Tuesday, August 14, 2007

2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview - NFC West

As promised, today we start the 2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview. I do not claim to be a professional handicapper or prognosticator, so in 4 months you can't hold me responsible for how terrible these previews turn out. To paraphrase the immortal words of Dave Letterman, "To those at home, please no wagering."

So as I said yesterday we're going to start with the NFC this week and the AFC next week. Today we're going to break down the NFC West and then move across the U.S, ending with the NFC East.

And away we go...

Arizona Cardinals

With as much offensive potential as Arizona has, it's hard to imagine that they won't improve on last year's 5-11 finish (at least a little). They have one of the top wide receiver tandems in the league in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Plus they also have running back Edgerrin James who couldn't possibly be any worse than he was last year - as a Fantasy owner who had James on his team, trust me on this one. There are 2 schools of thought on quarterback Matt Leinart - you either hate him or you want to be impregnated by him. Regardless of what Leinart camp you're in, he's entering his second year and should improve on last year's 11 passing TDs. Oh and did I mention Dennis Green is no longer the head coach? That should be good for a couple extra wins right there - although I will miss his post game tirades. However, as they say - it is defence that wins games, and aside from Chike Okeafor I can't name a single person on Arizona's defence. And I read something yesterday that said Okeafor is possibly out for the year - however, I can't remember where I saw that and I can't confirm it anywhere. With all of this said, bear in mind that Arizona has the easiest schedule in the league as well.

2007 Prediction: 6-10. I really wanted to put them at 7-9 but looking at their schedule I don't know if I see them getting more than 6 wins.

St. Louis Rams

The Greatest Show on Turf is a distant memory now. The Rams have finally learned that you have to run the ball to be successful - and with Steven Jackson as your running back why wouldn't you. He is going to be the #2 overall selection in a lot of Fantasy drafts this month - after a ridiculous year last year. Of course I owned him 2 years ago when Mike Martz was still in charge and they refused to give Jackson the ball - no, I'm not bitter. Even though the Rams are more balanced now than they were 6 or 7 years ago, they still have a pretty good aerial attack. Torry Holt is still a top 10 wide receiver and even though Isaac Bruce is older than some mountain ranges, he still had over 1,000 yards receiving last year. The additions of Drew Bennett at wide receiver and Randy McMichael at tight end don't do anything to hurt the passing attack either. Like the Cardinals, however, the Rams' problems lie on the defensive side of the ball. Leonard Little is a monster pass rusher but the Rams have serious issues stopping the run. If they don't get above 30th against the run -which they were last year - it will be what does them in this year. The Rams do have a pretty easy schedule as well, which is going to help their record this year.

2007 Prediction: 10-6. If left tackle Orlando Pace hadn't gotten hurt halfway through the season last year, the Rams would have gotten at least 10 wins. I don't think it's a stretch for them to get back there this year.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers seem to be the trendy sleeper team that many people are picking to win the division this year. While I think there's going to be some improvement this year, I'm still not 100% sold on them. Running back Frank Gore was a monster last year but is too injury-prone for me to bet the house on him. Already this year he's broken his hand - in the first non-contact drill of training camp keep in mind - but is apparently going to be ready for the regular season. Their star tight end, Vernon Davis, only played in 10 games last year due to injury and their #1 wide receiver, Darrell Jackson, is always busy dropping balls when he's not busy being injured. Oh and did I mention that there are people who think 49ers starting quarterback Alex Smith has hands that are too small to properly grip the NFL football. All of these things are pretty troubling to me. However, on defence the 49ers look pretty solid. Bryant Young just keeps going and going at defensive end. They drafted Patrick Willis in the first round at inside linebacker. And their secondary is going to be very strong, with Nate Clements and Walt Harris playing the corners. The 49ers also have a reasonably easy schedule, with only 2 or 3 tough road games.

2007 Prediction: 9-7. Honestly, I hope I'm wrong about this one and the 49ers go 10-6 or better. I'd love to see the team I loved in my youth return to respectability. They have a young core that could be great in a couple years. Thankfully the days of Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey and Jim Druckenmiller shaming the franchise are over.

Seattle Seahawks

I think it's fairly safe to say that Seattle's hopes this year rest on the fragile foot bones of running back Shaun Alexander. If Alexander can come close to the year he had in 2005, the Seahawks should win the division going away. However, I'm not convinced that Alexander is study enough to go through the whole season anymore. Maurice Morris is a decent back-up but if Alexander goes down again this year or isn't effective, Seattle is in trouble. That's not to say that they can't throw the ball. But quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been fragile in the last few seasons as well. If he stays healthy and has fully recovered from last season he has the receivers in Deion Branch and D.J Hackett to do some things down field - and tight end Jeremy "Knee In the Groin" Stevens is gone, so that's a bonus as well. Seattle has had one of those "better than you'd think defence's" in recent years and there's no real reason that won't continue this year. They are solid up front on the defensive line and have a great linebacking corps. The Seahawks lost a few people in the secondary but made some acquisitions to fill those holes. And like every other team in this division Seattle's schedule ranks near the bottom in terms of difficulty.

2007 Prediction: 9-7. I'm putting them with only 9 wins because I'm skeptical about Alexander and Hasselbeck making it through the entire year without being injured. However, if Seattle can find a way to beat St. Louis twice this year, their record would go to 10-6 and they would win the division.

The NFC West looks like it will be a pretty competitive division this year, as 3 of the 4 teams all could be at the same level, or thereabouts. Arizona is the only real weak link in the West and they have enough offence to be exciting and could make some games interesting at least. I think St. Louis will win the division if they can produce defensively a little bit - they definitely have the offence to win the division. Seattle will push the Rams if everyone can stay healthy but I just don't see it happening. Here's how I see the division finishing:

St. Louis Rams..............10-6
Seattle Seahawks.............9-7
San Francisco 49ers..........9-7
Arizona Cardinals............6-10

Tomorrow - the NFC North.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lordy that is a weak sister conference when you look at them. I think the Folsom Prison All Blacks would go 11 - 5 in that conference..