August 29, 2006
NFL Preview: NFC West
Arizona: Many experts picked the Cardinals to take a step up last year and make the playoffs. Well, the Cards were the only team to finish in the top 10 in the NFL in both offense and defense YPG. But their winning percentage didn't reflect that, as they finished just 5-11. Both Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald had breakout years, with each gaining over 1,400 recieving yards. Kurt Warner isn't exactly what he was on the '99 Rams, but he should still be good enough to get these guys the ball. And Edgerinn James will be a major help to last year's worst running attack. The offensive line isn't great, but it's not terrible either. The defense is good enough as well. I think this team was unlucky last year, and this year I think things will turn their way. The Cards will get 10 wins and win the division. Yes, you read that last part right. The Arizona Cardinals will make the playoffs. Just remember me when it happens.
St. Louis: The Rams weren't much better last year, with a 6-10 record. Their defense (especially the run defense) was atrocious last year, and they fixed that in the offseason. They won't have a great defense this year, but it's better than last year's version. Steven Jackson should break out and be a great running back this year also, with pass-happy Mike Martz out of the picture, and Torry Holt is a top-five WR in the league. But Marc Bulger is an average quarterback, and if he gets hurt Gus Ferrotte is the backup. This team just seems to me like one that could suffer a couple injuries and not be able to recover, and it doesn't help that my least-favorite coach Jim Haslett is the defensive coordinator now. This team has talent, but not enough. I forsee a 7-9 record.
San Francisco: The 49ers were 4-12 last year, and things don't look much better for this year. QB Alex Smith was the #1 overall draft pick in 2005, and so far he has accomplished next to nothing. To be fair, he doesn't really have any talent around him, but he will still need to improve if he wants to avoid the dreaded "bust" label. Frank Gore will likely be the starting RB, which tells you all you need to know about the position. I can't name a single one of the SF wide recievers, and rookie TE Vernon Davis will likely be a Pro Bowl-caliber player but not this year. And it's not like the defense is any good either. This team won't win more than three games this year.
Seattle: The Seahawks last year were the best team in the NFC, with a 13-3 record and winning the NFC title game. And they return pretty much the same team. The only major loss was that of guard Steve Hutchinson, who would open up holes for Shaun Alexander. But, going all the way back to '01, the Super Bowl loser has missed the playoffs the next year. Will this team break that streak? Well, ordinarily I might say yes. But this team actually has two curses on them - the Super Bowl loser curse, plus the Madden jinx (unfortunate things always happen to the player on the cover of Madden), applicable to Alexander this year. Maybe none of these curses are real, and the Seahawks will roll to their second straight SB appearance. But do you want to be the guy who drafts Alexander in your fantasy league or bets on the Seahawks to win the NFC again this year, only to see Alexander spontaniously combust sometime during Week 2? Me neither. So, against all logic, I'll predict a 9-7 record for the Hawks, and some free time in January to watch the playoffs on TV.