Does that make you more confident in the 49ers moving forward?
Saturday’s game between the Rams and Seahawks highlighted a lot of what we already knew. The Rams defense is as dominant of a unit as there has been all season. Russell Wilson was sacked five times, threw an interception—he should have had a couple, and Seattle was never comfortable on offense.
Jalen Ramsey’s PFF grade was 56.3 in this game. He was targeted six times against DK Metcalf, allowed three catches for 33 yards, and broke up a pass. When you only grade targets, it exposes the flaw to your grading system. The point is that the Rams have a cornerback who can shut down one side of the field, which opens up everything for the rest of the defense.
On the other side of the ball, Jared Goff remained Jared Goff, while the Rams ran the ball effectively and relied on Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods to do the heavy lifting in the passing game. Jamal Adams hasn’t been good in coverage all season, and he was fortunate only to allow 78 yards in coverage. He’s a liability once he gets past ten yards. In both of the past two games, Sean McVay went out of his way to isolate and target Adams. That’s telling, especially considering what the Seahawks gave up to acquire Adams.
Seattle’s head coach Pete Carroll received a ton of flack Monday morning after he said Seattle’s primary focus headed into 2021 would be to run the football more often and effectively, per NBC Sports’ Joe Fann.
Naturally, people will run with Carroll’s quote and make jokes about “let Russ cook,” but if you watched Saturday or the Seahawks the last two months, he has a point. For whatever reason, we always ignore the games where Russell Wilson doesn’t play well. He did not look like a top-3 QB the last half of the 2020 season, with more on his plate.
This brings me to the question, are the 49ers primed to regain control of the NFC West next season? The Rams defense undressed the Seahawks offensive line. Seattle couldn’t get much of anything going, and that’s why their offense had a 31% success rate on Saturday. Seattle is without their next two first-round picks.
Salary cap space is important to keep in mind as well. Take a look at the salary cap projections for each team:
Here is a quick look at every teams estimated 2021 salary cap space against their 2020 record
Top right= good record, good cap position
Top left= good record, bad cap position
Bottom right= bad record, good cap position
Bottom left= disaster pic.twitter.com/3Wo7luqCJg
— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) January 11, 2021
Neither of the four NFC West teams has a ton of wiggle room for their salary cap. The Rams are handcuffed as Goff takes up 19% of their cap space, and Los Angeles is without a first-round pick as well, thanks to the Jalen Ramsey trade.
I haven’t mentioned the Cardinals for a reason. They need a lot of help. Arizona had a successful season, but they flushed a prime opportunity down the toilet after being three games over .500 and not making the playoffs in a conference that isn’t trotting out the same caliber of teams as the AFC did. Did you ever watch Kliff Kingsbury this season and think, wow, the Niners are in trouble moving forward? I didn’t think so.
Until further notice, fair or not, the Cardinals will not be taken seriously. Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins are a lethal combo, but that offense relies too heavily on that duo for production. Here’s how the Cardinals back half of the season went like this: A loss to the Dolphins, a hail mary win over the Bills, then three losses in a row to the Seahawks, a Patriots team that wasn’t any good, the Rams, two victories squeezed in over the NFC East, and losses to the 49ers and Rams where their offense looked putrid.
Where does San Francisco fit in all of this? Saying “when this team is healthy” ignores a lot from this team during the past few seasons. You name it, and the 49ers have been injured at that position. Seriously. Even in 2019, Robbie Gould missed time with injury. The team’s kicker has missed time with injury.
Still, they remained competitive in 2020 despite what felt like half of the roster being on the injured reserve. For this exercise, let’s assume that Jimmy Garoppolo is still on the 49ers and remains healthy in 2021—that’ll be the only constant we’ll use in this case, the quarterback’s health.
Knowing that the Rams and Seahawks rosters will remain relatively unchanged, do you still feel like the Niners will be kings of the division next season?