Arizona Cardinals Again? NFC West Preview

Samantha CookeCorrespondent IAugust 16, 2009

PITTSBURGH - AUGUST 13: Tim Hightower #34 of the Arizona Cardinals runs during a preseason NFL game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 13, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Last year, the NFC West sent one team to the playoffs and one team to the Super Bowl.  The Arizona Cardinals were the only team in the NFC West above .500.

The Cardinals had nine wins.  San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis combined for only 13 wins total.

What is in store for the NFC West this season?  Will the Cardinals repeat as Champions?  Here is how they will finish:


4. St. Louis Rams

They signed all of their draft picks. They also picked up Kyle Boller to back up Marc Bulger this season.  Bulger is getting older and he lost his best receiver from last year, as the Rams got rid of Terry Holt.  This is going to hurt an offense which placed 27th last year.

The defense got a little revamped.  James Laurinaitis will help add depth at linebacker and could even step in as a starter towards the end of the season.  Picking up SS James Butler from the Giants will help FS Oshiomogho Atogwe.  Unfortunately, the Rams did not do a whole lot to help their 28th ranked defense.

As for the schedule, the Rams will have trouble outside their division.  They travel to Washington, Jacksonville, Chicago, Tennessee, and Detroit.  They also face Green Bay, Minnesota, Indianapolis, New Orleans, and Houston at home.  They may win an extra game or two this season, but they will remain in last place.


3. San Francisco 49ers

Not having a solid starter at quarterback will hurt the 49ers this year.  The position is up for grabs between Alex Smith, Sean Hill, and Damon Huard.  All are decent quarterbacks, but none of them are superstars.  Having Michael Crabtree will help the quarterback position, if he commits to the team for this season.

The defense picked up a couple big name players to help out this season, namely Dre Bly and Marques Harris.  They will have some trouble because most of the teams they see this season are offense-heavy.

Besides the teams in their division, the 49ers will face Atlanta with Matt Ryan, Chicago with Jay Culter, Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Detroit.  They will go on the road to Indianapolis with Peyton Manning, Green Bay with Aarong Rodgers, Philadelphia with Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick, Minnesota, and Houston.


2. Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks definitely boosted their offense this year to help out quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.  Deion Branch and Nate Burleson will get a massive boost this year from TJ Houshmandzadeh.  This will help take pressure off the running game and open up for backs Julius Jones and TJ Duckett.

A defense that was 30th last year needed some help in the offseason.  Aaron Curry will add depth to the line backing core.  Cory Redding will add a big body up front.  With Marcus Trufant having trouble, the Seahawks picked up Travis Fisher.  He's a solid corner that could add to the defense even with Trufant healthy.

The Seahawks will face Chicago, Jacksonville, Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Tennessee at home.  They don't have an impossible road schedule, but face some tough teams in Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Dallas, Minnesota, Houston, and Green Bay.

1. Arizona Cardinals

Yes, the Cardinals will repeat as NFC West Champions this year.  They have too tough of an offense after re-signing Kurt Warner.  Matt Leinart stepped up this offseason to become a solid backup.  They return an excellent receiving core in Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston.  To help take pressure off Tim Hightower, the Cardinals signed Chris "Beanie" Wells.  Wells should see some time at running back this season and that will help keep Hightower fresh.

As for the defense, the Cardinals were 19th in total defense last year.  They had 26 fumbles and 13 interceptions.  They will look to up that number this year by adding depth at tackle.  They have Bryan Robinson, Darnell Dockett, Gabe Watson, Alan Branch, and Keilen Dykes.  Any of these guys could step in and be a solid starter.

The schedule is slightly favorable.  The Cardinals will host Indianapolis, Houston, Minnesota, Green Bay, and Carolina.  They have to travel to Jacksonville, Tennessee, New York Giants, Chicago, and Detroit.  Look for the Cardinals to make the playoffs again this season.