The 2012 NFL preseason will kickoff in less than a month. Over the next few days I will be evaluating the league division by division. Providing 2011 season recaps, predictions, odds and fantasy insight.
San Francisco 49ers: Coach Jim Harbaugh burst onto the NFL coaching scene last season, having in many people’s opinion, the greatest rookie season any NFL coach has ever had.
Coach Harbaugh led the 49ers to a seven game improvement (13-3) over their 2010 season (6-10). The 49ers defense led by LB Patrick Willis ranked 3rd overall and 1st against the run, giving up an average of 77.2 rushing yards per game.
With no key losses on defense and no significant injuries to date, the 49ers defense should maintain the same level of production. Alex Smith has some new best friends on offense since the 49ers have added Randy Moss and Mario Manningham to significantly upgrade their receiving core.
Arizona Cardinals: Is there a guy in the NFL that you feel worse for than Larry Fitzgerald? Fitzgerald put up 1,411 receiving yards on 80 catches with 8 touchdowns with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton throwing him the ball (amazing).
The Cardinals ground game both on offense and defense were ranked 24th and 21st respectively. The Cardinals have failed to add any key players on either side of the ball to improve upon what they did last year.
Coach Pete Carroll lit a fire under previously underachieving running back Marshawn Lynch, whom produced 1,204 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. The Seahawks also added QB Matt Flynn from the Packers and are essentially putting the franchise in his hands. The Seahawks defense was deceptively solid last season ranking 7th in points allowed and 9th in yards per game.
St. Louis Rams: Veteran head coach Jeff Fisher steps into his first season with the Rams with a lot of work to do. In 2011 the Rams finished last in defending the run giving up a ridiculous 152 rushing yards per game.
During Fisher’s tenure with the Titans his defense was consistently a solid unit, and he hopes to bring that to the Rams. Veteran CB Courtland Finnegan followed Fisher from Tennessee to St. Louis, so his leadership in the secondary should help set the tone for improvement.
The Rams were terrible on offense as well, averaging 12.1 points per game.
Division Champions: San Francisco 49ers
Division MVP: Matt Flynn
Division Rookie of the Year: RB LaMichael James (49ers)
Bargain Fantasy Value
49ers: QB Alex Smith, RB LaMichael James, WR Mario Manningham.
Seahawks: QB Matt Flynn, WR Sidney Rice, TE Kellen Winslow.
St Louis Rams: WR Brian Quick, RB Isaiah Pead.
Arizona Cardinals: WR Michael Floyd, RB Beanie Wells
To Win Division:
Arizona Cardinals 5 to 1
San Francisco 49ers 4 to 11
Seattle Seahawks 5 to 1
St. Louis Rams 10 to 1
Arizona Cardinals 100 to 1
San Francisco 49ers 7 to 1
Seattle Seahawks 70 to 1
St. Louis Rams 200 to 1
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