Junior D’s NFL Preview: NFC West

by Junior D on September 5, 2013 · 0 comments

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The NFC West should be good again this year. The 49ers represented the NFC in the Super Bowl last season and they’re looking to repeat in 2013. Seattle is still strong and may challenge the 49ers for the NFC West title. Arizona should be better but not by much and St. Louis should bring up the rear in the West again.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (2012 Record: 11-4-1)

San Francisco 49er fans are hoping that their team can keep the momentum from last year. Anything less than another Super Bowl berth is failing for the 49ers and their fans. Of all the young QBs in the league right now, Colin Kaepernick is the most electrifying. He has all of the tools…he has the talent, brains, arm and speed. If their defense can play like it did last season then this should be another magical year.

The 49ers replaced Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick and that gamble paid off. Kaepernick almost took them to the mountain top but came up a little short. They added Anquan Boldin in a great trade with the Ravens but their WR depth is as thin as Karen Carpenter. With Manningham and Crabtree out due to injuries, Boldin and Quinton Patton are looking like the starters. Vernon Davis should have a monster year due to the lack of WR depth. Their offensive line looks great so Frank Gore should be the ‘go to’ guy on the offense. We’ll see if they move away from the read option this year but, chances are, that they’ll run the read option until someone proves that they can stop it consistently. They ranked 4th in rushing offense last season but only 24th in passing offense. If they want to continue their winning ways they need to get better through the air which will be hard with a weak WR core.

Their defense was lights out last season. They ranked 3rd overall and 4th against both the run and pass. With Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman in the front seven they should be in the top 5 again this season. That front seven is scary. The only issue they may have on defense is their secondary. They did lose Dashon Goldson in free agency but they chose to replace him with FS, Eric Reid, who they traded up in the first round of this year’s draft to get.  Nnamdi Asomugha, Tarell Brown and Carlos Rodgers look like they should be an upgrade in the secondary but Asomugha needs to play like he did in Oakland. He didn’t play to his potential or his contract in Philly and he’s now looking to get back to his old form.

If the 49ers can improve their passing game and sure up the secondary then we can all watch them blast through the regular season on their way to another Super Bowl berth. The biggest concern isn’t with the team…other teams in the NFC have gotten better as well. They open the regular season against the Packers and Seahawks and the last thing they need is to start off 0-2. I believe that the offense will get better and Boldin, along with Vernon Davis, will have a great year and help out the Niners passing game. I don’t see this train slowing down.

2013 Prediction: 11-5

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (2012 Record: 11-5)

The Seahawks certainly surprised many people, including me, last year. Russell Wilson proved that his name should be mentioned in the conversation with RGIII and Andrew Luck with his impressive play. Pete Carroll proved that his ‘rah rah’ college schtick can work in the NFL, their defense was one of the best in the league and the man they call Beat Mode showed everyone that he will run your ass over for some Skittles. It will be interesting to see how they improve upon the great season they had in 2012.

Don’t let the numbers fool you. The Seahawks had the 17th overall offense, 3rd rushing offense and only 27th ranked passing offense. The only reason they ranked so low in passing offense is because they ran the ball, with Marshawn Lynch, so often and effectively. Wilson didn’t have to throw to win the game. When he did have to put the ball in the air he was extremely accurate. He completed over 64% of his passes and threw for 3,118 yards in his rookie campaign. They also added RB, Christine Michael, and WR, Chris Harper, in the draft to improve their already potent offense. They also traded for Percy Harvin to add some explosion in the passing game…unfortunately for them, Harvin won’t be able to suit up until at least Thanksgiving because of hip surgery. They will be good this season but look for a late season surge when they get Harvin back in the lineup.

The defense was lights out in 2012. They ranked 4th overall, 10th against the rush and 6th against the pass. With an already impressive defense that includes one of the best CBs in the league (Richard Sherman), they have added Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Antoine Winfield. Their LBs are solid along with their secondary. Their defensive line is where they will need to get better. They have a veteran line than includes DEs, Chris Clemons and Red Bryant. They will need to step it up this season and improve against the run. Clemons suffered an ACL injury in the playoffs against the Redskins last season so we’ll see if he can come back healthy and ready to help this Seahawks defense.

The Seahawks have improved over 2012 through the draft and free agency. Pete Carroll is looking smarter, everyday, for leaving USC when he did. With their schedule and the improvements that they made on both sides of the ball, I think that the Seahawks might actually give the 49ers a run for their money this year. If Russell Wilson doesn’t have a sophomore slump, I really believe that they can win the division and make a deep run in the playoffs.

