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Old 08-28-2008, 06:15 AM   #9
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Cool A Closer Look: NFC West

Seattle Seahawks: 13-3
Have had this division pretty much to themselves for quite some time now (even shook off SB Runner-Up Jinx to win it in '06); HC Mike Holmgren has already announced he will retire after this season, with ex-Atl HC Jim Mora Jr. waiting in the wings. QB Matt Hasselbeck has quietly built impressive resume and RB Julius Jones was brought over from Dal to replace Shaun Alexander, whose fall from glory was something to behold; WR Deion Branch's unavailability for possibly entire season due to devastating '07 knee injury compounded by loss of D.J. Hackett in FA but OL adds G Mike Wahle to proven mainstays Walter Jones and Sean Locklear outside. Defense is strongest at LB but talent both in front and behind them no slouches in their own right. When looking at this division, one must wonder, Casey Stengel-like, can anyone here play this game? Anyone, that is, besides these guys, for whom another division title is only the beginning of what could very well turn out to be a journey whose final destination is Raymond James Stadium on the first of February.

Arizona Cardinals: 7-9
It took them more than long enough, but they finally made it to .500 last season, for the first time since 1998; Matt Leinart is ready to take over at QB should he find the exit to HC Whisenhunt's doghouse, otherwise it will be Kurt Warner again; RB Edgerrin James just turned 30 after amassing 1,222 yards in 2007, and WRs are highly productive but lack breakaway speed - and one of them, Anquan Boldin, is dissatisfied with his contract. Defense has had to deal with plethora of injuries along line of late, but boasts keeper in LB Karlos Dansby and comer in rookie CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. On paper, this would appear to be a team on the rise - but can you trust them after they have teased so many times in the past?

St. Louis Rams: 7-9
Everything that could have gone wrong for them did in 2007 as tsunami of early-season injuries catalyzed an 0-8 start and HC Scott Linehan looked at times like he lost the locker room. QB Marc Bulger remains human yardage machine, RB Steven Jackson is big and fast, and apparently their obsession with speed receivers did not leave with Mike Martz as they made Donnie Avery the first wideout selected in '08 draft. Pair of 34-yos (DE Leonard Little and DT LaRoi Glover) anchor defensive line, with #2 overall pick Chris Long joining the party; LB Will Witherspoon probably would have made Pro Bowl had team not gone 3-13 and secondary was among units hardest hit by '07 injuries. The key here could be psychological: Can they come back from the kind of season they had last year, as if it simply didn't happen? Linehan's continued employment likely depends on the answer - and while they're fully capable of rounding out NFC West exacta if Ari does flop again, they are not a plausible threat to Sea, or even to the likes of Dal and NO in the playoff chase.

San Francisco 49ers: 3-13
That Alex Smith is being exposed as a colossal bust may not be overly surprising - but if J.T. O'Sullivan is the answer, what's the question? RB Frank Gore can certainly chew up the real estate, but he's also injury-prone, fumbles too often and is essentially useless between the tackles; and at WR it will be either has-been Isaac Bruce or never-was Bryant Johnson lining up on other side of the unobtrusive (to be nice about it) Arnaz Battle. Even incoming OC Mike Martz can't make this offense work; and defense really isn't any better, except maybe in the secondary. Martz might end up inheriting HC slot from Mike Nolan, a virtually guaranteed pink-slip victim, quite possibly even during the season; will give AFC's Chiefs all they can handle in the race for the #1 draft pick in 2009.

Last edited by Anthony; 08-28-2008 at 07:27 AM.
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