The past week to 10 days has been very up and down for the NFC West. The division had two playoff teams (one now eliminated), they lost a head coach, and they have a team that is currently the favorite to win it all. After wildcard weekend, it’s time to review the trials and tribulations of the division and review what has happened and what will happen in the future of the Rams, 49ers, Cardinals, and the defending Superbowl Champions, the Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle – The Seahawks are currently preparing to host the Carolina Panthers at Qwest Field in Seattle. The Panthers are coming off a win against the fellow division mate, Arizona Cardinals, but we’ll get to that in a second. The Seahawks are a big 11 point favorite, but I don’t think it will be as easy as 90% of the country thinks. The Panthers actually matchup pretty well with the Seahawks. If you look at the four teams that beat Seattle this year, all of them ran for over 100 yards and held them to 26 or fewer points. The Panthers have won five in a row and their entire offense is predicated around the run game. If Luke Kuechly and the Panthers defense can show some of their form from last year, this will be closer than people expect. Seattle will probably win, but I’m taking the 11 points in this one.
Arizona – The Cardinals finally couldn’t overcome the rash of injuries that overtook their team the 2nd half of the season. They lost in Carolina last week 27-16 in a game where they set a record for the lowest amount of yards gained on offense in a postseason game. Ryan Lindley may not have a job after how dreadful he was in last Saturday’s game. Despite the shock that Arizona actually LED at halftime 14-13, due to numerous Carolina mistakes, they couldn’t hold on as their 78 total yards, to go along with three turnovers, did them in. The Cardinals will now head into the offseason with the biggest question being if we will ever see Larry Fitzgerald in an Arizona uniform again.
San Francisco – Jim Harbaugh finally made it official last Tuesday and signed on to become the next head coach of the Michigan Wolverines for a reported 48 million for six years, which would make him the highest paid college football coach in the nation. The 49ers finished the year 8-8 and now not only do they have questions about who will be the next head coach, but fans also must wonder if Frank Gore will be back, if Colin Kaepernick is really “The Man”, and if an offseason of rest and recovery can help their main guys on defense get back to the level they were two years ago. It should be a long and interesting offseason for the Niners faithful.
St Louis – The Rams will probably be talked about the least of the four teams in the division, but I think they have the potential to be a playoff team as soon as next year. They have almost all the pieces in place and Sam Bradford will once again try to return from ACL surgery. Their defense was very good, one of the best in the league during the 2nd half of the season and they have good returning parts on offense in Brian Quick and Tre Mason. If I was them, my 1st three draft picks would involve another WR, an OL, and another QB because they cannot depend on the health of Sam Bradford again. Jeff Fisher gets the most out of his team. They just need a couple more weapons.
While three teams in the division are now looking towards the offseason and improvements they can make, there stands only one, the same last one that was standing last year, the Seattle Seahawks. For the NFC West, the Seahawks will once against carry the torch on the anchor leg for the division, and of course it will not be easy, but if you listen to most experts, they may end up being the last ones standing once again, this time in Glendale, Arizona, home of the fellow division partner Arizona Cardinals.
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