Tuesday, May 11, 2010

NFC West

Today we tackle the NFC West in order to wrap up the NFC side of these early predictions. It starts easy enough. The Rams. Yes they got a new QB. Yes, they got a new LT. But that is just the start for the Rams. There is so much work to be done, so the Rams will probably settle for just a few wins this year. For them it's all about keeping their new investment healthy and finding out what he can and cant do. It's that age old phrase "a rebuilding process". Not sure Rams fans will be too excited by that, but that's football, and more importantly, that's reality. Next then, the Seattle Seahawks. I know, I know, they did have a great draft. But again, they're in transition. New Head Coach, new players. In LenDale White and Leon Washington they've found a massive upgrade at the RB position. They traded to get Whitehurst who they think will be the QB of the future. They got a LT in Russell Okung and a safety in Earl Thomas. The pieces are coming together for the Seahawks. But I emphasise, pieces of a puzzle that has not yet been solved. That's what this year is all about, putting those pieces together, seeing how everything fits, then capitalising on this strong off season with another one next year. Which brings us down to the Cardinals and the 49ers. Starting with the Cardinals. Jeez, I'm not sure about the Cardinals. For me, it's 50/50 whether they top the Seahawks. It's not that I don't trust Leinart but... Ok, I don't trust Leinart. By all accounts, Leinart suffers from the JaMarcus Russell syndrome, that being too much time spent enjoying the fruits of his labor as opposed to actually doing any labor. They still have weapons in Arizona, so the question becomes can Leinart get the ball to those weapons? Can he loft those nice touch passes on fade routes to Larry Fitzgerald? Can he read the coverage and understand when Fitzgerald has been taken away? Can he use all the tools at his disposal effectively? I get the feeling Chris 'Beanie' Wells and Tim Hightower are going to be working very hard this season. Meanwhile, Defense is a different matter all together. There are holes. They've let a lot of good players go and not a huge amount of talent has come back in the other direction. Dan Willams and Joey Porter are a start, but it remains to be see how well the Cardinals will hold up. They've been good against the pass in recent years, but I feel the Cardinals grip on the NFC West slipping this year. Which only leaves one team left to step into the breach. San Francisco. Oh yeah! My boys in Red and Gold are set to make a run on the division crown once more, with Alex Smith leading the way. Now, I know Smith is not Peyton Manning, but he doesn't have to be. The O-line got two big upgrades in the draft which has the double effect of making your run game and pass protection both improve. HC Mike Singeltary has been itching to see this team get into the true smash mouth mould (as have I) and now Christmas has arrived. Gore will be the number one, but the 49ers also picked up Anthony Dixon, who will compete with Glen Coffee for the number 2 spot. Vernon Davis and Alex Smith have an understanding going now and Michael Crabtree will be present for the entire season. Most importantly, the presence of Jimmy Raye means the 49ers will actually have an offensive coordinator serving back to back seasons for a change. The defense will continue to be the awesome unit that took to the field last year. In fact, I have an interesting fact for you about the 49ers defense. I'm sure you've heard over the course of this off season that the 49ers defense badly needed to upgrade it's pass rush etc. Well, just how many sacks do you think the 49ers racked up during the 2009 regular season? Have a guess, and while you're at it, guess where they came amongst all teams for sacks? Bear in mind that every time the 49ers were mentioned around draft time, it was always about pass rush. Got an answer? 44 sacks. Tied for third with the Eagles and Dolphins. This is what I don't get sometimes about TV analysts. "The 49ers need to find some pass rush..." really? Here's me thinking we were one of the top teams in the country when it comes to rushing the passer! Anyway, I could ramble on for hours about the 49ers (and I will, Rob), so lets look at how I think the division will finish. 1. 49ers (Winners) 2. Seahawks (just) 3. Cardinals 4. Rams ---- So, that concludes our whistle stop prediction tour around the NFC. Barring any sudden and very exciting news, it'll be time to check out the AFC next, again starting in the North. Until then, have a great day everyone.

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