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NFC West Report: 2015 Preseason Edition

In this edition of the NFC West Report, we catch up with the San Francisco 49ers three division rivals as the preseason nears its conclusion.

How have the teams fared in the exhibition season? Are injuries affecting the rosters? What should you keep an eye on before Week 1 of the regular season?

Find out below.


St. Louis Rams

Star tracker: Nick Foles has looked strong leading the Rams offense this month, especially in Week 3 of the preseason versus the Indianapolis Colts. The signal-caller completed 10-of-11 passes for 128 yards and a score. He finished his night with a 145.5 passer rating. Foles' best throw came via a 44-yard touchdown pass to Chris Givens. Reigning AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Aaron Donald recorded consecutive tackles for losses against the Colts near the goal line. The defensive tackle has seven total tackles this preseason. Fellow defensive linemen Robert Quinn and Nick Fairley have received limited reps in the exhibition games.

Injuries: Starting cornerback E.J. Gaines (foot) was placed on the Injured Reserve List on Monday. Running back Tre Mason (hamstring) and offensive guard Jamon Brown (ankle) left Saturday's game early with their ailments, but head coach Jeff Fisher said neither player is expected to miss extended time. Starting wide receiver Brian Quick (shoulder) made his preseason debut against the Colts but was not targeted in nine snaps.

Storyline to watch: This could go in the section above, but since he's the headline grabber, Todd Gurley's name moves to here. Taken 10th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft despite rehabbing an ACL injury, Gurley appears to be inching closer and closer to a return to game action. The running back began participating in team drills last week but hasn't played in the preseason hit. Fisher has said that the Rams want to bring Gurley along slowly. So with Gurley's timeline uncertain and Mason nursing a hamstring injury, it is possible that St. Louis is forced to go with Benny Cunningham for the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks.

San Francisco and St. Louis have a long history, going back to 1950. Here are photos from the 49ers home games.


Arizona Cardinals

Star tracker: Carson Palmer, coming off an ACL injury, is 15-of-33 passing for 268 yards and a touchdown through three preseason games. The quarterback threw two interceptions on Sunday versus the Oakland Raiders. Larry Fitzgerald has caught three passes for 36 yards while John Brown has hauled in five passes for 92 yards and a score. Safety Tyrann Mathieu has two tackles and an interception, picking off Kansas City Chiefs Alex Smith in Arizona's preseason opener. Patrick Peterson only has recorded one tackle in limited playing time.

Injuries: Starting wide receiver Michael Flloyd (finger) is expected to be ready for Week 1 of the regular season against the New Orleans Saints. Starting linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (hamstring) hasn't practiced in pads so far this month after sustaining his injury on the first day of training camp. The Cardinals are hopeful that Weatherspoon will return to field sometime this week. Starting nose tackle Corey Peters (Achilles) is out for the season. Starting left guard Mike Iupati (knee), signed away from the 49ers this offseason, will miss the first month of the regular season after undergoing surgery. Running back Chris Johnson (hamstring) is questionable for the start of the regular season.

Storyline to watch: The Cardinals appear to have question marks on their offensive line. The unit has allowed 10 sacks this preseason, including five of Palmer. With Iupati injured and right tackle Bobby Massie suspended for the first four games of 2015, Arizona will have to piece together its protection until October. Earl Watford (left guard) and Bradley Sowell (right tackle) are slated to fill in for the starters in the interim. The 49ers face the Cardinals in the desert in Week 3. 

San Francisco and Arizona have faced off 51 times. Here are the best shots from the teams' meetings.


Seattle Seahawks

Star tracker: Russell Wilson finished 10-of-16 passing for in his first two preseason games before completing 7-of-15 attempts for 56 yards on Saturday against the San Diego Chargers. Wilson was sacked one time and rushed for 23 yards on four attempts. He has not thrown a touchdown pass yet. Marshawn Lynch has only carried the ball twice for six yards this preseason. Marquee trade acquisition Jimmy Graham has caught six passes for 75 yards. Richard Sherman made his exhibition debut versus San Diego, tallying two tackles. Bobby Wagner has amassed eight tackles and an interception.

Injuries: Starting left tackle Russell Okung (shoulder) was a late scratch prior to the team's Week 3 preseason game on Saturday, but coach Pete Carroll said that Okung could have played if it were the regular season. Starting linebacker K.J. Wright (shoulder) is not likely to miss any more time after leaving the Chargers game early. Starting full safety Earl Thomas (shoulder) has not appeared in any exhibition contest, but various reports suggest that he is expected to be ready for the regular season. Cornerback Jeremy Lane (knee) and wide receiver Paul Richardson (knee) were placed on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform List on Monday, meaning they cannot return until after Week 6 of the regular season.

Storyline to watch: Kam Chancellor, a three-time Pro Bowl safety, continues to hold out over a contract dispute. The 27-year-old has eight career forced fumbles, eight interceptions, and 30 pass breakups. Since 2011, Chancellor has averaged 93 tackles per season. His status as the regular season approaches will have a significant impact on the Seahawks defense. Without him, the Chargers and Chiefs were a combined 11-for-20 on third down conversions against the Seahawks first unit. 

The 49ers and Seahawks have a long history, going back to 1976. Here are photos from their 38 meetings.

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