2013 Prediction: 12-5

ST. LOUIS RAMS (2012 Record: 7-8-1)

There are a lot of questions with this 2013 Rams team. After being drafted number one overall, no one really knows if Sam Bradford is a franchise QB. He did fantastic in his rookie season but has regressed each year since then. That’s not all on him though; their offensive line hasn’t been good and the best WR Bradford has had since his rookie season was Danny Amendola. They are looking for things to change this season and if they don’t, Bradford’s job could be in jeopardy.

Steven Jackson is gone and Rams fans aren’t impressed with their replacements. Daryl Richardson has been named the starter but they also have Isaiah Pead who is suspended for week 1. If you add those two together and throw in, rookie, Zac Stacey that still doesn’t add up to what Steven Jackson gave this team. With that said, The Rams have brought in LT, Jake Long, and added WR, Tavon Austin, to help Bradford get back to where he left off in his rookie season. I believe that he needs more weapons. The protection improvement is great but if they could get him a number one WR then all excuses would be gone. Their schedule is tough so it will hard for Bradford and the offense to put up points.

The defense, on paper, looked very average ranking at 14th overall and 15th against the run and the pass but they were the main reason that the Rams kept games close. Chris Long and Robert Quinn on the defensive line are severely underrated and the rest of the front seven is pretty stout as well. Jeff Fisher added Alec Ogletree at LB through the draft and James Laurinaitis is the anchor at MLB. They will be better in the secondary as well…at least more intimidating. They added Cortland Finnegan through free agency and CB, Janoris Jenkins, with their 2nd round pick in the draft. They were good last year and should be much improved in 2013.

The Rams had a below average season in 2012 but with an improved defense and more protection for Sam Bradford, they should be able to keep games tighter and pull out a few more wins. Unfortunately they have to play the 49ers and Seahawks twice along with the Cowboys (at Dallas), the Falcons (at Atlanta), the Texans (at Houston) and the much improved New Orleans Saints. If the schedule wasn’t so rough I would have given them at least one or two more wins but it looks like they will take baby steps toward the playoffs this season.

2013 Prediction: 8-8

ARIZONA CARDINALS (2012 Record: 5-11)

Since making it to the Super Bowl the Arizona Cardinals have not been a very good team. They promised Larry Fitzgerald a QB ever since Kurt Warner retired and Fitz is still waiting. They got off to a good start last season by going 4-0 but that, like everything else, melted in the Arizona heat. They only won one game the rest of the season. That prompted ownership to fire Ken Whisenhunt, ship Kevin Kolb out of town and start all over again. They brought in Bruce Arians as the head coach after doing a great job in Indianapolis as the interim. They also gave Carson Palmer a chance to resurrect his career, after he had a quiet good season in Oakland.

The offense was worse than Charles Barkley’s golf swing. They ranked 32nd overall, 32nd in rushing offense and 28th in passing offense. I’m pretty sure Larry Fitzgerald was sitting in a warm bathtub with a razorblade by week ten.  This season will be better for Fitz, as he should be able to get back to his old form with Palmer throwing the ball. Arians loves to throw the ball and Palmer has been the Cardinals best option at QB since Warner retired so look for Fitz to get his numbers up from last season. They still don’t have a running game. Even though the O-line has been upgraded, they don’t have a RB to carry the ball behind below average run blocking. They did bring in Rashard Mendenhall but he isn’t going to be a 1,000 yard back…hell, he can’t stay healthy enough to be the full time starter. The offense will improve under Arians but it won’t be good enough in this division.

Their defense was terrible against the run last season. They ranked 27th against the run but they were great against the pass (5th). Outside of their first round pick, the Cardinals went after defensive players. They drafted LB, Kevin Minter, the Honey Badger, CB Tyrann Mathieu and DE, Alex Okafor. They’ll remain in the 3-4 defense but with Todd Bowles as the new defensive coordinator no one really knows how well they will be on defense. My best guess is that they’ll be middle of the road. They’ll crack the top 15 overall but they need to prove that they can stop the run. With their schedule and the division they play in, it will be a tough task for them to be better than 15th overall. Look for another mediocre season on defense.

The Cardinals will be average, at best, in 2013. They have a tough schedule, tough division and a new coaching staff. Even if everything works out for the best they still won’t get out of the basement in this division. They will, however be better than last year. Hell, Norv Turner as their head coach could make them better than last year. It will take a couple more years, with good drafts, before the Cardinals can consider themselves a playoff team. They should have a top five pick in the 2014 draft.

2013 Prediction: 6-10

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