Once the laughing stock of the NFL, the NFC West is now full of young, up-and-coming franchises looking for Super Bowl appearances and nothing less.
Three of the four franchises have potential “elite” quarterbacks in the league. Colin Kaepernick proved his worth this past season leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl, Russell Wilson came two games short of the Super Bowl while playing unbelievable football and Sam Bradford is a former No. 1 overall pick for the St. Louis Rams.
Throw former Pro Bowler Carson Palmer in the mix and this division is loaded with above average to great quarterbacks. But how will the season play out in such a competitive division? Let’s take a deeper look into each team.
2012 NFC West Standings
- San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)
- Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
- St. Louis Rams (7-8-1)
- Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
For the love of wide receivers, the Arizona Cardinals finally went out and added a still decent quarterback to their roster.
Carson Palmer goes to a team that is coming off one of the worst statistical offensive performance in the modern era. Last season, the Cardinals ranked 28th in passing yards with 187.8 yards per game and dead last in rushing yards at 75.3.
This team needed a lot of work, but a nice passing game can change things offensively. Finally, Larry Fitzgerald can be used to his abilities. The offensive line added some youth, drafting two offensive guards, but Palmer’s experience will help in that area, too.
Also, Bruce Arians is coming off one of the best coaching performances you will ever see last year in Indianapolis. The Cardinals new head coach has been a hot commodity since his Pittsburgh days.
Ben Roethlisberger had his best years under Arians because he allowed him to throw the football at will. We saw it last season with rookie Andrew Luck, as well. He passed the ball 627 times which is absurd for a rookie quarterback.
Palmer will love Arians’ system and the Cardinals will benefit offensively. If they can get enough from the defense, especially their pitiful rush defense, Arizona might make some noise in the division.
St. Louis Rams
Year No. 2 under Jeff Fisher will determine a number of things for the Rams. Is Sam Bradford the future franchise quarterback? Will he succeed under Fisher? Will the team continue its improvement?
If last season was any indication, I think the Rams are heading in the right direction.
Bradford can be a steady quarterback in the league if he can refrain from turning the ball over. We’ll see what the loss of wide receiver Danny Amendola means, but he wasn’t too healthy in his tenure with the Rams so Bradford does have that experience under his belt.
He also has first round draft pick Tavon Austin to throw to. Not a bad trade off.
But to seriously compete in the NFC West, your defense has to match the Seahawks and 49ers defense. If you can’t, you won’t compete for the division. It’s that simple.
Last season, St. Louis finished 15th in passing yards allowed per game and rushing yards allowed per game. The defense was very average.
If they can inside the top 10 in the league, I think this could be a playoff team. Only time will tell.
I don’t see Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks struggling this season. They are young, hungry and looking for more than a Divisional Playoff appearance. I think this team has what it takes to take that next step.
The defense is fierce – top 10 in the league in both passing and rushing yards allowed last season.
Seattle has Marshawn Lynch and a rushing attack who averaged 161.2 yards per game which was good enough for 3rd in the NFL last season.
This campaign is going to come down to coaching and injuries. Pete Carroll has the coaching mind, he has the coaches, he has the fan base, he has the players – we’ll see what he does when Super Bowl expectations are set.
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco is the Super Bowl favorite. It’s set in stone. A lot of things can happen throughout the duration of a season, but the 49ers have all the pieces to a championship puzzle.
Defense – the 49ers have one of the best defenses in the league and they even added Nnamdi Asomugha who was considered one of the top two cornerbacks in the league two years ago.
Running attack – Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick can dominated the rushing attack in their own ways.
Quarterback – Colin Kaepernick proved he can pass the ball effectively in his first real test in the NFL. Can he do it for a whole season? We’ll see.