In part eight of the MikesPickz NFL Breakdown, we will take a look at the NFC West.
San Francisco 49ers – 4-0
St. Louis Rams – 3-1
Arizona Cardinals – 3-1
Seattle Seahawks – 1-3
2010 Regular Season Predictions:
San Francisco 49ers – 11-5
Arizona Cardinals – 6-10
St. Louis Rams – 4-12
Seattle Seahawks – 4-12
San Francisco 49ers:
The San Francisco 49ers are the favorites in the NFC West because they were the only team in the division to have a stable off-season. The 49ers will stick with the run first offense this season. I expect the run game to be very effective thanks to the 49ers two first round draft picks – Anthony Davis (RT) and Mike Iupati (LG). These two players should help the 49ers improve their smash mouth running game led by All-Pro Frank Gore. The passing game is much improved from a couple of seasons ago. Alex Smith looks like he will be a reliable QB, although not a great one. The receiving core is very young with 2nd year Michael Crabtree and 3rd year Josh Morgan leading the way. The Niners also have one of the best pass catching tight ends with Vernon Davis. The defense will once again be the team’s strength. They have one of the best linebacking tandems in the NFL, lead by Patrick Willis (the best LB in the league) and Takeo Spikes. The secondary can be exposed at times but with Nate Clements returning from an injury that caused him to miss 9 games last season, it will be slightly better.
The Arizona Cardinals are coming off back-to-back division titles, but that streak should end with the retirement of Kurt Warner. Warner’s retirement has left a huge hole at QB for the Cards. Matt Leinhart was released by the Cards leaving Derek Anderson as the signal caller. Anderson was a Pro-Bowler in 2007, but as Browns fans will point out, that Anderson has been MIA for awhile. If Anderson does struggle, the Cards have no depth at QB. The other two QBs – Max Hall and John Skelton – are both rookies. The RB situation is also somewhat shaky. Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells are both decent, but Wells has had knee problems during the off-season. At least they still have Larry Fitzgerald, but they are missing his perfect complement after losing Anquan Boldin in the off-season. The Cardinals’ defense will be strength and should help them remain somewhat competitive in the relatively weak division. Darnell Dockett (DE), Adrian Wilson (SS) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (CB) will be joined by Joey Porter (LB) and Kerry Rhodes (FS) to form a solid defensive core spanning the line, linebackers and secondary.
St. Louis Rams:
The St. Louis Rams are making progress, but they suffered a major set-back at the same time. They will be starting rookie Sam Bradford in Week 1, and I still am not sure what to think about him. I still think he might be considered a bust in a few years, but he has potential to be pretty good. The set-back facing Bradford and the Rams is their best wide reciever, Donnie Avery, will miss the entire season with a torn ACL. Outside of Avery, the Rams don’t have many receiving threats. Although the recent trade for Mark Clayton is a step in the right direction. Of course no discussion of the Rams’ offense would be complete without mentioning the workhorse – Steven Jackson. Clearly the best player on the team, Jackson has come to camp in great shape and he should be ready to go after having minor off-season back surgery. The Rams defense was not good last season, and I don’t expect it to be good this season. They don’t have any player that truly stands out to me, and I expect them to be towards the bottom of the NFL in yards allowed per game and points, just like last season.
The Seahawks made some splashes this off-season. They signed Pete Carroll as the head coach, they traded to get LenDale White and then cut him, they traded for Leon Washington and they cut T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Although, I think the Seahawks are making progress, I think they will need at least one more season before they contend for the division again. The offense is not the greatest with QB Matt Hasselbeck being past his prime. The wide receivers are an interesting situation. After cutting Houshmandzadeh, the Seahawks elected to name former USC stand-out Mike Williams as their #1 WR, with Deion Branch (former Super Bowl MVP) as the #2 wide-out. Will this be the year Williams finally lives up to draft day expectations? The Seahawks hope so or it could be a long season. The running-back trio of Justin Forsett, Julius Jones and Leon Washington will be fast, but they lack the bruiser change of pace option (a White-type back). The offensive line will also be weak. They drafted Russell Okung in the first round to replace the void left by Walter Jones, but Okung has an ankle injury that will force him to miss at least Week 1. On defense, the Seahawks should be slightly improved from last season, but still not great. They will have Lofa Tatupu (LB) back after he missed 11 games last season and they get Marcus Trufant back after he missed 6 games last season. They also drafted a promising safety in Earl Thomas that will get the start from the beginning.
Photo Credit: SportsForGirlFriends.wordpress.com