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NFL Pro Football 2010 NFC WEST Preview

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Fearless Rick's NFL Preview - NFC WEST

Rick Gagliano | July 21, 2010


San Francisco 49ers 2009 record: (8-8) Projected 2010 record: (10-6)

Predicted finish: 1st, NFC West, 3rd or 4th seed

Head Coach: Mike Singletary

Departed: CB Walt Harris; RB Thomas Clayton; WR Arnaz Battle; CB Dre' Bly; QB Shaun Hill; CB Kevin Smith

Incoming: rookie WR Kyle Williams; WR Ted Ginn Jr.; rookie OT Anthony Davis; rookie OG Mike Iupati; rookie FS Taylor Mays; rookie RB Anthony Dixon; rookie TE Nate Byham; QB David Carr; TE Tony Curtis; LB Travis LaBoy; CB Will James

Strengths: Coaching. In Mike Singletary, the NFL has found a true star, a hard-nosed guy who may not have players with the greatest talent, but who possess work ethic and determination. Singletary should emerge as Coach of the Year in 2010 for his no-nonsense approach to a no-nonsense game. Passing game. This is an area in which the 49ers will almost surely improve, with the addition of Ted Ginn Jr. and speedy Kyle Williams. QB Alex Smith has quality receivers on both sides in Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan, plus sure-handed TE Vernon Davis

Weaknesses: Rushing. There's Frank Gore and not much else in the backfield. Only four NFC teams had fewer yards per game rushing than the 49ers in 2009 (100.0). Fortunately, two of them - Seattle and Arizona - are in the same division, so the 49ers get to play them each twice.

Key Games: 9/20 vs. New Orleans. Second week of the season and the only home game of the 49ers' first four. Tough draw, but upset looms. 11/29 @Arizona; 12/5 @ Green Bay; 12/16 @ San Diego - likely the three toughest road games of the season, with only a short stop home to play Seattle on 12/12. If the 'Niners are going to make the playoffs, winning two of these games will be critical.

What if?: Alex Smith clicks and the defense continues to improve? The 49ers would then easily be the best team in the division and a threat to upset one or more of the premier teams in the conference in the playoffs. With a defense designed to smother opponents in their backfields, an explosive offense would make the 49ers extremely dangerous.

Arizona Cardinals 2009 record: (10-6) Projected 2010 record: (8-8)

Predicted finish: 2nd, NFC West

Head Coach: Ken Whisenhunt

Departed: QB Kurt Warner; CB Bryant McFadden; DE Bertrand Berry; WR Anquan Boldin; LB Karlos Dansby; K Neil Rackers; S Antrel Rolle

Incoming: S Kerry Rhodes; OG Alan Faneca; rookie DT Dan Williams; rookie LB Daryl Washington; rookie DE O'Brien Schofield; rookie DB Jorrick Calvin; LB Paris Lenon; PK Jay Feely; CB/KR Justin Miller; LB Joey Porter; QB Derek Anderson

Strengths: Wide receivers. Though Anquan Boldin departs, Steve Breaston should fill into the #2 spot opposite Larry Fitzgerald with no issues and Early Doucet becomes the slot man with great hands and some decent speed. Offensive Line. They protected Warner well, so there's no reason to believe they won't do the same for Leinart or Anderson.

Weaknesses: Quarterback. Matt Leinart replaces Kurt Warner at the key position and thus far, he's not shown either leadership nor throwing ability. It's his time and his place to take this team in one direction or the other. Defense. With Kurt Warner retiring, the offense may not be a smooth operation, so the defense has to play better. They lost some key players - Dansby, Berry, Rolle - but drafted well and added Joey Porter from Miami and Kerry Rhodes from the Jets, but they look shaky.

Key Games: 9/12 @ St. Louis; 9/19 @ Atlanta; 9/26 vs. Oakland; 10/3 @ San Diego; 10/10 vs. New Orleans. Those are the first five games of the season and three are roadies, and tough ones. It's easy to imagine the Cardinals going 1-4 or even 0-5 during this stretch up to the bye. In such a case, it might be the end of Matt Leinart. If they're 2-3 or better, he and the Cards may be OK.

