NFC West Preview 2011: Predicting the Finish in the Mild Mild West
Two new starting quarterbacks, a new head coach and a lot of questions—that’s the 2011 NFC West division in short.
Arguably the weakest division in the NFL wants to get rid of its loser image and the 2011 regular season should mark the beginning of a new and advanced NFC West.
Who will win the 2011 NFC West division remains to be seen.
The following is an unbiased prediction of how the four NFC West teams will perform during the 2011 NFL regular season.
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This became apparent during the course of last season, which the Cardinals finished with a 5-11 record and the second worst passing offense in the NFL.
The Cardinals’ quarterbacks threw for a total of 2,289 yards and only 10 touchdowns. Only the Carolina Panthers had worse numbers in both categories.
However, the team’s improvements begin and end with Kolb. He might be able to throw more than 10 TDs, but he has only one reliable target in wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Kolb will have a tough job in his first season as a starting QB in the league because the Cards offensive line is more than shaky.
It’s going to be another disappointing year for Arizona due to its inability to address and fix the many other obvious issues on offense and defense.
Overall, the Cardinals are a slightly improved team with a talented quarterback in Kolb, who still has to prove himself in this league.
NFC West Prediction—3rd Place, 6-10
San Francisco 49ers
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The San Francisco 49ers are coming off a disappointing 6-10 season and a third place finish in the NFC West.
The Niners’ biggest point of concern is the team’s quarterback position. Alex Smith, a seven-year veteran, has yet to show why the 49ers picked him No.1 overall in 2005 NFL draft.
Smith’s backup Colin Kaepernick, the team’s second-round draft choice in 2011, is not NFL ready yet and will see only limited playing time during the course of the season.
The new 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh wants to lead this storied franchise back to glory, but without the right man behind the center his chances are more than limited.
On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers will remain one of the top defensive teams against the run. The secondary, on the other hand, is a weak spot that allowed 3,697 yards and 25 passing TDs last season.
Overall, the Niners’ season depends solely on Alex Smith’s performance as the team’s starting QB. The team seems slightly improved compared to last season, but will miss the playoffs for a ninth consecutive year.
NFC West Prediction—2nd Place, 8-8
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The defending NFC West division champions will have a hard time repeating last season’s success.
The Seattle Seahawks are going into their second season under head coach Pete Carroll. The former USC skipper, who had immediate success in his first year as an NFL head coach, has to answer many question about his 2011 squad.
Questions like—"How good is the new quarterback?" or "How much has the defense improved?"
The Seahawks have cut ties with Matt Hasselbeck after nine years and acquired former Minnesota Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson.
The 28-year-old Jackson followed former Vikings teammates wide receiver Sidney Rice and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to Seattle.
The Seahawks defense was among the bottom half against both passing and rushing in 2010. Statistics like 33 allowed TD passes and 1,903 allowed rushing yards only begin to describe the Seahawks defensive woes.
Overall, with the departure of Hasselbeck, the Seahawks lost experience and a leader. If Jackson is able to fill those shoes, the Seahawks will again be in the hunt for a playoff spot.
I’m not sold on Tarvaris Jackson and think that 2011 will be a long and frustrating season for Seahawks fans and players.
NFC West Prediction—4th Place, 5-11
St. Louis Rams
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The greatest show on turf is back! Well, more or less. The St. Louis Rams seem to have the best chance to win the NFC West in 2011 and be a playoff fixture for years to come.
The future of the St. Louis Rams is defined by one name—Sam Bradford. The 2011 offensive rookie of the year is going into his second NFL season and will continue to improve as a leader on and off the field.
The former Heisman winner led his team to a 7-9 record, throwing for 3,512 yards including 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions
The Rams front office added a couple of weapons for Bradford by drafting Boise State’s Austin Pettis (3rd round) and Hawaii’s Greg Salas (4th round).
On the defensive end, the secondary and linebackers corps should be good enough to stop their NFC West opponents, but might need an upgrade if the team strives for more.
The defensive line puts pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and has with defensive end Chris Long a future Pro Bowler.
Overall, the St. Louis Rams are the team with the least issues in the NFC West and should win their first division title since 2003.
NFC West Prediction—1st Place, 9-7