The NFC West –
With the start of the season so close, here’s a closer look at our home division and some end of season predictions.
Number 4- Arizona Cardinals – Even their own fan base is down on the Cards. With a tough schedule at the start including Seattle, Philly and New England, the Card’s iffy QB and lackluster O-Line will be challenged as they come out of the gate. Even the end of the season schedule does them no favors with an away game to Seattle, playing Chicago and Detroit at home and then finishing at San Fran. This team will be truly tested. Expect to see Kalb playing again as Skelton struggles. Even with a few surprise wins during the season, the Cards will be in the bottom of the NFC west this year.
Number 3- St Louis Rams – The Ram’s youth as team remains a question mark for this season even as QB Sam Bradford settles into his job as somewhat of an elder statesman as a two year man. As the youngest team in the NFL, there have been plenty of jokes regarding Fruit Loops and Cartoons at the hotel… But, this team has done a drastic restructure and is prepared to live with the consequences. There are 17 rookies on the St. Louis Rams’ opening day roster, seven more players age 24 or younger and 31 in all on the 53-man roster who were not with the franchise last season. Expect to see flashes of brilliance as well as plenty of penalties in the first part of the season as the team gels. The Rams will finish behind the dual powerhouses of Seattle and San Fran.
Number 2 – San Francisco 49ers – While there are any number of claims that the opening 49er/packer game may be a preview of the NFC playoff, there are those in the club house wondering if things will go as smoothly this year as they did last year. In an effort to keep their NFC west champ status, the 49ers brought in Moss and Manningham to help Smith improve his passing performance that was 29th out of 32 last year. With a top ranked D to fall back on should offense become stagnant, expect the 49ers to be competitive. Their real challenge will be remaining consistent as 4 of their last 6 games are on the road. Their D will keep them in 2nd place behind the Seahawks.
Number 1 – Seattle Seahawks – After the changes made in the off-season, it’s hard to say the Hawks won’t take their division. Unlike other teams wondering which QB to start, Seattle has two excellent options instead of “the lesser of two evils”. Russell Wilson has shown excellent skills and preparation and has a fascinating group of receivers to throw to including free agent Braylon Edwards who was sterling in preseason. Factor that in with the improved O-line (Hello JR Sweezy!), the improved running game (Mr. Turbin) and the strength of the Hawks D, and you have the team most likely to win the west! While their passing D was ranked 11th last year, expect that to be even more improved this year with the addition of Bruce Irvin and his outside speed when he rushes the passer. The Hawks secondary is loaded with pro bowl level talent (Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner and Kam Chancellor – otherwise known as the Legion of Boom) and should give opposing QBs nightmares. Expect the Seahawks to take this division despite closely contested games with the 49ers.