NFL Previews That Don’t Suck: NFC West
This is unquestionably the best division in football. Residing here is are the Super Bowl champs, the team the Super Bowl Champs beat to get to the Super Bowl, a ten-win group that barely missed out not he playoffs, and a team with one of the best young defenses in the NFL. Got it? Good.
2013 Record – 13-3, 1st Place in NFC West, Super Bowl Champions
NFC West Record – 4-2
Notable Losses: Brandon Browner, Golden Tate, Clinton McDonald, Sidney Rice
Notable Additions: Kevin Williams, A full year of Percy Harvin (hopefully)
Notable Draft Picks: Paul Richardson, Justin Britt
How ’bout them Seattle Seahawks? They crushed the Broncos in the Super Bowl last year and guess what?!? THE GANG IS BACK FOR ANOTHER GO AROUND EVERYBODY!
To the rundown we go! Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Harvin, Bobby Wagner, Malcolm Smith, Michael Bennett, along with Richard Sherman and the rest of the Legion of Boom. Satisfied? Have fun beating that team everyone!
Most teams that win the Super Bowl get crushed in the following offseason by free agency. For example, the Ravens got savaged by free agency losses two years ago. They had to sign Joe Flacco to a massive deal and let just about everyone go.
This is not the Ravens by any stretch of the imagination. The Seahawks, led by their Madden cover boy and resident Twitter HOFer Sherman, should kick ass this year.
Best Case Scenario: 2013 repeat
Um, last year? The exact same year is their best case scenario. 13-3 season, No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, topped off with a Super Bowl blowout. Pretty sure it doesn’t get much better than that.
Worst Case Scenario: 11-5, 5 seed in playoffs
Not-So-Bold Prediction: Seattle will make the playoffs. Whether that’s as NFC West Champs or as a wild card team, they’ll be there. The 49ers were just a game behind them in the division and a few inches away from a Michael Crabtree touchdown pass that sends them to the Super Bowl instead of the 12th man (speaking of which, who retires a No. 12 for the fans? Anyone who wears that No. 12 jersey is an idiot).
San Francisco 49ers
2013 Record – 12-4, 2nd Place in NFC West, NFC Conference Championship
NFC West Record – 2-4
Notable Losses: Donte Whitner, Mario Manningham, Carlos Rogers
Notable Additions: Antoine Bethea, Jonathan Martin (yes, that Jonathan Martin), Steve Johnson
Notable Draft Picks: Jimmie Ward, Carlos Hyde
“It’s a game of inches” is one of the worst cliches in all of sports. But it’s hard to say the 49ers weren’t jusssssst a few away from a date vs. Peyton Manning in the Meadowlands last February.
However, Richard Sherman tipped the pass that landed in Malcolm Smith’s arms and yada, yada, yada the Seahawks won the Super Bowl and the 49ers, um, didn’t.
This year, the Niners are still outstandingly great. Unfortunately, the best defense has taken a hit to start the year. Aldon Smith recently got suspended for nine games and All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman (#State) won’t be back until midseason after ripping up his knee.
However, they have more than enough to tide them over until both of them return for the 2nd half of the season. At last check, they still have Colin Kaepernick, Vernon Davis, a top-5 NFL offensive line, and a nightmarish defense that no one wants to face.
Best Case Scenario: 12-4, NFC West Champs, first round bye
Who’s the best team in the NFL that isn’t the Seahawks. Yepp, you’re looking at them. Honestly, it’s almost a coin flip between the Hawks and Niners as to who’s going to get a first round bye, and who’s getting a wild card spot.
Worst Case Scenario: 10-6, wild card
The Niners take a step back, but still have a season many teams would envy. The absences of Smith and Bowman hurt them more than expected and Kaepernick remains the same inconsistent yet sometimes spectacular player he was last year. They will make the playoffs, that much is certain.
2013 Record – 10-6, 3rd Place in NFC West,
NFC West Record – 4-2
Notable Losses: Rashard Mendenhall, Andre Roberts, Darnell Dockett (injury)
Notable Additions: Antonio Cromartie, Tommy Kelly, Ted Ginn Jr.
Notable Draft Picks: Deone Bucannon
Say hello to the most underrated team in the NFL, everyone. 10-6 usually means you have a pretty damn good chance at making the playoffs.
Usually. Unless you’re the 2013 Arizona Cardinals. And, unfortunately for the Cardinals, once again, they have two of the best three teams in the NFC in their division (as listed previously).
The Cardinals have quietly put together a solid team. Carson Palmer is an, uh, serviceable quarterback (is that the right term?) who has a pass-catching duo many teams would envy: Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Fitz is the present and soon-to-be the past; Floyd the future and soon-to-be the present. Also, Andre Ellington had a very nice rookie year and seems poised to take the next step as the featured back in the Cards’ scheme.
Best Case Scenario: 10-6, possible wild card spot
The Cardinals will be one of two or three teams vying for the final playoff spot in the NFC, and could end up in the same exact spot as they did last year.
Worst Case Scenario: 8-8
Carson Palmer plays like he did during his Oakland days, Larry Fitzgerald hits the 30-year-old wall, and their stellar defense doesn’t play terribly, um, stellar. It’s going to be a weird year in the desert one way or another under second year head coach Bruce Arians.
St. Louis Rams
2013 Record – 7-9, 4th Place in NFC West,
NFC West Record – 1-5
Notable Losses: Sam Bradford (again),
Notable Additions: Kenny Britt, Davin Joseph,
Notable Draft Picks: Greg Robinson, Aaron Donald, Tre Mason
7-9 a year ago, the Rams were all set to take a step up and challenge the likes of the Cardinals and the Bears for one of those final two playoff spots this season.
Then Sam Bradford got injured, and almost all hope for a good season were dashed instantly. Congratulations St. Louis fans! Shaun Hill’s your new quarterback and you know what?!?! HE SUCKS! LOL Enjoy.
If the Rams are going to improve on last season, they have the defense that could make that possible. They have one of the five best defensive players in the game in Robert Quinn. Other than J.J. Watt, no one is a more disruptive force in the NFL than the Rams defensive end, and that’s really saying something.
If this team was in any other division, TheDC would give them a much better chance to make the playoffs. But playing the Super Bowl Champs, one of the conference’s top three teams and an underrated Arizona outfit does this young Rams team absolutely no favors whatsoever.
Best Case Scenario: 8-8
This team was 7-9 without Sam Bradford last season, by some miracle. They’re a year wiser in 2014 and with that could come a one-game improvement…as long as Shaun Hill doesn’t COMPLETELY suck.
Worst Case Scenario: 5-11
The Rams defense plays alright but ultimately, the offense screws the pooch and lays a 16-game long egg. It’s a pretty bad situation considering there was banter about the Rams dealing for a seemingly-improved Mark Sanchez, who immediately came out and said he’d rather be Nick Foles’ backup in Philly than the starter in St. Louis. Being rebuffed by Sanchez? Yea, that’s insulting. Keep praying the Cards make a run in October, St. Louis fans. They’ll be more exciting in the fall than the Rams, in all likelihood.