In case you were the one person with a question about which NFL division is the weakest, the results in NFL Week 9 probably convinced you. San Francisco and St. Louis both took their bye week and did well in the standings thanks to the general stench from the Cardinals blown lead and the Seahawks getting blown out. That was enough to rob the NFC West of any shred of dignity that had remained heading into the week.
Now we're at the halfway point in the race to be the best of the worst and everyone's a player; even the once deceased 49ers could reasonably pull within a game after Week 10. The coming weekend is an enormous swing day for the West, as Seattle visits the desert and the Rams take their road show to San Fran.
Guess what, people? One of these four teams is going to play a home playoff game in January. Now pick up your jaw.
NFL Week 9 Results:
The Cardinals blew an early scoring opportunity when Kerry Rhodes took a Brett Favre interception and had the ball knocked out by Greg Camarillo at the one yard line for a touchback, but that was the only remotely eventful happening of the first quarter.
Minnesota took a 7-0 lead on a swing pass to Adrian Peterson, but my former whipping boy LaRod Stephens-Howling returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown.
Following a Viking field goal, Derek Anderson managed to drive the Cardinals down the field for a score, highlighted by a third-and-19 conversion to a diving Larry Fitzgerald and a 30-yard catch and run with Andre Roberts to put the Cardinals in front.
The game took a turn for the even better when O'Brien Schofield ripped the ball from Percy Harvin's hands on the opening kickoff return for the second half and Michael Adams cruised in for a touchdown.
Arizona added a late field goal to give themselves a two touchdown lead and, when Brett Favre's fourth-and-goal pass fell incomplete, it looked like victory time for the struggling Cardinals. Not so fast.
A pair of Minnesota touchdowns bookended a Cardinal three and out, all in four minutes and 39 seconds, and the game headed to overtime. Like you need a guess to figure out how that wound up.
Though the Cardinals won the toss, the Vikings sacked Derek Anderson twice in forcing yet another three and out. Five plays later, Ryan Longwell knocked a 35-yard field goal home, the comeback was complete, and my heart was broken.
New York Giants 41, Seattle Seahawks 7 - Charlie Whitehurst probably wanted a little more for his first NFL start. For weeks, it seems Seattle fans have been calling for the Clemson product to take the reigns from incumbent Matt Hasselbeck and, after this one, they might want to reconsider.
Whitehurst was no peach -- going 12/23 for 113 yards and a pair of picks -- but if you couldn't tell from the 41 points posted by the Giants, he wasn't the biggest problem.
The Giants fumbled inside the Seattle 30 yard line on their first possession, then the flood gates opened. New York scored touchdowns on their next FIVE drives to open up a 35-0 halftime lead. The only thing stopping the streak was an Eli Manning kneel-down to end the half.
With the competitive portion of the game over, the viewers were treated to a glorious half of scrub time that involved more Sage Rosenfels than anyone should be subjected to.
I'd write more about the game, but I tuned out for a Wizards of Waverly Place marathon.
Week 10 Games:
Seahawks @ Cardinals - Who has the worse mental state in this game? The Cardinals have now lost three straight games for the first time since 2007, while Seattle was embarrassed at seemingly impenetrable Qwest Field and continues to struggle with injuries.
For the Cardinals, they'll again roll Derek Anderson out at quarterback, but he wasn't actually the problem in the blown lead against Minnesota. After being torched late, it'll be interesting to see how the Arizona defense responds. Will they be the turnover-forcing machine they were for 55 minutes? Or the butter to Seattle's knife?
As for Seattle, they continue to struggle with injury woes, but may have Matt Hasselbeck and Russell Okung back this week. Hass would probably be a decent improvement for the Seahawks, while Okung could be key to putting the Seahawk running game back on track.
Obviously, a lot is on the line in this one, as Arizona can draw even with Seattle with a win while a Seattle victory gives them a two-game bump on the Cardinals with a season series sweep.
I'd like to pick the Cards with the home field advantage in this one, but they're finding new and creative ways to lose every single week. Seattle wins by 2 when a Mike Leach snap sails through the end zone in overtime.
Rams @ 49ers - Two well-rested teams getting together for another large NFC West tilt.
St. Louis comes into this one with a chance to go over .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2004 (seriously, two thousand and freaking four) while retaining at least a piece of the division lead. The trick for them will be finding a way to win a road game -- they're 0-3 on the year.
On the Niners end of things, they're coming home from London emboldened by a victory over the Broncos and with the most hopeful 2-6 record in NFL history. Most teams are dead at 2-6, but not in the West -- that's where you almost certainly cannot die. Everyone's basically a zombie team.
Troy Smith should get the nod for San Francisco again and if he continues to play an average brand of football, I'd expect the Niners to win the game.