:20 p.m., PT, NBC
The last time these two teams met they produced a very entertaining contest that served as a great debut for Amazon’s new Thursday Night Football broadcast.
But since then the Chargers have had some questionable performances and racked up plenty of injuries while the Chiefs have surged to the top of the conference.
It’s hard to see a scenario where the Chargers can keep it close with the Chiefs again given just how depleted they are, especially on defense.
The Chiefs are the number-one scoring offense in the league, averaging 30 points per game. The Chargers are giving up nearly as much, 25.3 points per game, which is the fourth-most in the league.
But the Chiefs are not unstoppable. They have scored below 30 points in their last two contests, one of which was against an average-at-best Jaguars team.
One way for the Chargers to slow down the Chiefs’ offense is to have success on offense themselves.
Dominating possession and limiting the number of times quarterback Patrick Mahomes gets the ball is the key to beating this team.
Los Angeles should be capable of doing that. Having a quarterback like Justin Herbert should allow a team to do exactly that.
But the Chargers have experienced their struggles and are scoring just 22.2 points per game. Leaning on running back Austin Ekeler, especially with the top two receivers out, is likely the way to go for Los Angeles.
Beating the Chiefs is a tough task but if anyone is up to the challenge it would be the second-best team in the AFC West. The Chargers nearly beat them last time and will be out for revenge this time around.
It just isn’t going to come easily.
49ers (5-4-0) vs Cardinals (4-6-0)
Monday, November 21
5:15 p.m., PT, ESPN
Once again the NFL is going international by sending the 49ers and the Cardinals to Mexico City.
One thing that is certainly worth monitoring is the health of quarterback Kyler Murray, who didn’t play last week with a hamstring injury.
In fact, it’s probably the most important thing heading into this game because the Cardinals don’t stand much of a chance without him.
The 49ers’ defense is good. Like, really good. Like, so good that quarterback Colt McCoy isn’t going to cut it for Arizona.
The 49ers’ defense is also basically the opposite of the Cardinals’. They’re allowing 18.1 points per game, which is the fourth-best mark in the league.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, are giving up 25.8 points per game, which is the third-most.
The discrepancy in defenses is not a good sign for the Cardinals, especially because they only average one point per game less than them on offense, which makes those units basically a wash.
It’s hard to think of a way in which Arizona can slow down San Francisco’s loaded offense.
The 49ers’ skill position players are healthy and they have scored 53 points combined in the two games with running back Christian McCaffrey as a full-time member of the offense.
Despite the presence of McCaffrey, the 49ers have struggled on the ground this year. They are only averaging 4.4 yards per carry and are coming off a game against the Chargers where their star back ran for just 2.7 yards per carry.
The Cardinals’ are significantly better against the run than the pass, where they are in the bottom ten in yards per attempt and have allowed 17 touchdowns. Arizona is giving up 4.4 yards per carry and just 110.5 yards per game on the ground.
That figures to be the key for the Cardinals. If they can slow down McCaffrey on the ground they just might be able to score enough points on offense to get this thing done.
But the 49ers are a very good team and if they put together a complete game then they will probably leave Mexico with the victory.