What is it with West divisions this year? Nobody wants to win the NL West. The NFC West won't be much more competitive. There is one good team, one mediocre team that is a perennial underachiever and two awful teams.
Let's break down how this division should turn out this year, from worst of the worst, to first of the worst.
4) St. Louis Rams
They do have Steven Jackson, though there will be questions about how fast he can get up to speed after his holdout. You could do worse than Marc Bulger throwing to Torry Holt. Orlando Pace is one of the best in the game, when he is healthy (which hasn't been too often the last couple of years). Unfortunately, you could do a lot better pretty much everywhere else.
Rookie Chris Long is a great addition to the defense, but will he be able to contribute what he needs to right away? The Rams are in a place where they have only a few players they would like to build around for the future, and many players who will be looking to rebound from poor years or stave off inevitable declines as they get older. Barring injuries, they should be better than last year, but ultimately, they just won't be talented enough, especially on defense. There's not much to be optimistic about here.
3) San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers begin this season much differently than they did last year. In 2007, high expectations made most fans think the franchise was on the road back to glory. A 5-11 record said otherwise. The offense was last in most statistical categories, and head coach Mike Nolan will be under pressure to turn the team around.
On paper, the 49ers offense should be much better this year. Mike Martz is the new offensive coordinator, but doesn't have the personnel he needs yet. Frank Gore hopes to rebound from a disappointing 2007 season that saw him rush for almost 600 fewer yards than the year before. The team did add DeShaun Foster, Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson to the mix, giving the team a few more weapons. The team also dumped Alex Smith as starter, replacing him with J.T. O'Sullivan. Anybody would be a better choice at QB than Smith, including most of the homeless people wandering around Mission Street.
As for the defense, efforts to clone Defensive Rookie of the Year Patrick Willis were unsuccessful.
Unless Martz can work a miracle and get the offense together quickly, this will be a long season for the Niners and all the nice suits in the world won't help Nolan keep his job.
2) Arizona Cardinals
The same preview has been written for the Arizona Cardinals for the last 10 years or so.
"The Arizona Cardinals have high hopes for the
Why should this year be any different?
Any team that has Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin & Edgerrin James as its primary weapons should be able to move the ball and put up a lot of points. This should be the case no matter who is at quarterback. Of course, there's that whole issue: Matt Leinart or Kurt Warner? The only way the story would be more drawn out would be if Brett Favre was involved. Has Leinart put down the beer bong long enough to be ready to lead the team? Warner might be the better QB at the moment, but he is hardly perfect, having single-handedly blown several games himself. The Cardinals start with games against the 49ers and Dolphins. If Leinart can't get the job done against those 2 weak teams, he doesn't deserve to start & Warner will quickly be brought in (assuming that Leinart does indeed begin the season as the starter).
Defensively, the Cardinals should be solid. Injuries to the defense kept the unit from achieving what it could have last season. If Adrian Wilson, Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry can return to full health, the defense will be much improved.
Prediction: 9-7 (a pretty weak schedule helps)
1) Seattle Seahawks
Every year, the Seattle Seahawks seem to do much better than people expect them to. Of course, it helps having the division opponents mentioned above. This will be Mike Holmgren's last season as head coach.
The passing game should continue to be Seattle's strength. Matt Hasselbeck threw for almost 4000 yards last year. The team will be without leading receiver Bobby Engram for the first few weeks of the year, but depth at the receiver position and a stronger running game should keep the offense going. Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett should be upgrades over the late Shaun Alexander in the backfield. Patrick Kearney, Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson are the stars of a more-than-capable defense.
As far as the playoffs, Seattle will make it in as the division winner & could win a game or two in the postseason. The Cardinals will be a Wild Card contender. The Rams & 49ers will be lucky to still be in the hunt for a playoff spot in November.
The NFC West: Catch the Fever!
Also, join us in the FanIQ Prediction System for each each team.