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NFC West preview: Picking Rams, but Cardinals tempting
Sep. 1, 2005
By Clark Judge
CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
Tell Clark your opinion!
The only certainty in the NFC West is the San Francisco *****. They're dead last and staying there for at least another season.
That's not an indictment of new coach Mike Nolan. The club simply doesn't have the players he and his coaching staff need to resuscitate a 2-14 patient. So the ***** finish fourth. Now what?
Torry Holt and the Rams look like the most dangerous crew in a jumbled division. (AP)
Well, based on what I saw Monday night, I still like the Rams. I know, they lost defensive back Jerametrius Butler for the season, and their defense leaked like the S.S. Minnow in a preseason loss to San Diego. But these guys showed signs of brilliance Monday night, and the last time Mike Martz had a non-winning season, he followed with a division title.
Make them the favorite in a photo finish with Arizona.
The Cardinals could make their first trip to the playoffs since 1998 -- and maybe they should, given the condition of this division -- but I don't know if Kurt Warner can last 16 games. Heck, 12 games. If he plays three-quarters of the season, they have a shot, but Warner hasn't played more than nine games in any year since 2001.
Then there's defending division champ Seattle, but for every player they kept -- and there were key re-signings of Matt Hasselbeck, Walter Jones and Shaun Alexander -- they lost another to free-agency. I'm afraid the outlook is as gloomy as the weather in January.
Mike Martz bashers, you better sit this one out.
St. Louis Rams
Most significant additions: LB Chris Claiborne, LB Dexter Coakley, DB Michael Hawthorne, T Rex Tucker, TE Roland Williams, special teams coach Bob Ligashesky.
Predicted Order of Finish
1. Rams 2004: 8-8 Rank
Pt. Scored: 319
Pt. Allowed: 392
2. Cardinals 2004: 6-10 Rank
Pt. Scored: 284
Pt. Allowed: 322
3. Seahawks 2004: 9-7 Rank
Pt. Scored: 371
Pt. Allowed: 373
4. ***** 2004: 2-14 Rank
Pt. Scored: 259
Pt. Allowed: 452
Most significant subtractions: QB Chris Chandler, S Rich Coady, DE Bryce Fisher, G Matt Lehr, T Kyle Turley, T Chris Terry.
Biggest offseason move: Overhauling their linebackers with the acquisitions of Coakley and Claiborne.
Will make the playoffs if ... they figure out how to play special teams.
Won't make the playoffs if ... they don't improve the league's 29th-ranked rush defense.
Rookie to watch: First-round draft pick Alex Barron is the fourth tackle, so you'd better forget him until next year. Watch fourth-round pick Jerome Carter instead. The first rookie to sign, he made an impact in offseason workouts and looks like a born leader at strong safety.
Overview: The Rams flexed their muscle for national TV last Monday, and I was impressed. I saw them against San Diego; I saw them against Detroit. "This is the team we are," Martz said after demolishing the Lions. He'd better hope so. I like what I see in running back Steven Jackson, and quarterback Marc Bulger looks accurate, poised and confident. "We're deep," said Martz. "This could be a special team."
Most significant additions: QB Kurt Warner, DE Chike Okeafor, T Oliver Ross, S Robert Griffith, LB Orlando Huff, CB Raymond Walls.
Most significant subtractions: T Anthony Clement, CB Renaldo Hill, TE Freddie Jones, QB Shaun King, T L.J. Shelton, RB Emmitt Smith, CB Duane Starks, LB Ray Thompson, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, LB LeVar Woods.
Biggest offseason move: Signing Warner. It provides stability at a position where there was none.
Will make the playoffs if ... they figure out how to beat San Francisco.
Won't make the playoffs if ... Denny Green starts playing a shell game with his quarterbacks again.
Rookie to watch: Running back J.J. Arrington. If he's only half as good as he was at Cal last year, he improves this offense. The Cards desperately need a rushing attack, and he was a second-round steal.
Overview: It's tempting to pick these guys to win the division. Green has proved he can win with just about anyone at quarterback -- Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Warren Moon -- and Warner is perfect for him. Plus, Green did a good job of scouring the free-agent market and landing players who improve his club. Still ... they're the Arizona Cardinals. It's hard to imagine these guys in the playoffs, but this could be the season.
Most significant additions: DT Chartric Darby, CB Andre Dyson, DE Bryce Fisher, CB Kelly Herndon, WR Joe Jurevicius, LB Jamie Sharper, RB Josh Scobey, WR Peter Warrick.
Who will win the NFC West?
Most significant subtractions: LB Chad Brown, LB Orlando Huff, CB Ken Lucas, DT Brandon Mitchell, DE Chike Okeafor, WR Jerry Rice, S Damien Robinson, CB Bobby Taylor, LB Anthony Simmons, WR Koren Robinson.
Biggest offseason move: Re-signing running back Shaun Alexander. All he did last year was rush for 1,696 yards and score 20 times.
Will make the playoffs if ... they ever solve a defense that starts leaking oil about mid-October.
Won't make the playoffs if ... they can't beat St. Louis, and they lost three times to the Rams a year ago.
Rookie to watch: Linebacker Lafa Tatupu is locked in a battle with Niko Koutouvides for a starting job. Tatupu was the club's second-round choice, and the only part of his game that's missing at the moment is experience.
Overview: They won the division a year ago, but it's hard to see the Seahawks repeating with the departures of people like Chad Brown, Ken Lucas and Chike Okeafor. This was a club that would break your heart a year ago -- close until one of their wide receivers saluted a pass. I don't think they're better than they were at the end of last season, and I know of at least two clubs -- St. Louis and Arizona -- that are.
Most significant additions: Coach Mike Nolan, Marques Douglas, T Jonas Jennings, K Joe Nedney, CB Willie Middlebrooks, WR Johnnie Morton.
Most significant subtractions: WR Cedrick Wilson, DE John Engelberger, T Scott Gragg, S Ronnie Heard, G Kyle Kosier, K Todd Peterson, CB Jimmy Williams.
Most significant offseason move: Acquiring quarterback Alex Smith. He won't open the season for the *****, but you can bet he will close it. Is he the next Young or Montana? Time will tell.
Will make the playoffs if ... the rest of the division takes the season off.
Won't make the playoffs if ... they don't find a genie.
Rookie to watch: It has to be Alex Smith. He's not starting now, but he will -- and the future of this franchise is hitched to the $24 million man.
Overview: The ***** weren't bad last year; they were dreadful. And there are too many holes to fill to expect them to move anywhere but to the opposite corner of the basement. They overspent for Smith; they overspent for Jennings; they let Wilson and Kosier walk. I don't know what the plan is here, but I'm intrigued to see how it all turns out. We may have to wait a year for our answer.
-09-07-2005 #2Registered User
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Re: NFC West preview: Picking Rams, but Cardinals temptingWell, based on what I saw Monday night, I still like the Rams. I know, they lost defensive back Jerametrius Butler for the season, and their defense leaked like the S.S. Minnow in a preseason loss to San Diego.
-09-07-2005 #3STLRAMSFAN Guest
Re: NFC West preview: Picking Rams, but Cardinals tempting
This is a duplicate post to the one thats 5 days old now.
"Picking Rams, but Cardinals tempting (NFC West Preview)"
Re: NFC West preview: Picking Rams, but Cardinals tempting
sorry my bad did not see it...