49ers will strike gold again in NFC West
1. San Francisco 49ers (12-4)
The 49ers came so close to a Super Bowl title last season and this year Colin Kaepernick will run the offense from the start of the season. The young phenom took the football world by storm last season, dazzling with his arm and with his legs. He lost Michael Crabtree for the season with a torn ACL, but Anquan Boldin should make up for that. Frank Gore is back in the backfield and their backup LaMichael James could have a big year as well as he showed some explosiveness last season. On defense, this team is stacked at almost every position. They will make offensive lines and quarterbacks lose a lot of sleep over the course of the season. The 49ers biggest weakness is at safety, but the rest of the defense should make up for that. This team was a play away from holding up a Vince Lombardi Trophy last season, but this year could be a different story. Expect the 49ers to have another tremendous season, finishing 12-4 atop the NFC West.
2. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
Russell Wilson proved in his rookie season that he’s the future of the Seahawks. Wilson showed how elusive he is as he flew under the radar behind the other rookie quarterbacks last season. Later in the season, he’ll have Percy Harvin to throw to, which could be pivotal in December and January. Wilson still has solid playmakers in Golden Tate, Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, and Zach Miller. Seattle will run the ball a ton with Marshawn Lynch and Wilson should do some running himself. The Seahawks defense was one of the best last season, and they bring back most of their starters in 2013. The secondary is lethal and will cause nightmares for wide receivers. This team brings back the core of their players from last year and it’s hard to see this team not make the playoffs. Look for the Seahawks to just miss out on the division title, but to grab a Wild Card spot with an 11-5 record.
3. St Louis Rams (8-8)
Jeff Fisher definitely has the Rams headed in the right direction, but it’s hard to pick this team with the competition they have to face at the top of this division. This team got a lot better on offense, which they desperately needed after finishing 25th in the NFL last season. They bolstered their offensive line with the addition of Jake Long. They bring in tight end Jared Cook and drafted wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to give Sam Bradford a couple more playmakers. Daryl Richardson takes over in the backfield for Steven Jackson and has shown some promise. This is the year Bradford has to take it to the next level or he could be gone. The Rams defense could be an issue this season, especially at safety. St. Louis definitely shouldn’t be overlooked in 2013, but they won’t be a playoff contender until 2014. Look for the Rams to finish 8-8 this season.
4. Arizona Cardinals (7-9)
The Cardinals are an intriguing team this season as they finally have a quarterback that is respectable in Carson Palmer. This team’s QB situation last year was embarrassing, and Palmer could be a good fit, especially under new head coach Bruce Arians. He’s got some talented receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and Andre Roberts and a new running back in Rashard Mendenhall. This offense should do a lot more damage than they did last year. The Cardinals secondary will cost them this season and the major reason they don’t get to .500. They lost too much in their secondary to make them able to stop any offense. It’s a rebuilding process for Arizona and they are headed in the right direction, but they’ll finish in last in the NFC West at 7-9.