It’s our last stop in the NFC. Let’s head West and break down the toughest division in pro football.
Seattle +110 – The defending Super Bowl Champions look as good as any defending champ in recent years when it comes to their chances of repeating. Both the offense and defense are largely intact and the business-like approach seems to be there are well. My only question is how much does Marshawn Lynch have left? He declined a bit last year compared to the year before so that’s something to keep an eye on.
The last six weeks of the schedule feature five divisional games including two each against San Francisco and Arizona and one against the Rams. Toss in a trip to Philadelphia and that could be a very tough hurdle.
Season Projection: 13-3
San Francisco +150 – A lot has been made through the first two preseason games about how poorly the 49ers have played as they are 0-2. In most cases I wouldn’t put much thought into it, but this team worries me and here’s why. They are aging rapidly on defense. They’ve lost defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey for the season and will be without Navarro Bowman to start the season. Do they have a viable replacement for Frank Gore should he go down and will guard Alex Boone ever sign?
The Niners’ schedule isn’t brutal but it has some potential road blocks right off the bat. They open at Dallas who will test their struggling secondary. They then have Chicago at home and also have trips to Arizona, St. Louis and Denver in the opening half of the season. Philly and Kansas City visit Levi’s Stadium in that stretch as well.
Season Projection: 10-6
Arizona +750 – The Cards were going to be my surprise pick in this division (and that wouldn’t have been much of a surprise based on their finish last year) but defensive tackle Darnell Dockett went down for the season this week and that’s a massive blow. He anchored the league’s number one defense against the run which is huge against division foes like the 49ers and Seahawks. Carson Palmer looks great so far this preseason and the running attack should be more balanced as well.
Despite going 10-6 in 2013, they get a third-place schedule which will help. The final seven games will decide their fate this season. They entertain Detroit, Kansas City and Seattle but must hit the road to Atlanta, Seattle, St. Louis and San Francisco. A good start to the season will benefit them in the long run.
Season Projection: 10-6
St. Louis +750 – Let’s get right to it; this team will ride or fall with quarterback Sam Bradford. The Rams flirted with taking a quarterback in the May draft but stuck by Bradford who has been hit with injuries and average play. The running of Zac Stacy and a defense that looks to be really good and aggressive will help.
If this team played in any other division I’d probably have no issue putting them in the playoffs. The reality is that they play in the NFC West and it’s going to be extremely difficult to reach the postseason. The Rams’ season may be defined by a stretch of five games from late October through November. They’ll play at Kansas City, at San Francisco and at Arizona while they host Denver and Seattle on the ends of that three-game road trip.
Season Projection: 8-8
Overall: Seattle will be tested but they’ll win the division. My one big concern in the 49ers. I can actually see them sliding down to third in 2014.