In the upcoming NFL Season, the NFC West will be one of the more evenly matched divisions. None of the teams are coming off of particularly exceptional seasons. The Arizona Cardinals, who appeared in Super Bowl XLIII just 2 years ago, will field a very different team this season, with the losses of Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin and Karlos Dansby most notably. The San Francisco 49ers will try to take advantage of a considerably weaker division and make the playoffs for the first time under coach Mike Singletary, while former first round pick QB Alex Smith plans to finally take his game to the next level. The Seattle Seahawks hope to stay healthy, especially in terms of Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, and also plan to progress under first-year head coach Pete Carroll. Lastly, the St. Louis Rams hope to win a few games, having won 6 over the last three seasons. With question marks surrounding these teams, it's clear to see that this division will be hotly contested. Here's what I think will happen, bearing all remain healthy.
The Rams will have a better season. That's just fact, because it really can't get much worse than 1-15. By selecting Sam Bradford with the #1 overall pick in the Draft, they have their QB of the future. The Rams were at the very least competitive in several of their games last season, and under the watch of Coach Steve Spagnuolo, the Rams hope to improve on their win total. Problem is, unless the other teams in their division lose some key members, this team does not yet match up with the stronger teams in the division. However, keeping in mind that none of the other teams are really that strong anyway, the Rams do have a fighting chance. Besides, nobody wants to see a team play this poorly.
My Prediction: 4-12
While their most exciting offseason move involved a personel decision rather than a player, I think the Seahawks will be improved this year. I think the Cardinals, considering their strong staff and supporting cast, will still be a good team, and the 49ers will continue to play well. That leaves the Seahawks sort of in the middle. If they stay healthy, this team will play pretty well. Their defense is a bit of a concern, but expect the offense to come back after an otherwise off year. Pete Carroll will also be out to prove that he can be a proficient NFL coach, and after 2 unsuccessful stints, I think he finally gets the hang of it.
My Prediction: 7-9
I still think the Cardinals are probably the strongest team in this division. Larry Fitzgerald, a powerful young running game and a stalwart defense and coaching staff really provide almost all the steps to success. The only problem, and only reason this team has a chance not to win the division is Matt Leinart. I have yet to see Leinart, in his limited NFL action, play very well. However, he has enough of a team around him to play pretty well, but unfortunately, the 49ers are catching up with this squad. I think that the Cardinals still put up very strong numbers, but I have to see Matt Leinart play well before I can hand this team the division, though I think they win at home against the Niners.
My Prediction: 8-8
The 49ers finally have all the tools to win the division, but many things have to go right. Frank Gore has to stay healthy. Alex Smith has to remain a stable and sufficient Quarterback all season, and the team has to win all the games they "should" win. The Cardinals will put up a strong fight, but it won't take that many wins to take this division. Look for Mike Singletary to take his first division title. However, as the NFC West leader has done some of the past years, look for them to lose in the first round to a higher seed.
My Prediction: 9-7