For your holiday-weekend reading enjoyment, here's what every St. Louis Rams fan needs to know about the NFC West to get you ready for the regular season.
Some of these may be predictive, and some may be fluky. Some are head scratching and some are eye popping.
—The San Francisco 49ers return all 11 starters from the NFC's best defense last season (229 points allowed; 14.3 per game). That's not counting Aldon Smith and his 14 sacks (the fifth most last season).
—The Arizona Cardinals DE Calais Campbell led the NFL last season in passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, with nine.
—The Seattle Seahawks start three defensive backs who are 6'3" or taller (Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor). Only then do we get to mention their Pro Bowl starter from last year, Earl Thomas.
—According to Peter King's NFL preview in the current Sports Illustrated, St. Louis Rams DE Chris Long led the NFL last season in combined hits, sacks and hurries, with 83.
—The San Francisco 49ers allowed only three rushing touchdowns last season, all coming in Weeks 16 and 17.
—Arizona strong safety Adrian Wilson has made the Pro Bowl five of the last six seasons and has been selected the NFC starter each of the past three.
—The last time Seattle wideout Sidney Rice played at least 10 games in a season, he caught 83 balls, for over 1,300 yards.
—Last year, the Rams finished at the bottom in the NFL in third-down-conversion rate (28 percent).
—Last year, the 49ers traveled across all three U.S. time zones five times to play road games. They won four of them. This season, they have only two such games (at Jets, Week 4; at Patriots, Week 15).
—The last two times the Cardinals had a positive point differential for a season (2008, 2009), they won the NFC West.
—The Rams' James Laurinaitis has not missed a game over his first three professional seasons and finished second in the NFC in tackles last season, with 105.
—The 49ers allowed the same number of yards per play (5.1) during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. However, the defense allowed 117 fewer points in 2011.
—As a rookie last year, Arizona DB Patrick Peterson returned four punts for a touchdown, tying an NFL record.
—The Seahawks defense finished last year seventh in points allowed and ninth in yards allowed. The last time a Seattle team finished in the top 10 of both categories was 1991. The Seahawks won only two games the following season.
—The last time the Cardinals had the same leading rusher in back-to-back seasons, they made the Super Bowl.
—The Rams have been outscored by their opponents every year for the last eight seasons. The last time the franchise broke a streak of similar length? 1999.
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