NFC West

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Could this be the year the Cardinals do some damage in the NFC West? If ever there was an example of a team that was on the verge of success, this would be it. The Cards were an 8-8 team a year ago, that could have easily been 10-6 or better. Their losses, with the exception of a 42-21 loss to the Seahawks, were all close. Six of their losses were by a touchdown or less. Classic characteristics of a team ready to make a move. Let’s take a closer look at the NFC West iNCluding a look at the odds for each team to win the division.

Arizona Cardinals: Odds 11/5

Head Coach: Ken Whisenhunt (2nd year)

Off. Coord: Todd Haley; Def. Coord: ClaNCy PenderGAst

2007 Record: SUR 8-8, PSR 8-7-1, O-U 11-5

The Cardinals were a Game away from making the playoffs last season. Their defense is coming into this season healthy, which it had not been last season.

Warner had his best season since 2001, throwing for 3,417 yards and 27 TDs in about 12 full Games’ worth of action. That projects to about 4,500 yards and 36 TDs. But the 37-year old QB just can’t get a fair shake in Arizona. Not only did HC Ken Whisenhunt install that stupid rotation with Matt Leinart – when it was obvious Warner was the man – but Cardinals management refused to pay Warner a $500,000 bonus for a 90.0 QB rating when he finished at 89.8. C’mon, Mr. Bidwill. Warner has been a great player and teammate, and without him the Cardinals are 4-12 last year instead of 8-8. In three years he’s averaged 1.69 TD passes per start with a 63.5% completion rate. By comparison, Peyton Manning is just above Warner at 1.88 and 65.8% – with tons more reps and way better personnel.

WRs LArry Fitzgerald (100 recs., 10 TDs) & Anquan Boldin (71 recs., 9 TDs). Fitzgerald signed a lucrative new contract in the offseason, but now Boldin wants one like it and might hold out.

Up the middle, Arizona’s defense is in pretty good shape. But a lack of talent and depth at cornerback and outside linebacker will cause some headaches in 2008. The Cardinals tried to address that problem by using their first two draft picks on defensive players in DB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and DL Calais Campbell. Last year, Arizona totaled 36 sacks, 25 fumble recoveries, 18 interceptions (six for touchdowns) and one punt return for a touchdown. With the mentality of two ex-Steelers coaches (Ken Whisenhunt, Russ Grimm) leading the way, expect Arizona to focus on becoming an even stronger defensive unit in 2008. It will help that they’re playing in the weakish NFC West.

San Francisco Forty-Niners: Odds 9/2

Head Coach: Mike Nolan (4th year)

Off. Coord: Mike Martz; Def. Coord: Greg Manusky

2007 Record: SUR 5-11, PSR 5-10-1, O-U 6-10

The talent is there to make a playoff run, but their offense must be more consistent to do so.

The 2007’s Niners were last in points, yards, passing, first downs, and touchdowns. Also, worst in sacks allowed and worst in third down conversions. Former Panther starter DeShaun Foster has been added to relieve some of the pounding on Gore. Often-underused WR Bryant Johnson from Arizona and ageless Issac Bruce from St. Louis have been signed to torment their former NFC West teams.

The 49ers defense added DE Justin Smith as a free agent and drafted rookie DT Kentwan Balmer in the first round of the draft this offseason, giving the unit help on the line to go with budding star LB Patrick Willis and standout CB Nate Clements. Along with safety Michael Lewis, the 49ers have some solid, young defensive players, which could translate into an improved unit. The 49ers also brought in return man Allen Rossum, which should help the special teams.


Seattle Seahawks: Odds 5/6

Head Coach: Mike Holmgren (10th yr. in Sea.)

Off. Coord: Gil Haskell; Def. Coord: John Marshall

2007 Record: SUR 11-7, PSR 10-8, O-U 9-9

The Seahawks are heading towards a rebuilding era after this season.

The offense appears awkwardly set, with Walter Jones and Sean Locklear at the tackles, former LG Rob Sims moving to RG, Chris SpeNCer in the middle, and 16-year veteran RG Chris Gray becoming the top backup G & C. The biggest coNCern is at WR, where D.J. Hackett has departed for Carolina, Deion BraNCh might be out until October due to knee surgery, and Bobby Engram (94 recs. LY) is seeking an improved contract at age 35.

Jones finally escaped the time-share in Dallas and will be a full-time back in Seattle. Or will he?

This offseason, Seattle locked up CB Marcus Trufant and LB Lofa Tatupu to long-term deals. Last year, the Seahawks added DE Patrick Kerney, who was a sack MAChine. They also added DE LAwreNCe Jackson and DT Red Bryant in the draft. On special teams, Nate Burleson played well in 2007 on returns and will likely handle the role again.


St. Louis Rams: Odds 5/1

Head Coach: SCott Linehan (3rd year)

Off. Coord: Al Saunders; Def. Coord: Jim Haslett

2007 Record: SUR 3-13, PSR 5-11, O-U 7-9

Too many questions on a team filled with holes.

Pace has to stay healthy (not gonna happen) for 16 Games. Barron is not panning out as an NFL starter. Adding Jacob Bell (Tennessee) was a nifty move.

Last year, Bulger suffered through his worst season since his rookie year. He completed a career-low 58.5% of his passes and finished with a career-low 70.3 QB rating. He finished with more interceptions (15) than TDs (11) for the first time in his career. Injuries to his offensive line, especially LT Orlando Pace, decimated the Rams’ offense. Bulger was sacked 37 times in just 12 Games. He missed 4 Games and was limited in a few more due to a coNCussion and a rib injury.

The Rams don’t have many playmakers on defense outside of LB Will Witherspoon and FS O.J. Atogwe, which is why they spent their first-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft on DE Chris Long from Virginia. The Rams were horrible in 2007, finishing in the lower half of the league against the run and pass.





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