The NFC West looks like the weakest division in the NFC this year and it Will be a major surprise if a wild card come out of it. Thus the 4 teams are playing for one post season place, however only two of them look to have any realistic chance.
The San Francisco 49ers have been slowly clawing their way back after several years of mediocrityat least by their high standards of old and 2009 saw them finally manage to go 8-8 halting a run of losing seasons. Their Defense has been ok for a few seasons now but offensively they have lacked any sort of flair and this remains the big question mark concerning them.
Probable starting QB Alex Smith still looks suspect and the franchise have made some attempt to rectify this by signing journeyman David Carr who has a wealth of experience. They have tried to help him out in all areas drafting two stud offensive blockers in Anthony Davis & Mike Iupati which should give him time to throw the ball, and the addition of Ted Ginn Jr will take some of the pressure off Michael Crabtree out wide. Running Back Frank Gore looks the real deal and should have a good season so there will be no excuses for not taking such a weak division. Even their schedule is favourable pitting them against the wealest division in the whole NFL the AFC West. If The 49ers dont come out of this with a winning season expect some wholesale changes in 2011 starting at Head Coach.
The only serious challengers look to be the Arizona Cardinals who followed up their unlucky Super Bowl loss in 2008 with a solid 2009 which took them to the divisional game. Unfotunately they have had som major losses in the off season and it is hard to tell whether they can cope with these.
The biggest loss is that of veretan QB and probable future Hall of FamerKurt Warner who was instrumental in turning their fortunes around. Now with only Matt Leinart or Derek Anderson to choose from at QB this area will be one of concern.
That in itself would be bad enough but add to that Boldin, Dansby, McFadden, Rackers & Rolle and a big chunk off their success is gone. The drafting of Dan Williams and the aquisition of Joey Porter and Alan Faneca has slightly dampened the blow but the team does look weaker than in 2009.
Still its not all doom and gloom for Cardinals fans and any team with offensive firepower including Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston & Early Doucet will still have to be given respect andthey are no slouches on the ground either with Beanie wells & Tim Hightower both capable of pucking up the yards.
The Cardinals lost both games to the 49ers last season and a repeat of that in 2010 will cost them the division. It is possible the 2nd of January meeting between them will decide who wins the division.
The Seattle Seahawks have followed the most successful spell in their history with 2 pretty dismal seasons in 2008 and 2009 in which thay manages only 9 wins. Still much of this time they were plagued with injuries and with so many key players out they did have an excuse.
It has been a whirlwind off season with 11 players leaving and 11 joining in free agency and they have added a bit of quality in the Draft with their 1st three picks all likely to start. They will be especially pleased at getting Russsel Okung who looks an assured star of the future.
They have picked up some decent players and Leon Washington and LenDale White will strengthen their running game; which has not been a factor for them since Shaun Alexander lost form. They are a better team than in 2009, however it is doubtful that they are sufficiently better to make a challenge for the division.
The St Louis Rams recent seasonal record makes alarming reading for their fans and new owner Stan Kroenke reading 3 wins 2 wins 1 win, so will it be zero in 2010? Well it is really hard to lose all 16 regular season games and although the Lions have managed it they were a shambles at the time and although the Rams are bad they are not truly awful. In my opinion they made a massive mistake in passing up on Ndamukong Suh in favour of Sam Bradford but they had so many holes in the roster that getting a franchise QB now rather than latter probably wont make too much difference.
They have managed to bring in a bit of defensive talent acquiring Bobby Carpenter from Dallas and in AJ Feeley they have a solid enough QB mentor for Bradford who looks likely to start in week one. My concern is that Sam Bradford will have no weapons to speak of apart from Steven Jackson, but a running back will not make a QB look good or boost his confidence. With a weak offensive line to contend with I fear it could be a long hard first season for Sam and similarities with David Carr at Houston spring to mind where a quality QB had the stuffing knocked out of him before he got a chance to shine.
Overall The Rams will be lucky to win 3 games and they have no chance of challenging for the division.
NFC West Forecast Finishing Positions 2010
1 San Francisco 49ers*
2 Arizona Cardinals*
3 Seattle Seahawks
4 St Louis Rams
* Indicates we think they will have identical records and the 49ers will take it on a tie break.
NFC West 2009 Finishing Positions
1 Arizona Cardinals
2 San Francisco 49ers
3 Seattle Seahawks
4 St Louis Rams