NFC West Division Preview: How the West Will Be Won

Thad KemlageContributor IMay 14, 2009

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals looks on late in the game during their 27-23 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The NFC West was just plain awful last year.

Although the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals came from the West, the division was arguably the worst in the conference, producing only one team over .500.

How will the West be won this year? Offseason moves and injury questions are the biggest concerns of any team heading into the season. Ultimately, they may determine who walks away with the West.


Arizona Cardinals

The defending division champions have some team morale issues. Anquan Boldin and Darnell Dockett want to be traded, and Kurt Warner was unsure of whether to return for the 2009 campaign. 

The team with the worst running game in the NFL also lost their top two running backs—Edgerrin James and J.J. Arrington—to free agency. They will have to rely on first round pick Chris Wells to meet or exceed their league worst 73.6 yards per game last season.

To make matters worse, Larry Fitzgerald is on the cover of Madden 2010

The Arizona Cardinals are doomed.


San Francisco 49ers

The biggest offseason buzz in the 49ers camp is the quarterback battle between Alex Smith and Shaun Hill. Smith is starting to look like one of those No. 1 pick busts, so don’t expect much improvement in San Francisco this season.

One bright spot is the acquisition of Michael Crabtree. The 49er faithful will start making Jerry Rice comparisons because there’s no doubt he’ll be good, but we’ll see how he responds to his offseason foot surgery.

His durability in the NFL is also a question mark at this point.

The 'Niners will finish below .500 for a seventh straight season. 


Seattle Seahawks

Things look promising in Seattle with Matt Hasslebeck, Nate Burleson, and Deion Branch coming back healthy, not to mention the signing of TJ Houshmandzadeh. 

Hasslebeck will be throwing to one of the best receiving corps in the league that was pounded with injuries last season.

However, the Seahawks are nearly four years removed from their Super Bowl loss and essentially have the same core group of guys. One wonders if the window of opportunity for a Super Bowl victory is slowly closing.

The Seahawks look to be the team to beat in the West, but are still not among the elite in the conference.


St. Louis Rams

The Rams have completely parted ways with their Super Bowl-winning team 10 years ago. The offseason release of veterans Torry Holt and Orlando Pace made that clear.

St. Louis is looking for a new identity with a team full of unknowns in 2009. Steven Jackson will have to be the presence he once was in 2006 if the Rams want to have any chance of finishing above .500.

The new-look Rams should sneak up on some people under new management and a new identity, but expect them to finish last in the division for the third year in a row.