Tag Archive | "NFC West predictions"

2014-15 NFL Breakdown: NFC West

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Even with some degree of letdown, the Seattle Seahawks should repeat as NFC West Champs.  Returning to and winning the Super Bowl, however, is another matter.

 

Seattle Seahawks (10-6)

 

The Seahawks embark on a title defense for the first time in franchise history.  Though already a Super Bowl Champion, Russell Wilson only enters his third season which means he still hasn’t reached his full potential.  Regardless of Wilson’s size (5’11”), he is able to make all the throws and works well outside the pocket where he has clear lines of vision.  Wilson is also confident and commands respect in the huddle which any leader needs to do.  Marshawn Lynch is only 28 and is still a workhorse back, and there is no reason to expect that Lynch will not have a big year (that is, of course, if he doesn’t get hurt – always a possibility with his bruising style).  The loss of Golden Tate will hurt their receiving core, and there is no reason to believe Percy Harvin will stay healthy because he always has injury issues.  Doug Baldwin will have to play well.  Even with the questions at receiver, the offense should figure it out.  Defensively, this team is solid.  All the hype goes to Richard Sherman (and rightfully so), and he is the frontrunner to be Defensive Player of the Year, but they have playmakers all over.  Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor patrol the middle of the field at safety.  Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and Bruce Irwin are ferocious pass rushers.  Seattle plays in what is likely the best division in football and regardless of what they say, complacency will set in on some level.  These factors will make it hard for them to get home field advantage in the playoffs which will make it difficult for them to repeat.

 

San Francisco 49ers (9-7)*

 

San Francisco is a good team, and I anticipate them getting a Wild Card berth.  However, because of off- field issues and the fact that San Francisco has been at the top of the league for the past three seasons, I wouldn’t be surprised if San Francisco has a year that gets away from them (like last season’s Atlanta Falcons).  Colin Kaepernick is a playmaker with his legs and feet.  And with Michael Crabtree back for the full season, that is an effective pass tandem (and that doesn’t even mention Vernon Davis).  Frank Gore has been a good pro his entire career, but at 31 with the workload he has had in his career, the potential for breakdown is there.  It’s hard to think of a better offensive line in football, but with guard Mike Iupati coming back from an injury in last year’s NFC Championship game, there are questions there.  Defensively, this team will lean heavily on Patrick Willis with his counterpart Navarro Bowman missing the first six games of the season following his horrific injury (also in last year’s title game).  Aldon Smith has his personal issues and will miss nine games this season, and Ray McDonald has recently been arrested for domestic violence and now the penalty for that transgression is six games.  Eric Reid will need to step his game up with Donte Whittner gone, and the cornerbacks are nothing impressive.  San Francisco has done everything but win a championship since Jim Harbaugh took over.  This season may be now or never for this group.

 

Arizona Cardinals (9-7)

 

Arizona comes into this season after a quiet 10-6 record last season.  That season went under the radar because they missed the playoffs despite their impressive record.  Bruce Arians has always been a quality coach from his days as Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator to filling in as an interim head coach during Chuck Pagano’s battle withcancer to his current head coaching responsibilities with Arizona.  Carson Palmer has always had the physical abilities and, regardless of what happened in Cincinnati and then his brief tenure with the dysfunction in Oakland, he seems to have found his home.  Larry Fitzgerald didn’t put up his normal numbers last season but the fact that Michael Floyd had better numbers at receiver shows it was because defenses were locked on Fitzgerald.  Andre Ellington averaged five and a half yards per carry last year, and he should get the nod over Rashard Mendenhall.  Tommy Kelly is 33 and only played five games last year, but if healthy, he will go along nicely with Darnell Docket at defensive tackle.  In the secondary, Patrick Peterson is right there with Richard Sherman as the best corner in the league.  Peterson has the size (6’1”) and the speed of a return man (which he also does) to close down on receivers.  With the underrated, speedy Antonio Cromartie, who at 6’2” is the ideal size, and Tyron Mathieu at nickel their secondary is very solid.  Arizona will be in contention for a playoff spot and, if San Francisco slips, they will make it.

 

St. Louis Rams (7-9)

 

St. Louis is better than a last place team, but the division they play in makes it difficult for them to get out of the basement.  Jeff Fisher is a very good coach and maximizes the talent on his team.  Sam Bradford is hurt and out for the season with a torn ACL, and career backup Shaun Hill gets the nod.  Jake Long is a good left tackle and Rodger Saffold at guard will keep Hill reasonably well protected this season.  Tavon Austin is an elusive playmaker at receiver and with Chris Givens and Kenny Britt on the receiving core as well, they have places for Hill to go with the ball.  The running game is suspect with a lot of average guys but no stars.  Defensively their line is very good with Chris Long and Alex Carrington.  In the secondary, Janoris Jenkins is a quality cornerback and Trumaine Johnson has good size (6’2”, 208 lbs.) to cover bigger receivers in the league.  And, Jeff Fisher is very good at coaching defensive backs.  St. Louis could surprise people and make a run at the division title.  Playing in this tough division along with a quality AFC West on their schedule, it is tough to see this team being north of the .500 mark this year.

 

* Denotes Playoff Team

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