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2004 NFL PREVIEW: Team Forecasts & Early Predictions - NFC West

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  • 2004 NFL PREVIEW: Team Forecasts & Early Predictions - NFC West

    2004 NFL PREVIEW: Team Forecasts & Early Predictions - Part II Ė NFC West
    Monday, August 16, 2004
    By Drew Cook
    Courtesy of PrimeSportsPicks.com


    Part I of our 2004 NFL Preview covered the NFC East & in Part II we will breakdown the NFC West. Upcoming articles will feature the remaining divisions. Again, our team forecasts are designed to provide insight on predicting total teams wins, so that you can take advantage of the value found in wagering on the Total Team Wins futures propositions.

    NFC West
    -Seattle Seahawks: Prediction Over 9 Wins - In 2004, the Seattle Seahawks may just be the team to beat in the NFC. Coming out of the relatively weak NFC West, Seattle should head into the season as the division favorite with the Rams as their only true competition. The Seahawks were (5-1) in their division last year and a perfect (8-0) at home, but if they are going to go far this year, they must improve on their (2-6) road record. It appears that the schedule makers were paying attention to these numbers because Seattle will not only play their first 2 games of the season on the road, but also six of their first nine games as well. If the Seahawks can keep things together during this early stretch on the road, they will have a great opportunity to finish the season strong playing 5 of their last 7 games at home.

    On offense the Seahawks should once again be very solid with all of their skill players returning - (QB) Matt Hasselbeck (26 td's in 2003), (RB) Shaun Alexander (1,435 yards & 14 td's), (WR) Darrell Jackson and (WR) Koren Robinson. This unit ranked #7 in scoring last year, averaging over 25 points per game.

    The defense made some serious progress in 2003, but could have trouble due to the departure of several players - (DT) John Randle, (LB) Randall Godfrey, (SS) Reggie Tongue, and (CB) Shawn Springs. However, in their place the Seahawks have brought in (DE) Grant Wistrom from division rival St. Louis and (CB) Bobby Taylor from Philadelphia and drafted Marcus Tubbs from Texas in the first-round. Taylor and second-year CB Marcus Trufant will make up a formidable duo in the secondary, which could should give receivers all they can handle.

    With Mike Holmgren & Ray Rhodes having all these tools at their disposal, Seattle should once again be a serious force in the NFC West. Look for the Seahawks to improve on their (2-6) road record and surpass the 9 win mark in 2004.


    -St. Louis Rams: Prediction Over 9.5 Wins - Coming off a 12 win season, the Rams have done little in the free-agent market to alter their team. Offensively they were awesome in 2003, racking up 447 points, good for the second most in the league. (QB) Marc Bulger will once again lead this impressive unit with (RB) Marshall Faulk, (WR) Torry Holt and (WR) Isaac Bruce. Holt showed that he is one of the games best receivers leading the league with 117 receptions for nearly 1,700 yards and 12 touchdowns. While Faulk and Bruce are getting on in years, they are both still potent weapons that can make big plays, combining for over 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns last year. The Rams did move up in the draft to take (RB) Steven Jackson from Oregon State in the first-round (who was arguably one of the best running backs coming out of college last year).

    Defensively the Rams could be considered losers in the off-season due to the departures of (DE) Grant Wistrom to Seattle and defensive coordinator Lovie Smith who moved on to Chicago to coach the Bears. St. Louis had big trouble stopping the run last year allowing 124 yards per game on the ground, which they are going to need to improve. Their linebackers and secondary are full of good young talented players, lead by (LB) Robert Thomas and (SS) All-Pro Adam Archuleta.

    Expect another solid season from the Rams in 2004. They should get out of the gate quickly, opening the year playing 3 of their first 4 games against teams that finished under .500 in 2003. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, St. Louis should reach the double-digit win total for the fourth time in the last five seasons.


    -San Francisco *****: Prediction Over 5.5 Wins - Unlike the Rams and Seahawks who will have all their offensive personnel returning, San Francisco will start the season with a completely new look and changes at all three skill positions. Gone are (QB) Jeff Garcia, (RB) Garrison Hearst, (WR) Terrell Owens and (WR) Tai Streets. In their places the ***** will be going with (QB) Tim Rattay, (RB) Kevan Barlow and a group of relative unknowns at the receiver position, including second-year (WR) Brandon Lloyd, third-year (WR) Cedric Wilson and rookie (WR) Rashaun Woods drafted in the first-round out of Oklahoma State.

