Posted on January 1, 2023
We are in the penultimate week of the 2022 NFL season, which means it is the last week before the all-divisional-game week 18.
But there are still three matchups between west teams, so it will certainly be an interesting week.
Not every team is playing for a playoff spot or seeding, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to play for.
Sometimes when a season has not gone the way a team intended, one of the most satisfying things they can do is hand a good team a tough loss at the end of the season. That is what the Broncos, Raiders, and Rams can potentially do this week.
We’ve seen upsets throughout the entire season, so no team should overlook their opponent this week.
So, even if these matchups aren’t the greatest on paper, that doesn’t mean they can’t prove to be wildly entertaining this weekend.
Here are some quick previews for each of the five games featuring west teams this week.
Cardinals (4-11-0) at Falcons (5-10-0)
Sunday, January 1
10:00 am PT, FOX
But, on the other hand, they’re giving up 26.1 and 23.3 points per game, respectively, so something has to give.
It’s clear how the Falcons will operate on offense. They run the ball at one of the highest rates in the league, which is even more beneficial with rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder under center.
The Cardinals are in the bottom 10 in yards per carry allowed, so Falcons’ running backs Cordarrelle Patterson and Tyler Allgeier could have some success.
Arizona is nearly Atlanta’s opposite because it is one of the most pass-happy teams in the league. The Cardinals have the fourth-most passing attempts, although they’re averaging the 18th-most yards per game.
They should have more success against an Atlanta defense that allows the ninth-most passing yards per game, but with quarterback Colt McCoy under center, it is not a given.
McCoy will be the key to the game.
He has the necessary weapons around him to succeed, such as running back James Conner and wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Marquise Brown. If he can orchestrate the offense efficiently then the Cardinals will have a much better chance to win this game.
Broncos (4-11-0) at Chiefs (12-3-0)
Sunday, January 1
10:00 am PT, CBS
The one thing that Denver could be proud of this year was its defense but that is no longer true after giving up 51 points last week. And now the Broncos have to face the Chiefs, who have a significantly better offense than the Rams.
This is not to say that the Chiefs will hang 50 points on the Broncos, but they will be much harder to stop.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is nearly unstoppable at this point and has already thrown for 353 yards against this Broncos team.
The Broncos were able to keep up offensively in the last matchup between these two teams. They scored 28 points in a 34-28 loss, but that is their season-high, making it unlikely they can repeat it.
It will be especially difficult for the Broncos to score considering the Chiefs have been playing well on defense recently. They just had arguably their best defensive performance of the season last week, holding the Seahawks to just 10 points.
Just like every other Chiefs’ game, this matchup will come down to whether their opponent can keep up with them offensively. And unless the Broncos look like a completely different team this week, this game likely won’t be very close.
Seahawks (7-8-0) vs Jets (7-8-0)
Sunday, January 1
1:05 pm PT, FOX
That is much different from the other matchup, where the Jets’ offense and the Seahawks’ defense are both in the bottom eight in scoring.
But there is hope for the Jets, and his name is Mike White. The Jets are averaging 26 points per game with white at quarterback, which is a big step up from their usual 18.9 points per game.
White will be under center again for the Jets after missing two games with an injury, which should give the offense a boost.
The Seahawks have been trending the wrong way on defense, scoring just 23 points in their last two games combined.
Injuries to wide receiver Tyler Lockett, running back Kenneth Walker, and some offensive linemen have not made things easier on quarterback Geno Smith.
The Jets are similar to the 49ers defensively, at least in terms of scheme, because their head coach, Robert Saleh, was previously the defensive coordinator in San Francisco.
The 49ers held the Seahawks to just 20 points in two games, so if the Jets can have similar success they won’t need too many points to win.
Seattle is going to have to win on the ground in order to win. The Jets are more vulnerable against the run, though still not bad, so Walker is going to have to carry the Seahawks to victory, literally.
49ers (11-4-0) vs Raiders (6-9-0)
Sunday, January 1
1:05 pm PT, FOX
On one hand, the 49ers are a very known commodity. They have an elite defense and a talented offense that is operating well despite rookie quarterback Brock Purdy leading the way.
On the other hand, the Raiders are a mixed bag this week.
They had been playing pretty well before suffering a loss to the Steelers last week. And now they’ve benched quarterback Derek Carr and are rolling with Jarrett Stidham under center.
It seems like an unfair time to throw the inexperienced signal-caller to the wolves.
The 49ers are ranked in the Top 10 in a litany of stats against the pass, most notably interception percentage and quarterback rating.
Stidham will also have to deal with defensive end Nick Bosa, who leads the league in sacks. But at least the Raiders’ offensive line is good at protecting the quarterback, allowing sacks on just 5.3 percent of dropbacks.
Purdy has a much more favorable matchup than Stidham, going up against a Raiders’ defense that has given up the sixth-most passing yards.
The rookie should be able to continue doing what he has excelled at so far, which is getting the ball to his playmakers. Tight end George Kittle has been playing well lately and could be in for another great game against a vulnerable Las Vegas defense.
Ultimately, this game will come down to whether the Raiders’ offense can be effective with Stidham at the helm. If the offense is unable to get anything going against a very good 49ers’ defense then this matchup may end up not being close.
Rams (5-10-0) at Chargers (9-6-0)
Sunday, January 1
1:25 pm PT, CBS
Apparently, all the Rams needed to turn things around was quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has two wins so far.
He also must have unlocked something in running back Cam Akers, who is coming off a 118-yard, three-touchdown performance on Christmas.
Mayfield and the Rams’ luck may run out against the Chargers, though.
The Chargers are looking like one of the best teams in the league recently, thanks in large part to an elite offense.
They have the third-most passing yards, which is not surprising given the talent of quarterback Justin Herbert and wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.
The Rams are far from the defense that they’ve been in previous years and have allowed the 11th-most passing yards this season. So, if things go as expected for both teams, Herbert should have another fantastic game.
If Mayfield can put together another impressive performance with his new team then the Rams should be able to keep up with the Chargers. Unfortunately for him, the Chargers have given up the ninth-fewest passing yards.
The good news is that the Chargers do struggle against the run, allowing the second-most yards per carry, so the Rams could lean on the ground game to stay in this one.
If the Rams truly are better now with Mayfield then this could end up being a fun game. But if the Rams’ struggles return, then the Chargers should be able to handle them fairly easily.
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