What if?: Leinart struggles as quarterback? Coach Whisenhunt might have a quick hook in favor of Derek Anderson, acquired from the Browns as a backup. Anderson had his ups and downs in Cleveland, but he'll be with a better group in Arizona, so it could actually turn a bad situation into an upgrade.

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St. Louis Rams 2009 record: (1-15) Projected 2010 record: (6-10)

Predicted finish: 3rd, NFC West

Head Coach: Steve Spagnuolo

Departed: OT Alex Barron; QB Kyle Boller; QB Marc Bulger; DT Adam Carriker; LB Paris Lenon; TE Randy McMichael

Incoming: rookie QB Sam Bradford; rookie OT Rodger Saffold; rookie WR Mardy Gilyard; rookie DE Hall Davis; rookie DE George Selvie; rookie TE Michael Hoomanawanui; rookie CB Jerome Murphy; rookie CB Marquis Johnson; LB Na'il Diggs; LB Bobby Carpenter; CB Kevin Dockery; QB A.J. Feeley; DT Chris Hovan; DT Fred Robbins; S Kenin Payne

Strengths: Quarterback. If Sam Bradford starts. Bradford was first overall and the first QB drafted, so he figures to be a go when signed, for the season opener. Running Back. Steven Jackson still lines up the St. Louis backfield, and he's still a bruising runner.

Weaknesses: Defense. The Rams were at or near the bottom in almost every statistical defensive category last season, allowing 27.3 ppg (31st) and 372.8 ypg (30th). The secondary, with 8 interceptions and 53 passes defended was the worst in the NFL, but they've made some big changes via the draft and free agency, so they won't be as bad as last year.

Key Games: 9/19 @ Oakland. This is where Bradford should be able to prove he cn run the offense. The home opener, the week prior, against Arizona is probably going to result in a loss, but it will be fertile ground for the revamped Rams to get their footing on both offense and defense. 9/26 vs. Washington; 10/3 vs. Seattle; 10/10 @ Detroit. These are three games the Rams can conceivably win. How does 4-1 or 5-0 sound? They'd better be at least 3-2, because the schedule gets tougher after that.

What if?: Sam Bradford doesn't start in the opener? Expect plenty of booing unless A.J. Feeley plays the game of his life. The Rams have the perfect window of opportunity to get Bradford off to a good start with a relatively easy early schedule. Starting Feeley, under any circumstances except for an injury to Bradford, would be a total mistake.

Seattle Seahawks 2009 record: (5-11) Projected 2010 record: (4-12)

Predicted finish: 4th, NFC West

Head Coach: Pete Carroll

Departed: FB Justin Griffith; OT Walter Jones; OG Rob Sims; QB Seneca Wallace; DE Darryl Tapp; S Deon Grant; WR Nate Burleson; DE Patrick Kerney

Incoming: rookie OT Russell Okung, rookie SS Earl Thomas; rookie WR Golden Tate; rookie DE E.J. Wilson, rookie TE Anthony McCoy; rookie CB Walter Thurmond; DE Chris Clemons; S Kevin Ellison; RB Leon Washington; QB Charlie Whitehurst; WR Mike Williams

Strengths: Youth. Wideout Golden Tate is emblematic of the youth movement in Seattle, especially on offense, with players like Owen Schmitt, Mike Williams and John Carlson, but they need a couple more years of rebuilding and jettisoning worn-out veterans.

Weaknesses: Quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck has seen better days and even when he was good, he was not great. Now 35, there's not much upside for him and he should know that he's nearing the end of his career. Offensive Line. 32 sacks allowed in the 14 games Hasselbeck started is just the beginning of the story. They don't run block well either.

Key Games: 9/12 vs. San Francisco; 9/19 @ Denver; 9/26 vs. San Diego; 10/3 @ St. Louis. The Seahawks could easily start out 0-4 heading into their bye week and begin planning for 2011. Don't count on them beating the Rams in week 4, and the first three games look mighty tough.

What if?: Pete Carroll loses more games than Jim Mora did last year? He'll mostly get a pass from his peers in the coaching ranks, but not from the fans nor the media. Carroll built a winner at USC, but left under a cloud, so there will be critics coming out of the woodwork. Making the move from college to the pros is not easy, though Carroll did previously coach the Jets, but being tucked quietly away in the Northwest corner of the nation might be a real blessing in disguise.

Copyright 2010, 2011, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.


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