    Kevan Barlow, who took over the starting running back job at the end of last season, should be the bright spot on offense. Barlow looked great at times in 2003, rushing for over 1,000 yards in just 201 carries for a 5.1 average. Besides Barlow, the rest of the offense is a big question mark with little experience. Tim Rattay did complete 61% of his passes last year, but he has just 3 career NFL starts, so who knows how long he can hold up, especially coming back from off-season groin surgery. If Rattay canít go the ***** will look to second-year (QB) Ken Dorsey who has never taken a snap in the NFL. Cedrick Wilson will be the leading receiver returning with only 35 catches last year, so to add experience, San Francisco went out and signed veteran (WR) Curtis Conway. The ***** will get (TE) Eric Johnson back after missing the entire 2003 season with injury. Johnson had 76 receptions in his first 2 years, so his presence should make a difference.

    While the offense is up in the air, the defense should once again be sound and will truly determine how the team finishes. (LB) Julian Peterson, the heart of the defense, led this unit in sacks and finished second in tackles last season. Currently, Peterson is holding out, but itís likely that he will return to the team in time for their first game of the year. With a solid front seven, the ***** should play tough enough to keep themselves in many games. Expect 2004 to be a rebuilding year, as the team should take a step backwards. However, if the offense can put things together, and they continue to play well at home, the ***** could post a 6 win season.


    -Arizona Cardinals: Prediction Under 5 Wins - Do you remember that last second comeback victory in the final week of the season against Minnesota, which eliminated the Vikings from the playoffs? Well, that one play along with rookie sensation Anquan Boldin were perhaps the only two highlights in the desert last year. New head coach Dennis Green will certainly have his work cut out for him to turn around a franchise that has compiled just 25 wins over the last 5 years.

    The Cardinals finished last season as the worst offensive unit in points scored - averaging just 14.4 per game. Arizona will head into 2004 with third-year (QB) Josh McCowan leading an offense with a ton of potential, but little experience. McCowan (having just 3 NFL starts) will again lineup along side offensive rookie of the year (WR) Anquan Boldin, second-year (WR) Bryant Johnson, first-round pick (WR) Larry Fitzgerald, & (RB) Marcel Shipp. However, serious pre-season injuries to Boldin and Shipp have cost the Cardinals big time. Shipp, the teamís rushing leader went down with a broken leg & will be out of action for at least the 8 weeks, while arthroscopy knee surgery will keep Boldin off the field until at least October. The Cardinals will be forced to look to former All-Pro Emmitt Smith to pick up the slack and replace Shipp at the start of the season, but the absence of Boldin, the teamís offensive leader, will certain hurt a roster already light on depth at the skill positions.

    If defense wins games, then the Cardinals are going to be in for another long and disappointing season. This team finished near the bottom of the league in almost every defensive category last year, and not surprisingly, allowed the most points against -28.3 per game. The Cardinals brought in free-agent (DE) Bertrand Berry in an attempt to bolster their pass rush, which was ranked 30th in the league in 2003. Last season Berry had 11.5 sacks for Denver, which were 8.5 more than any other Cardinal player. Arizona also tried to improve their defense through the draft by selecting (LB) Karlos Dansby from Auburn in the second-round & (DT) Darnell Dockett from Florida State in the third-round. Even with (LB) Ray Thompson (tied for team lead in sacks), (LB) Ronald McKinnon (leader in tackles), & (FS) Dexter Jackson (leader in interceptions), the Cardinals should continue to struggle keeping opponents out of the end zone.

    The deck seems to be stacked against Arizona already in 2004. Besides suffering injuries to key players and having a lack of leadership and experience, the Cardinals are also the proud owners of the leagueís second most difficult schedule. Having to face the Rams and Patriots in the first two weeks of the season, without their top players in the lineup, could spell trouble for an Arizona club trying to climb its way out of the proverbial basement. If not for that last second victory in the final week of the season, the Cardinals would have managed only 3 wins last year. Itís hard to expect much more in 2004 from a team that is already starting behind the 8-ball.

