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  1. #1
    AvengerRam's Avatar
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    The State of the NFC West

    Now that the season has ended for all four NFC West teams, its time to look back, and look forward to next year. Here’s how I see the teams stacking up:

    Seattle Seahawks
    The question on the minds of Seahawks fans has to be: has the decline started? After winning the NFC Championship in 2005, they struggled to a 9-7 record to win a weak NFC West, beat the Cowboys in the Wild Card round on a fluke fumbled snap on a field goal attempt, and then lost to the Bears in the Divisional round in overtime.

    Certainly, injuries played a big part in the team’s decline from 2005, with Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck both missing significant time. However, even when healthy, neither played up to prior standards (Alexander: 3.6 ypc; Hasselbeck: 76.0 QB rating).

    The biggest problem the team will face going into next season is rebuilding its offensive line. This could be the end of the line for Robbie Tobeck and Chris Gray, who are 13 and 14 year veterans and free agents. The youth movement will be key, and the Hawks don’t have a first round pick (traded for Deion Branch) to draft a young stud.

    In all, the Hawks still have enough talent to be the team to beat in the division, but not by much.

    St. Louis Rams
    Scott Linehan’s rookie season as the Rams’ Head Coach ended on a positive note with three consecutive wins. Marc Bulger had his best season, and Steven Jackson emerged as one of the top backs in the league. Meanwhile, the old reliable duo of Holt and Bruce combined for over 2,200 yards receiving. So, while the Greatest Show on Turf may be over, a pretty good sequel has started.

    On defense, the Rams need to rebuild… again. Both in free agency and the draft, a talent influx must be sought and obtained. Also, in a division with some of the best between-the-tackle runners (Alexander, Gore, James), they need to be bigger in the middle of the defense (DT, MLB, SS).

    The Rams have the advantage of having signed their two key free agents during the season (Little, Tinoisamoa). The only remaining free agent of note is Kevin Curtis, and he is arguably expendable.

    In the end, it’s the same old story for the Rams. If they can build a defense that can slow down the competition, they can be a contender.

    San Francisco Niners
    The Niners seem poised to make a move in the division. They improved from 2005 to 2006, and have stockpiled both cap room and draft choices. Add to the mix Frank Gore, one of the best pure runners in the game, and it would seem the team is ready to challenge.

    Not so fast. The Niners still have a lot of holes, and there is no guarantee that free agency will fill them. Don’t forget, this team was last in the NFL in points allowed and had only 34 sacks as a team (same as the Rams). Fixing those problems is easier said than done, even with draft choices and cap money.

    Ultimately though, the question of whether the Niners are truly a team on the rise may come down to one player – Alex Smith. While some claim to have seen real improvement from Smith this year, he’s still a QB with a rating of 74.8 who threw for fewer yards than any 16 game starter with the exception of Michael Vick (and, in case you are wondering, Vick had a few more rushing yards than Smith).

    The road from the basement to mediocrity is far easier than the road from mediocrity to contender status. The Niners may learn this the hard way.

    Arizona Cardinals
    Will this finally be the year that we stop hearing from the “experts” that the Cardinals are the next big thing? Probably not. With Golden Boy Matt Leinert at the helm, a new head coach, and fantasy geek favorites at WR, many will still see a breakthrough team in August.

    As has been the case for years, the Cardinals’ chance for success begins with the offensive line. This year, they were once again pretty awful in the run blocking department (3.2 yards per carry). They were also pretty bad on the other side of the trenches, allowing 5.5 yards per rushing attempt to opponents.

    So, with a need to rebuild the offensive and defensive lines, a new head coach and an inexperienced QB, this team is still the favorite to remain at the bottom of the division, right?

    Ah… Sean Salisbury will probably still have them as a sleeper pick next preseason.

    So… who’s the favorite?
    Right now, the teams line up in the same order they finished, but are very close. If you need further proof, look at the divisional records from 2006 (Seahawks 3-3, Rams 2-4, Niners 3-3, Cardinals 4-2). Its pretty clear that no team in the division is a clear favorite, and any team could rise to the top. As a result, this is a very important offseason. One or two signings or good draft choices (along with injuries) may make the difference.

    Stay tuned.


  2. #2
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: The State of the NFC West

    Great article AV.. Thanks for jump starting the anxiety:x

  3. #3
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    Re: The State of the NFC West

    Nice article but with all that said i think if the Rams do what they should do this offseason then we will once again rain supreme in the NFC West.

  4. #4
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    Re: The State of the NFC West

    Quote Originally Posted by laram0 View Post
    Great article AV.. Thanks for jump starting the anxiety:x
    Hehe...I'm just glad the heart attacks have stopped. My Sundays are meaningless now :x

    Thats sort of a good thing, I need a break from the heart attack games we had lol

    Good article as usual AV.


    Always and Forever a fan of the St. Louis Rams

  5. #5
    AvengerRam's Avatar
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    Re: The State of the NFC West

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    Seattle Seahawks
    This could be the end of the line for Robbie Tobeck and Chris Gray, who are 13 and 14 year veterans and free agents.
    Postscript:Tobeck just announced his retirement.

  6. #6
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    Re: The State of the NFC West

    Ken Whisenhunt has been named HC of the Cardinals. As he is a former Offensive Line coach at Pittsburgh, i expect him to dramatically overhaul their offensive line, which is something they really need to be able to compete in this division

  7. #7
    AvengerRam's Avatar
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    Re: The State of the NFC West

    No doubt that is what they need, but its easier said than done. Doesn't help that one of their better linemen, Leonard Davis, is going to be an unrestricted free agent and, given the lack of quality OTs both in FA and the draft, probably will get a big contract from someone.

  8. #8
    MemphisRam is offline Registered User
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    Re: The State of the NFC West

    Next year we will have a 10 win season

  9. #9
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    Re: The State of the NFC West

    I may be jumping in late on this. But this seems fairly well thought out AV. The Hawks are not declining, I think that they may be still on the rise. They have question marks, as does every team in the division. But they had a lot of injuries this year. And by alot, I mean they had only one offensive starter start every game. And he shouldn't have. Continuity on the offensive line is key and maybe signing a new RG would help that. I think that the other positions on the line are fine.

    Defensively, the Hawks are looking fine up front, well except at DE (if Tubbs is out for any length of time), and in the secondary (pending several CB's recovering from injury).

    The Rams, looked good down the stretch and will continue to improve under Linehan. I really like what he is doing there. The question is, will Faulk return and screw up the chemistry that Jackson has now with the offense or will Faulk retire (like he should). Can Bulger lead the team in a more controlled offense? Can the defense get better? If the answer to all of the questions is Yes, then the Rams will definitely contend next year. They may even get a wild card.

    The whiners could be really scary next year. And I mean really scary. If Gore can prove this wasn't a fluke year and stay healthy, and Smith continues to improve...well, look out. The defense could cause them problems, but in the NFC West where there is almost no defense played, well they could be good.

    The Cards are in for another rebuilding year. I like the hirings they have so far in the coaching ranks. But can they put it all together this year. That is the big question. I don't think so, but if the Bidwells actually spend some and stay this course for more than 3 years...they could be good in 5 or so years...until then mediocrity reighns supreme.

    To be fair, not all evil robots are killers.

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