Wednesday, August 19, 2009

2009 NFC West Preview

To win the NFC West in recent years, you had to get past the Seattle Seahawks because they had won four straight divisional titles. Now the detour goes through the desert, as the Arizona Cardinals are reigning champs. They played in one of the most thrilling games in Super Bowl history, but their term might be short-lived, as each team has their eyes set on winning the divisional crown this season.

In order of finish:

1. Arizona Cardinals
Coming off a surprising playoff run, the Cards feel they’re legitimate Super Bowl contenders for the upcoming season. QB Kurt Warner loves throwing the football in the open field to his talented duo Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, who are capable of making big plays. Last season, their passing game proved that they didn’t need an effective running game to be successful. Rookie RB Chris “Beanie” Wells could alleviate this problem and vault the Cardinals into a return appearance to Florida come January. Their defense isn’t much of a concern, as their young secondary gained valuable experience from last year’s post-season.

2. Seattle Seahawks
New head coach Jim Mora Jr. hopes to bring a defensive mindset to a team that relied heavily on outscoring their opponent under former coach Mike Holmgren. The lone bright spot on this years’ roster could be the linebacker position. You add first round pick Aaron Curry to a group led by perennial Pro Bowlers Lafa Tatupu and LeRoy Hill, and this trio could become the league’s best backers by season’s end. WR T.J. Houshanandzadeh, who was signed in the off-season, is an ideal route-runner but isn’t the dynamic playmaker that QB Matt Hasselbeck desperately needs to be successful this season.

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3. San Francisco 49ers
The Niners are everyone’s popular “sleeper” pick for the playoffs especially after finishing 5-2 under Mike Singletary, who replaced Mike Nolan as head coach. His biggest objective coming into 2009 is cutting down his team’s turnovers. The 49ers tied the Denver Broncos for the worst turnover ratio (-17) in the NFL, and it will be tough to be a contender if you cannot hold onto the ball. RB Frank Gore is an underrated back and his role in the offense could be significantly more for the coming season. Their defense is led by inside backer Patrick Willis, who is an extension of his coach (Singletary) on the field.

4. St. Louis Rams
The days of “Greatest Show on Turf” are gone and the defense will struggle as their rookies will have to adjust playing at the professional level. But, the Rams appear to be moving in the right direction. Rookie LB James Laurinaitis and former Giants S James Butler will have key roles in the blitz-happy defense implemented by new head coach Steve Spagnuolo. It will be tough for the offense to throw the ball, as second-year WR Donnie Avery appears to be the lone receiving option for QB Mark Bulger on the roster. The Rams may need a season or two before becoming a serious contender for the NFC West title.

Written By Thomas Conroy

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