NFC West Preview


Now to the only conference that really matters, the NFC.  We will start with the NFC West.  Luckily, all the teams in the NFC West play at least one team from the NFC East and we get Arizona, by far the weakest team in the division.  This is shaping up to be a three team race, and I’m pretty sure it will come down to the tiebreaker.  In fact, I’m predicting St. Louis, Seattle, and San Fran will all go 10-6.  I’m breaking them down in the order my gut tells me to.  How’s that for analysis?

San Francisco- Frankly, I’d be surprised if they really do win the division, but I’m quite sure they will make the playoffs.  I think Alex Smith is ready to make the leap.  A lot of people tout the McNabb and Vick style athletic QB’s, but give me Alex Smith’s kind of athleticism every time.  I like the QBs who are mobile enough to elude the rush, but not so mobile they lose their focus down the field.  Obviously, if Vick ever threw as accurately as the Steve Youngs and John Elways of the world, then he’s the perfect QB.  But he’s not.  If Smith can raise his completion rate another 5 percentage points, and lower his INTs (both very possible) he will join the upper echelon of NFC QBs.  The defense added some nice talent in the secondary, and Mike Nolan had that D overperforming last year.  The only worry is the loss of Norv Turner.  While he is a woeful head coach, he made an excellent complement to the defensively minded Nolan.  By the way Skins fans, I’d like to point out that Mike Nolan and Marvin Lewis are two of the best young head coaches in football right now and both were Skins defensive coordinators in the early Snyder years.  Maybe if Snyder paid a little more attention to the people working right underneath him he wouldn’t have to keep trying to grab “brand name” coaches like Spurrier and Gibbs.  Not that I’m not happy with Gibbs coming back.  But still, had he hired Lewis to begin with, we’d have probably had a stable, talented team 3-5 years earlier and Gibbs could still be happily running his NASCAR team.  Anyway, look for this team to go 10-6 with a real chance at the division.

St. Louis- I think it is the fantasy player in me that makes me think the Rams will be better than the Seahawks.  I just see Steven Jackson, Torry Holt, and Marc Bulger and I forget the average line and the anonymous defense.  The thing is this is a team that went 8-8 last year with a new coach and a new system.  With a year under their belts, I just think this team has to be good for 10-6. It isn’t the Greatest Show on Turf anymore, but this team might be better built for the playoffs now because of it.

Seattle- I can’t explain it, but I just don’t trust Mike Holmgren.  You’d think the Super Bowl ring and the multiple playoff appearances with two different teams, not to mention his record as an assistant would be enough.  But I just don’t like him.  Maybe its the mustache.  Whatever it is, I don’t think he has an answer for the fact that Shaun Alexander is on the wrong side of 30 and that Maurice Morris has shown he can’t shoulder a full-time load.  The defensive secondary is prone to giving up big plays, and the wide receiver corps is now a pretty punchless Deion Branch and the untested DJ Hackett.  There’s still enough here to probably go 10-6, but this is a team that could easily fall to 6-10 and miss the playoffs.  That’s why they’re third on this list. 

Arizona- How many years are you going to fall for it people?  Every year the press jumps on Arizona as one of the teams that missed the playoffs the previous season who will make them in the upcoming season.  And every year they struggle.  Yes, Matt Leinart is good and has some experience under his belt.  Yes, those receivers are great.  But the lack of o-line and no defense to speak of, not to mention a rookie head coach and a new system means this team is still lousy.  5-11 at best.  Now, next year, I’m willing to listen.  Besides, if the press keeps picking them every year, they’re bound to get it right one of these times.  I’ll tell you one thing, I’m looking forward to week 7 when we play these guys.  It is rare you look at the schedule and see a guaranteed win.  Thanks, Cards.

NFC South tomorrow.  Tune in then.