    Best of luck,
    - Drew Cook
    Prime Sports Picks

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  • Rambos
    NFC West preview: Picking Rams, but Cardinals tempting
    by Rambos
    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
    Offense: 367.3
    Defense: 334.6
    19
    25
    6
    17

    2. Cardinals 2004: 6-10 Rank
    Pt. Scored: 284
    Pt. Allowed: 322
    Offense: 284.4
    Defense: 321.3
    26
    12
    27
    12

    3. Seahawks 2004: 9-7 Rank
    Pt. Scored: 371
    Pt. Allowed: 373
    Offense: 352.1
    Defense: 351.3
    12
    22
    8
    26

    4. ***** 2004: 2-14 Rank
    Pt. Scored: 259
    Pt. Allowed: 452
    Offense: 286.2
    Defense: 342.6
    30
    32
    26
    24

    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. ...
    -09-06-2005, 09:05 PM
  • MauiRam
    NFL Nation: 4 Downs -- NFC West ..
    by MauiRam
    By ESPN.com staff | ESPN.com

    The NFC West had three teams that won at least 10 games last season, two teams in the NFC Championship Game and a team that won the Super Bowl by 35 points.

    Consequently, there is no lack of confidence about the 2014 season for the teams in this division. Three of them -- the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco ***** and Arizona Cardinals -- can make a legitimate argument for winning the division title.

    But until the ***** or the Cardinals prove otherwise, the Seahawks are the clear favorites, not only to win the division crown but to return to the Super Bowl.

    The Seahawks, however, realize the biggest obstacle to repeating as Super Bowl winners lies within their own division. The NFC West is widely regarded as the best division in the NFL. It's also the most physical division in the league, which means the division rivals tend to beat up on each other.

    Here's how Seahawks reporter Terry Blount, St. Louis Rams reporter Nick Wagoner, Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and ***** reporter Bill Williamson see each team finishing in 2014:

    First Down
    What will the *****' record be and why?

    Terry Blount: 12-4. The ***** have a shiny new stadium, which I see them taking full advantage of and probably going unbeaten at home. Their home game against the Seahawks comes on Thanksgiving night, which likely will be a frenzied holiday crowd in front of a national TV audience. However, I don't see things going quite as smoothly on the road. I have the ***** losing at Arizona, Denver, New Orleans and Seattle. The key for San Francisco is how the team performs in a five-game midseason stretch that includes four road games -- St. Louis, Denver, New Orleans and the New York Giants. The ***** do have a bye week in that stretch, but how they get through the middle part of the schedule will determine their fate.
    Nick Wagoner: 11-5. It's awfully tempting to elevate the ***** above the Seahawks, especially after a productive offseason in which San Francisco bolstered its offense by retaining Anquan Boldin, trading for Stevie Johnson and drafting talented young playmakers Bruce Ellington and Carlos Hyde. Not to mention Michael Crabtree is healthy. It wouldn't surprise anyone to see Colin Kaepernick take a big step forward with all of those weapons at his disposal. However, it's fair to wonder if the Niners' defense can continue its dominance. They'll certainly miss NaVorro Bowman early and they have some pieces to replace in the secondary. Mostly, it's picking nits when it comes to the Niners, and I see no reason to believe this team isn't going to be a serious Super Bowl contender again.

    Josh Weinfuss: 10-6. This may be a bit on the nice side, considering the run of injuries to running backs since training camp started, but I think the *****' passing game and Colin Kaepernick's feet will make up for at least one game...
    -08-01-2014, 10:41 AM
  • RamWraith
    It's a two-horse race
    by RamWraith
    By Ira Miller
    Special to NFL.com

    (With the NFL regular season set to kick off on Thursday, Sept. 9, NFL.com has put together an eight-part series previewing each team division by division. Here is the NFC West.)

    Overview

    Realignment has not been kind to the NFC West. The division produced eight Super Bowl teams in 21 seasons prior to realignment, but in two years since the league went to its eight-division format, the NFC West has failed to even advance a team to the NFC Championship Game.

