The next couple of weeks I will be taking a look at each division of the NFL. Today I will be covering the NFC WEST since most of those teams have been very busy since the start of the offseason.

Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals finished last in their division with an overal record of 5-11. After their future hall of famer QB Kurt Warner retired it left the Cardinals in dismantel. Their struggles last year were primarily due to the fact that they didn’t have a starting quarterback. Now after acquiring QB Kevin Kolb from the Philadelphia Eagles for 2nd round draft pick and former pro bowl CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie the Cardinals chances of taking back the west looks a lot better than last year. Kolb will have pro bowl MVP Larry Fitzgerald to throw to. However if you remember Kolb in Eagles green he struggled to connect with deep receiver DeSean Jackson. However he was able to get production out of have solid check down receiver with the eagles, that receiver being TE Brent Celeck. If the Cardinals can produce a check down receiver that he had in Philadelphia it might be a more useful of a target in the beginning for his 5 year deal with the cards. Now even though he is miles ahead in talent when compared to Matt Leinart or John Skelton, he still has sometime before he can fully be that franchise quarterback that the Cardinals so desperately need.

San Francisco 49ers

Each year I pick one team who didn’t make into the playoffs the year before but have a shot this coming year, that team was the San Francisco 49ers. However, as you all know the 49ers failed to make the playoffs. Alex Smith was their go to guy in the beginning of last season however due to injury he was forced to sit and watch as QB Troy Smith took over from weeks 8 through 13. After Troy Smith’s lost to Green bay the 49ers decided to sit Troy and go back to Alex. He then led the 49ers in a 40-21 win against divisional rival the Seattle Seahawks putting them one game behind the divisional leaders (Seahawks and Rams.) However after finishing with a 1-2 record in the last three games of the season the 49ers would once again miss the playoffs. Alex Smith who was a free agent this year decided to sign his former team to a one-year contract. Alex has dealt with a different offensive of coordinator every season since he was drafted as the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005. This is definitely part of the reason why Alex’s career has been so up and down. Smith has to be more consistent as a QB and the 49ers are willing to give him one more year to prove that he can. With a new coach (Jim Harbaugh) a new contract and once again another new offensive coordinate (Greg Roman former Stanford assistant) Alex looks more motivated to get the 49ers back to their winning ways. He knows that this is the year he has to make something happen or else his chances of returning to the city by the bay will be slim to none. The 49ers will have a demanding schedule this year as they face the NFC East and AFC North divisons. It’s going to be tough pulling of a .500 record this year for them but if Alex Smith can stay healthy and consistent they might just have a shot at taking the West.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks won the division last year with a 7-9 overal record making them the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a losing record. Led by veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck the Seahawks started off strong with a 4-2 record however with injuries to their former QB caused Hasselbeck to be sidelined for the last game of the season against divisional rival St. Louis Rams. The second string QB Charlie Whitehurst led the Seahawks to a win in that final game of the season clinching the NFC West. Now with Matt Hasselbeck with the Tennessee Titans; Seattle has made some very abrupt changes this offseason, one of them being signing Vikings backup QB Tarvaris Jackson and the other signing WR Sidney Rice. Jackson will most likely end up as their starting QB and he’ll have Brett Favre’s former favorite target to throw to. However with all of the other free agent QBs on the market one can’t help but wonder if signing Jackson was the best idea. He struggled all throughout his career with the Vikings and without a star RB like Adrian Peterson one wonders what can Jackson really do for the Seahawks. They do have Marshawn Lynch who had a spectacular game against the Saints last year in the wildcard game but has had issues with personal conduct policies as well being inconsistent on the football field. The Seahawks are looking to rebuild around their new QB and even with Jackson and all of his troubles they still are one of the stronger teams in the division. However when looking at their schedule one can’t help but think that Jackson does have his work cut out for them and even with all the offseason signings it will be a long year for the Seattle faithful.

St. Louis Rams

The St. Louis Rams were one of the most improved football teams of last season. After drafting QB Sam Bradford No. 1 overall the Rams were finally able to get a concrete starting QB. Now Bradford obviously has his ways to go but he seemed to be a good fit for the team. Giving them an extra six wins from their 2009 season, finishing with a 7-9 record. He also helped the team come within one game from a playoff birth. Bradford got help from his pro bowl running back Steven Jackson who ran for a total of 1,241 yards last year in 330 carries. Also their 19th ranked defense was the second highest ranked defense in their division. However this is will be improved with their most recent signing of veteran CB Al Harris. Harris who played only three games with the Dolphins due to a hamstring injury can help their young secondary develop over the course of this year. Since neither of the other teams in this division have a lights out offense (could change once we see Kolb in action) the Rams defense can continue to grow without having to lose pace in the playoff race.

Summary

After looking at each team of the NFC West it looks like the division is open to any team this year. If Kevin Kolb can get into rhythm with WR Larry Fitzgerald you can expect the Cardinals to make a run for the first. Arizona also gets help from their schedule as well which has them looking like the favorites in the West. If they can go on a late season run by beating out the last four teams in their schedule (which includes two divisional games) they can easily take back the NFC West. St. Louis probably has one of the better chances to win the division when looking at their roster, however looking at their schedule it is most likely the toughest in their division. If St. Louis is going to win their division they have to create some major upsets against teams such as the defending superbowl champions Green Bay Packers in week six, the saints in week eight, and the steelers in week sixteen. The Seahawks have an equally as tough schedule if not tougher, and 49ers has one of the easier ones. This division will be close and it will be a fun one to watch, below are the projected standings and season records for each team.

Arizona Cardinals (9-7)
St. Louis Rams (8-8)
San Francisco (8-8)
Seattle Seahawks (6-10)

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