We wrap up our extensive NFL preview by taking a look at the always unpredictable NFC West. Last year, the San Francisco 49ers dominated the division, going 5-1 against division rivals and 13-3 overall. Will they be able to repeat their success this season?
Fresh New Face: WR Randy Moss, WR Mario Manningham
- The 49ers were a few botched plays by Kyle Williams away from heading to the Super Bowl, and they looked to shore up the offense during the off-season. Even those Moss did not play last season, head coach Jim Harbaugh speaks highly of him and says the team will rely on him heavily this season. The team also poached a few players away from the New York Giants whom they lost to in the NFC Championship game last year. Manningham adds depth at a position of need for the team and another weapon for QB Alex Smith to utilize. The Niners also picked up a bruising running back inBrandon Jacobs who iswill be used heavily in goal line situations. When you throw in Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, and 2nd round draft pick LaMichael James, this team is very deep at the RB position.
Won’t be back: WR Josh Morgan- Morgan signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins. With all the additions the team has made at that position, it is hard to imagine this loss will severely hurt this club, as you figure both Manningham and Moss are upgrades to the always under achieving Morgan.
Season Prediction- This team should be able to repeat as NFC West Champions, the only hindrance could be their tough schedule. With road games that include trips to Lambeau Field(Green Bay), New England, New Orleans, and the New York Jets, this team will be tested. However, in division success against teams with several question marks should bode well for the Niners. The defense will once again set the tone as all 11 starters returned from last year’s top-ranked defense, and the offense will be expected to do more with all the weapons added in the off-season.
Fresh New Face: QB Matt Flynn, QB Russell Wilson - When Flynn came to Seattle as a free agent from the Packers, he was expected to be the starting quarterback. However, after drafting Russell Wilson in the 3rd round and a QB battle through training camp and pre-season, head coach Pete Carroll has decided to go with Wilson. Wilson will be paid about 10% of what Flynn’s signing bonus was for the entire season, but he will run the show to start the year in Seattle. He is an athletic guy who has shown he can fit the ball in tight spaces, so he could be an upgrade from recently traded QB Tarvaris Jackson.
Won’t be back: No significant names - Seattle pretty much stayed in tact. It returns a defense that finished last season strong and Marshawn Lynch will carry the load offensively as Wilson gets situated at the helm.
Season Prediction: This team is rebuilding but could surprise some people this season. If Lynch could duplicate the success he had last season rushing where he rushed for over 1200 yards and 12 TDs, he could take some of the pressure off Wilson. However, they face the same tough out of conference schedule as the rest of their division, and will most likely only secure wins in-division.
Fresh New Faces: WR Michael Floyd - First round draft pick out of Notre Dame, Floyd gives whoever starts the season at QB another weapon to complement Larry Fitzgerald. The main concern will be to see if RB Beanie Wells can do enough on the ground to not allow opposing defenses to consistently drop back in coverage to cover these talented receivers.
Won’t be back: OT Levi Brown - Brown was the 5th pick in the 2007 draft, and has never really panned out into the dominant lineman they were hoping for. The Cardinals released him on March 12th, then resigned him on March 15th. However, they placed him in IR last week with a triceps injury, so he won’t be donning a uniform this year.
Season prediction: Considering head coach Ken Whisenhunt is yet to name a starting QB, it seems as though he doesn’t have much expectations for his team this season either. Not naming a QB with only a week until the regular season begins is not the way you want to head into a season. Neither Kevin Kolb or John Skelton will play in the final pre-season game, so it appears the decision will be made based on practices leading up to the regular season kickoff.
Fresh New Faces: DT Michael Brockers - The Rams drafted Michael Brockers in the 1st round of the NFL Draft to try to shore up one of the worst defenses in 2011. St. Louis allowed over 25 ppg last season, and couldn’t utilize RB Steven Jackson as much because of it. Falling behind by large margins in games virtually eliminates the run game, so they will do what they can to stay competitive throughout ball games.
Won’t be back: Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo- Not that Spagnuolo is a huge loss for this team, as he wasn’t able to get many wins with this lineup, but anytime you change coaches, that means a change of personal and often means a change in offesnive and defensive schemes. However, they did snag Jeff Fisher, who made Tennessee a Super Bowl contender in the early 2000′s.
Season Prediction: Don’t expect much from this ball club this season. “The greatest show on turf” has been long gone, and it’s return may be in the distant future. I will be surprised if this team stays competitive. Some sources predict this team will go winless this season, although that is almost as difficult as going undefeated in my opinion. The Rams will win a couple games on accident, maybe towards the end of the season when teams that have clinched a playoff spot or are out of contention have less to play for.
What do you think of the NFC West this year? Can anyone contend with the Niners? Let us know in the comments!
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