Before we get into this week’s games, I thought it would be a good idea to look around the league and evaluate the state of each of the other 31 teams. We’ll begin in the NFC west.
Arizona Cardinals – This is the trendy pick to win the west this year. Kevin Kolb replaces the mess that was the QB situation Arizona had a year ago. Everyone seems to simply assume they’ll be back to the playoff form they were before Kurt Warner retired.
They have serious questions on defense though. They finished 29th out of the 32 NFL teams in defense in 2010 and did little to improve that unit. In fact, they lost one of their top defensive players into the trade that brought them Kolb.
The success of this team will be dependent more than anything on Beenie Wells. Arizona must find ways to shorten the game by running the ball, or they’ll find themselves behind and trying to pass their way back into almost every game.
Arizona is Riley’s pick to win the division.
San Francisco 49ers – The niners have a new coach and a new attitude. They also have mostly the same players from last season’s 6-10 team, and that isn’t a good thing. Alex Smith returns at QB for reasons that no one truly understands. The Colin Kaeprinick era is likely to being sooner rather than later, and he’s really raw and not ready for serious playing time.
The one thing the 49er offense has going for it is Frank Gore. If Gore can stay healthy this team should be competitive in most games, but Gore has a long history of missed games due to injury. The defense is solid, lead by Smith and Willis.
San Francisco was picked by both Riley and myself to finish last in the division.
St. Louis Rams – The days of the Rams being the bottom of the division finally ended last year, when they finished 2nd just behind Seattle. The Rams seem to be finally turning the corner as their core of young players is coming together.
Sam Bradford looks to be the real deal at QB, and Steven Jackson is still Steven Jackson. If the Rams can find some reasonable weapons at WR, this offense should be pretty solid.
The weakness of this team is its defense. While it isn’t awful, it is really vanilla and it has a hard time getting pressure on the QB. This defense is still at least 2-3 players away from being ready to make a run in the playoffs.
St. Louis is my pick to win the NFC West.
Check back later today for the rest of the NFL.