2010 was not a vintage year for the NFC West with the Seattle Seahawks winning the division with a 7-9 record. The whole division only managed 25 wins and of those only 6 came on the road. The Seahawks did salvage some pride for the division when beating the then Reigning Superbowl Champions the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card game, however they lost 35-24 to the Bears in the divisional game; a somewhat flattering scored helped by three 4th quarter TDs.
Its hard to imaging that the whole division can conspire to be that bad again, however no team looks to have improved greatly and 9 wins will probably be enough for a team to limp into the post season. Overall we see things panning out like this:
1 Arizona Cardinals 9-7
The Cardinals without Kurt Warner floundered badly in 2010 and despite trying various QB solutions were forced to admit defeat and trade away one of their prize assets to bring in the competent if unspectacular Kevin Kolb from the Eagles. Losing Rodgers-Cromartie will be a blow, all be it one softened by the drafting of Patrick Peterson and although pairing these two would have given them a shut down secondary the need to score points probably justifies the decision.
The thing about the Cardinals is that they do have talent and key parts of the team which made the 2008 Superbowl and 2009 playoffs remain, so if Kolb is anywhere near as good as what Andy Reid says his is then The Cards are a good bet for the Division and could be dangerous in the post season. Their array of offensive weapons is impressive with Larry Fitzgerald being one of the NFL’s most exciting receivers, while Todd Heap at Tight End is no slouch. Add Andre Roberts and Early Doucet to that receiving corps and they are as good as any team in the NFC. Defensively they look above average and Dan Williams looks like he could progress into a top class Nose Tackle. If Patrick Peterson turns out to be as good as we think he is then they should be able to close down some of their lesser opponents and with a fairly easy schedule nine wins looks possible.
2 St Louis Rams 7-9
The Rams caught many including us by surprise last season and right up to the end of the season it looked possible that they could break their post season drought. Finishing 7-9 was a massive improvement and in Sam Bradford they finally look like they have a franchise QB for the first time since the Kurt Warner days.
Slowly but surely the Rams are rebuilding and adding Robert Quinn on Defense was a good move you can never have enough pass rush and with Chris Long on the other side opposing offensive linemen will have to be on their toes. However having a bit of pass rush a great QB and a quality running back in the shape of Steven Jackson doesn’t guarantee a playoff place – even in the NFC West. They have a truely horrible opening schedule and could easily go into the bye week at 0-4 and then face a trip to Green Bay and Dallas before entertaining the Saints!! . Recovering from a 1-6 or possibly even 0-7 start is nigh on impossible, and although things get easier there after they have Pittsburgh to play towards the close. With this schedule reaching 7-9 will be a good result.
3 Seattle Seahawks 6-10
The Seahawks somehow found themselves in the post season in 2010 and to be fair they aquitted themselves well with Matt Hasselbeck rolling back the years to have one final moment in the spot light.
The fear for the Seahawks is that they don’t seem to have gotten any better in the off season, while the Cardinals have and the addition of Travaris Jackson at QB looks like a sideways move at best. The offensive line looks a concern to us and with no real stand out player at WR (their 3 main starters have a combined career 22 TDs between them) its hard to see here the points are going to come from. Marshawn Lynch is a solid enough Running Back, but he cant do it himself, and Zach Miller at Tight End will pick up the odd TD but again he is not prolific.
Similarly on Defense they look ok rather than good and its hard to see them shutting down offenses, which they will have to do to win close games. They have a reasonable opening schedule and may start brightly however we expect this to be short lived.
4 San Francisco 49ers 5-11
The 49ers look a million miles away from a return to the Dynasty team they once were and despite recruiting a quality coach in Jim Harbaugh it will be a little while before they begin to look like a playoff team again. Having said that they are not without talent with Patrick Willis, Vernon Davis, Frank Gore, Justin Smith, and Andy Lee all making the 2010 Pro Bowl. However they need a solid QB and more production from their wide receivers. The addition of Braylon Edwards should prove to be a help, however its hard to see how they can improve on last season given their punishing schedule. Finishing 3rd last season looks like a bit of a poison chalice as they will face playoff hopefuls Tampa Bay and up an coming Detroit in the inter divisional games, and having the NFC east and AFC North to play only compounds matters. Jim Harbaugh will turn things around but he will need time and we dont expect him to work one season wonders with this squad.