Friday, September 10, 2010

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers
For the first time in years the 'Niners return the same trio at Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, and Defensive Coordinator...that sort of consistency is coming at a perfect time as the recent kings of this Division, Arizona, have numerous changes and have lost several key players meaning the NFC West is wiiiide open...

The O struggled again in 2009, but there is room for optimism...QB Alex Smith is in a contract year and he needs a breakout season badly...in an attempt to help kick-start his season the 49ers have Smith as one of their Captains...fellow Captain TE Vernon Davis called out WR Michael Crabtree a few days ago and these Captains are trying to help Head Coach Mike Singletary establish a particular culture of hard hard hard work in the belief that is the way to improve and get results...the team insists that the spat between Davis and Crabtree is in the past, and if it is then it looks like message delivered and received...one surprise in Training Camp was the abrupt retirement of 2nd year RB Glen Coffee...that became a positive though as he was replaced by veteran RB Brian Westbrook...the 'Niners have talented RB Frank Gore, but Gore has missed multiple games for years in a row due to a wonky ankle so to have a veteran like Westbrook to pick up that slack is huge
A BEAST coaching a BEAST

The D is already a great unit...Top 5 as far as fewest points allowed...LB Patrick Willis is a-m-a-z-i-n-g and it likely helps that his Head Coach (Mike Singletary) is one of the greatest to ever play the position...there is a lot of talent on D but Willis is really on a different level

PREDICTION...this team gets to 9 wins in 2010 and that will be enough to win the NFC West Division

Arizona Cardinals
Plain and simple - if Derek Anderson is your starting QB (hey good luck with that) then the terrible running game from 2009 has to improve in leaps and bounds...Beanie Wells would likely be the starter, but he is banged up so the carries early on will go to Tim Hightower...the O-Line is decent

Larry does not have much help anymore
WR Larry Fitzgerald says he is rested and ready to go, although he too is banged up...that leaves Steve Breaston and Early Doucet to pick up the slack left by Fitzgerald not being 100%, plus of course the massive hole left by Anquan Boldin being traded to Baltimore

On D the '09 Cards sacked a lot of QB's, and it was really spread out with many players getting in on the fun...the 2010 draft was D heavy for 'Zona...Camp did not show that it was a particularly good draft...DT Dan Williams will play some, but none of the rookies have earned starting roles...there are 5 new starters including LB Joey Porter who is currently banged up

PREDICTION...8-8...the 2010 Arizona Cardinals will take the biggest step back in the NFL this year...from 2-time defending AFC West Champs to no play-off birth in 2010

St Louis Rams
#1 overall pick in 2010 QB Sam Bradford
#1 overall 2010 draft pick QB Sam Bradford earned the starting job in Camp...he has a tough job ahead of him...an O-Line that is bad...his best WR Donnie Avery is out with injury...his WR's are guys like Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson , Laurent Robinson, and rookie Mardy Gilyard... a whole lot of yikes there...a few days ago they did trade for WR Mark Clayton who became expendable in Baltimore when the Ravens inked T.J. Houshmandzadeh...the running game does have the consistently good Stephen Jackson, but even Jackson only had 4 TD's last season - a # that has to triple in 2010...rookie O-Lineman Roger Saffold joins Bradford as rookies who will start in the Gateway to the West this season...

For you to only win 1 game in a season A LOT has to be bad...the O was bad, the D was pretty much as bad...too many area of improvement to mention...if you can think of it - the Rams need to improve it...the good news is 2nd year Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo learned from the great Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson (R.I.P) for years before being the D-Coordinator for the NY Giants during their 2008 Super Bowl season so if there is a man for the job of rebuilding this D to respectability it is Spagnuolo

PREDICTION...a rise from 1 win in 2009 to 4 in 2010

Seattle Seahawks
Qwest Field is one of the great facilities that offers amazing Home Crowd atmosphere in the League...they dub the stadium/fans the 12th man as they are so loud and into the game...opposing teams get flagged for False Starts at Qwest Field more than anywhere else...the fans had a 5-11 team to cheer for in 2009...enter new Head Coach Pete Carroll...I am a believer that this guy is an absolute joke as an NFL Head Coach...he did show that he could run a College program though as his days at USC were good...of course now some of that is certainly tarnished by his, and others, violations that have led the USC Football program (amongst several USC sports programs that got hit with penalties due to NCAA violations) to be banned from post-season play for 2 years - lose 30 scholarships over the next few years - be on probation for 4 years...all that had Carroll running away from that situation as fast as possible...

The Carroll era did get off to a great start as the team had 2 draft picks in the first 14 picks of the 2010 draft...#6 overall pick OT Russell Okung is currently hurt and his return date is unknown...#14 FS Earl Thomas will start alongside veteran Lawyer Milloy in the Secondary...rookies Walter Thurmond (CB) Kam Chancellor (S) and E.J. Wilson (DE) also made the team and will get playing time on D too...the D was one of the worst in the NFL in 2009 so plenty of room for improvement

QB of the future Charlie Whitehurst
On O QB Matt Hasselbeck is the starter, but QB Charlie Whitehurst was acquired from San Diego in the off-season and will likely get a shot to be the guy going forward at some point...Matt had just 17 TD's to go with 17 INT's last season...very underwelming #'s...the O should get a boost though as the running game is good with young Justin Forsett to pair with veteran Julius Jones...rookie WR Golden Tate will start for the 'Hawks...the other starter will be Deion Branch, but it is WR Mike Williams (formerly with Carroll at USC) who is the wild card here...Williams was one of the zillions of WR's that then Detroit GM Matt Millen used high draft picks to take during his horrible stint as Lions GM...Williams was out of the League in 2008 and 2009, but word is that he looks great and ready to show that he can play at this level...all of these guys will benefit from the play of Russell Okung when he is able to return from injury...

PREDICTION...when you look on their schedule who can they beat?!?!  I think a 4 win season is the upside in Seattle

check out the other Division previews too... craig.ballard@hotmail.com