The St. Louis Rams didn't play on Sunday, but they may as well have—what happened over their bye week has had a major hand in shaping the second half of the first Rams season in years to actually have a meaningful second half. All other things being equal it would have been nice to have moved into first place by winning a game, but there's no way of knowing all other things would have been equal, so this worked just fine for me. For these five reasons!
5. The Arizona Cardinals fell apart in the fourth quarter.
This might be a selfish reason to root against a team, but after having ragged on them for dumping Matt Leinart for Derek Anderson for so many weeks I'm kind of attached to the idea of the Arizona Cardinals not being very good—if Derek Anderson suddenly began repeating that one fine season he had two years ago I might have to stop italicizing his name.
But the world was treated to one more ridiculous Brett Favre performance—this time a positive one—and the Cardinals couldn't hold onto a lead that was founded mostly on return touchdowns. It prevented an awesome three-way tie atop the NFC West, but I'm willing to deal with that consequence.
And if anybody asks, I can just say I'm still pissed off about the Cardinals leaving St. Louis soon after I was born. That's the ticket.
4. The offense has another week to congeal.
It's hard to know exactly what to make of the Rams' offense right now. Things change on a week-to-week basis—Danario Alexander is the second coming, then Sam Bradford starts throwing to Laurent Robinson and Brandon Gibson, then Danario Alexander has to have his knee amputated, and all the while Bradford is throwing to different tight ends with such frequency that I'm beginning to think some of the names in the box score aren't real.
It's an offense that's been vaguely effective, given the turnover in its receiving corps, but it seems like it hasn't quite settled yet. One week off isn't going to do that—the rest of the season isn't going to do that—but if there's one thing the Rams' offense needs, it's Randy Moss. Oh, sorry—if there's another thing it needs, it's time.
3. The Seahawks don't appear to be any better or more prepared than the Rams do.
It's a little skewed by their last two games... okay, maybe more than a little skewed. But the Seattle Seahawks' point differential at this very moment, as they sit tied with the Rams at 4-4, is -51. That's 10 points worse than the San Francisco 49ers, who sit in what amounts to the NFC West basement at 2-6. It's 50 points worse than the St. Louis Rams.
The Rams will face a tough schedule over the rest of the season, and they'll have to do some winning on the road, but the Seahawks have been blown out over the last two weeks in a way that makes it clear they're no more ready for prime time than the Rams. Somebody has to win the NFC West. I think.
2. Steven Jackson got some time off from hurting himself.
He certainly wasn't going to sit on the sidelines on his own volition, and the Rams certainly weren't in a position to let him—the bye week was the only possible way to keep Jackson from adding to his list of injuries long enough to heal some of the existing ones.
Come next week's game against the San Francisco 49ers, he might be able to grip a football, or walk without cringing. I'm not saying he'll last very long in that state, just that we'll see it for five or six carries before he tears a rotator cuff throwing a safety toward the sidelines with his good hand.
It hasn't seemed like it, but if he ends up playing 16 games in 2010—for the second time in his career—he'll have just avoided setting a career high in carries, at this pace. 340 carries is a lot for anybody; as he gets into old-for-a-running-back territory the Rams will need to monitor his carries a little more carefully. Because that's one more thing he won't do on his own volition.
1. The St. Louis Rams have backed into first place.
And I'm fine with that. It wouldn't be in keeping with the current flavor of the NFC West to go boldly toward first. This is the kind of division that needs to be edged toward, sidled around, sneaked and finally backed into. The Rams have to look at it casually, around Week 17, and say, "Oh, this old thing? Well, I guess if nobody else is interested..."
Last Sunday could have ended with the Rams in a tie for second place with a team that is starting Derek Anderson at quarterback, on purpose. Instead they're in first place, and they didn't even have to do anything about it. This is good news.