It would be difficult to consider the NFC West one of the premiere divisions in the NFL today. Over the last several years it seems that one of the teams is completely rebuilding, two others are struggling for a .500 record, and only one team is somewhat competitive with the rest of the league.
With that in mind, the NFC West is a division up for grabs again this season.
Granted a NFC West team has been represented in the Super Bowl four times this decade, but the rest of the division has been a doormat during those Super Bowl runs. With several changes taking place across the division, expect a different setting this season.
The Arizona Cardinals are coming off of an improbable season that ended on a sour note only when Santonio Holmes made a phenomenal catch in the corner of the end zone. They swept the season series against the entire division but was only 3-7 when facing the rest of the league.
All that meant nothing when they caught fire during their playoff run.
The Cardinals will return much of their team from the previous season. Edgerrin James has been released to make way for the rookie Beanie Wells, and Anquan Boldin's status continues to remain up in the air. Besides those few changes, look for Arizona to be a strong competitor for Seattle this season.
A change at the coaching position brought about a new attitude and philosophy to the San Francisco 49ers. Coach Mike Singletary has begun the transformation of his team by focusing on the basics that made him and his Chicago Bears so tough: run the ball and play defense. They showcased much of this play late in the season. The addition of Michael Crabtree will only assist in opening the offense further.
Without a true No. 1 quarterback and a questionable offensive line, I do not expect the 49ers to be in playoff contention yet. Expect a .500 season for the much improved squad in San Francisco.
There is not much to be said about the St. Louis Rams. They are the team in the division that is under construction and will be for a few years. They first must address the offensive line which they took steps towards with the drafting of Jason Smith. The receiving core is all but diminished and with an aging Marc Bulger, the Rams will be looking for a lot of moral victories in 2009.
With that said, expect Seattle to be in a battle with Arizona for the division title this season. The key for each team will be their play on the road. Both team has great home field fans, but the road will be the true test to decide who takes the division.