During the past off-season, the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers engaged in a massive build-up of talent (sometimes referred to as the arm’s race). This build up of talent has put both teams on the trendy picks for the NFC West Title, and the Super Bowl. That also means that one of these fan-bases is definitely going to go into meltdown mode after their team is eliminated from the playoffs or playoff contention…what ever comes first.
There are also two other teams in the division that have kind have been forgotten about, and it is important to keep them in mind. After all, no matter how unlikely it is for them to end up in the playoffs, they are NFL teams and are completely capable of wrecking either the Niners or Seahawks seasons. There is also the chance that they end up winning the division as well.
Now is a good a time as any to preview each team in the NFC West…by their spot in the 2012 standings:
Head Coach: Jim Harabaugh
2013 Record: 11-4-1 (1st in NFC West)
Playoff Exit: Lost in Super Bowl to the Ravens
- Via Free Agency/Trades; QB Colt McCoy, WR Anquan Boldin, G Adam Snyder, DT Glenn Dorsey, CB Nnamdi Asomugha, S Craig Dahl, K Phil Dawson.
- Via Draft Picks; S Eric Reid, DE/DT Tank Carradine, TE Vance McDonald, DE/OLB Corey Lemonier, WR Quinton Patton, RB Marcus Lattimore, DE/DT Quinton Dial.
Off-season losses: QB Alex Smith, WR Randy Moss, TE Delanie Walker, NT Isaac Sopoaga, ILB Larry Grant, S Dashon Goldson, K David Akers, KR Ted Ginn.
2013 Outlook: The Niners offense really started click after Kaepernick took over for Alex Smith in 2012; the added threat of the deep ball really opened up the offense. It helped Frank Gore reach the 1,200 yard mark…again-although, to be honest how much help does Gore really need? None, that’s right-he should be able to continue to be near that productive marker as well (although be weary, he is nearing the 2,000 career caries mark). That being said, the biggest question for the Niners this up coming season is going to be defense.
Justin Smith and Aldon Smith were a potent duo for the first 14 games, and then Justin went down with a knee injury and missed the remainder of the season (including the playoffs). The loss of Justin Smith showed how dependent the Niners are on using multiple guys to get the the QB; and that’s not a bad thing…if you have the depth to be able to handle the wear and tear of a football season. It is pretty clear that fixing those depth issues was at the top of the front office’s list during the draft as the Niners drafted three different defensive linemen. Now the question is, will those guys be able to handle the load if either Smith (or another one of the D-linemen) go down in 2013?
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
2013 Record: 11-5 (2nd in the NFC West)
2013 Playoff Exit: Lost in the Divisional Round too the Falcons
- Via Free Agency/Trades; WR Percy Harvin, DE Cliff Avril, DE Michael Bennett, DT Tony McDaniel, CB Antoine Winfield, QB Travaris Jackson
- Via Draft Picks; RB Christine Michael, DT Jordan Hill, WR Chris Harper, NT Jesse Williams, CB Tharold Simon, TE Luke Willson.
Off-Season Losses: QB Matt Flynn, OT Frank Omiyale, DT Alan Branch, DT Jason Jones, OLB Leroy Hill, KR Leon Washington, CB Marcus Trufant
2013 Outlook: The Seahawks started their rookie QB from Game One, and he bloomed very quickly as the Hawks rebuild looked like it was over. Russell Wilson was lights out last year behind an okay offensive line, and without any serious deep threat; Marshawn Lynch was Marshawn Lynch; and the Hawks found themselves blowing the doors off in the four of their last five games.Look for continued growth out of Russell Wilson and the offensive line as the Hawks continue to open up they playbook-especially with Percy Harvin in the mix.
On the defensive side of things, the Hawks struggled with the pass rush down the stretch as there wasn’t enough depth on the defensive line to overcome some crucial injuries. The Hawks also addressed their defensive line depth this off-season, but they decided to do that through free agency; and they absolutely did a fantastic job. With Avril, Bennett, and McDaniel coming in to compliment Mebane and Bryant…the Hawks have a lot of versatility in the defensive line.
Head Coach: Jeff Fisher
2013 Record: 7-8-1 (3rd in the NFC West)
2013 Playoff Exit: Did not qualify for the Playoffs
- Via Free Agency/Trades: TE Jared Cook, OT Jake Long.
- Via Draft Picks: WR Tavon Austin, OLB Alec Ogletree, S T.J. McDonald, WR Stedman Bailey, C/G Barrett Jones, CB Brandon McGee, RB Zac Stacy.
Off-Season Losses: RB Steven Jackson, WR Danny Amendola, WR Brandon Gibson, TE Matthew Mulligan, C Rob Turner, CB Bradley Fletcher, S QUintin Mikell, S Craig Dahl.
2013 Outlook: The Rams lost a huge offensive threat with the departure of Steven Jackson, but it probably was the best move for the franchise as Jackson is currently 30 years old and has been dealing with injuries the last couple of seasons. For Jeff Fisher, his first season at the helm in St. Louis was kind of surprising year; it saw the Rams come within a game of .500 and it was a good start for him and his tenure there.
Even though the Rams had a good first season under Fisher, the 2013 season looks like it is going to be a little rougher. They lost a lot of experienced talent during the off-season, while adding a lot of young guns. Or in other words, it looks like the Rams are in the middle of another youth movement…at the start of another rebuild (trust me Rams fans, this Mariners fan feels your pain). Although this time feels a little different, as Fisher is an experienced head coach who has put it all together before.
Head Coach: Bruce Arians
2013 Record: 5-11
2013 Playoff Exit: Did not qualify for the playoffs
- Via Free Agency/Trades; QB Carson Palmer, QB Drew Stanton, RB Rashard Mendenhall, G Chilo Rachal, DE Frostee Rucker, DE Matt Shaughnessy, DE/OLB QUentin Groves, ILB Karlos Dansby, ILB Jasper Brinkley, CB Antoine Cason, CB Javier Arenas, CB Jerraud Powers, S Yeremiah Bell.
- Via Draft Picks: G Jonathan Cooper, ILB Kevin Minter, S Tyrann Mathieu, DE/OLB Alex Okafor, G Earl Watford, RB Stepfan Taylor, WR Ryan Swope, RB Andre Ellington.
Off-Season Losses: QB Kevin Kolb, QB John Skelton, QB Brian Hoyer, RB Chris Wells, RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, FB Anthony Sherman, WR Early Doucet, G Adam Snyder, DE/DT Nick Eason, ILB Paris Lenon, ILB Stewart Bradley, CB Greg Toler, CB William Gay, CB Michael Adams, S Adrian Wilson, S Kerry Rhodes, S James Sanders.
2013 Outlook: The revolving door that has been the Cardinals starting Quarterback position has been nauseating to watch. It only got worse last season once Kevin Kolb got hurt, and John Skelton and Brian Hoyer began to split time. It was a problem that was compounded by a terrible offensive line, and a defense that was only mediocre. There was some major changes that were needed at the end of the season, and boy did they happen.
The Cards continue to try out veteran QBs by grabbing Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, in the hope that they will fill the void left by the retirement of Kurt Warner. It looks like the Arizona Front Office feels like getting a lot of veteran experience is going to be beneficial for the young guys that the draft; and it looks like they are going to try to get the trenches fixed via the draft, before trying to address the issues with the other positions. Cardinal fans should be ready for another long season as the youth movement slowly starts to take place in the Arizona Desert.