    St. Louis finished in first place last season with a 12-4 record, and Seattle also reached the playoffs as a wild-card team at 10-6. The Seahawks had a better record within the division -- 5-1 compared to the Rams' 4-2 -- but their poor record outside the division (5-5) and their poor record on the road (2-6) kept them from finishing first. Neither team advanced after their first playoff game.

    The Seahawks lost an overtime thriller at Green Bay, and the Rams, who had won 14 consecutive home games, lost a double-overtime game at home against Carolina.

    Once more, these appear to be the only true playoff contenders in the division. The ***** are in a total rebuilding mode, tearing apart their offense after a 7-9 season. And the Cardinals are starting over with new coach Dennis Green after going 4-12.

    Seattle, which has built a strong offense and is showing signs of improvement on defense, is considered the division favorite. History also favors the Seahawks. No team has repeated as NFC West champion since the ***** won the last of four consecutive titles in 1995.

    Arizona is the only team with a new coach. The ***** will have a new starting quarterback -- Tim Rattay if he is healthy, Ken Dorsey if Rattay is not. The Cards also have a quasi-new starter because Josh McCown started only three games last season.

    Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Rams running back Steven Jackson appear to be the two most eagerly anticipated rookies in the division. Fitzgerald was the third overall pick in the draft and Jackson was 24th. The *****, having dispatched Terrell Owens in the purge of their offense, are hoping that first-round pick Rashaun Woods can pick up the slack. Seattle expects its top two draft picks -- defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs and strong safety Michael Boulware -- to play significant roles in improving its defense.

    Movers and shakers

    Green took his Minnesota teams to the playoffs eight times in 10 years with seven different starting quarterbacks. It would be hard to find a coach more qualified to wade into a long-time chaotic situation. With a new stadium under construction, the Cards are perfectly positioned to begin the kind of turnaround that Tampa Bay made under Tony Dungy about a decade ago.

    There are new defensive coordinators in St. Louis and San Francisco, both of whom...
    -08-27-2004, 12:08 PM
  • RamWraith
    NFL 2004: This could be the year the Rams start to fade
    by RamWraith
    DAVE GOLDBERG, AP Football Writer

    In the last five seasons, the St. Louis Rams have won three NFC West titles, two NFC championships and one Super Bowl, and their 56-24 regular-season record is tied with Tennessee for best in the NFL over that span.

    The emergence of the Seattle Seahawks and some pressing problems in St. Louis threaten to make the Rams just another team this season.

    The problem is not the departure of Kurt Warner. The Rams didn't win a game he started the past two seasons and Marc Bulger is more than a capable successor, although he'll probably never reach the MVP level Warner did in his prime. It's more injuries and the erosion of talent that's so prevalent in the salary-cap era.

    "It gets more difficult as you win to keep your free agents because it seems like you win, everybody wants your guys," says guard Adam Timmerman. "We've kept a core group of guys and we've kept the guys we need."

    Except that this year, the core is smaller than ever and injuries could cause a chain reaction.

    The Rams enter the season with serious questions on the offensive line. Andy McCollum, newly switched back to center, and Timmerman are the only sure things. Left tackle Orlando Pace has been staging his annual holdout; right tackle Kyle Turley is lost for the year with back problems; and center Dave Wohlabaugh was released after flunking a physical.

    Those woes are compounded by the fact Warner no longer is around as a security blanket for Bulger. Warner was released for salary cap reasons and landed with the Giants. So the backup quarterback is 38-year-old Chris Chandler, who could rarely stay healthy when he was young.

    The line problems also could cause trouble for star RB Marshall Faulk, who is 31 and hasn't played a full season in any of the past four years. First-round pick Steven Jackson has been very good in preseason.

    So the Rams are in the unusual position of underdogs in their division to Seattle, which last season finally exhibited the explosive offense expected when Mike Holmgren took over in 1999.

    St. Louis remains at least a wild-card contender because the other two teams in the division -- San Francisco and Arizona -- are rebuilding. The ***** are on the way down, the Cardinals, perhaps, finally on the way up under new coach Dennis Green, who got the Vikings to the playoffs in eight of his 10 seasons in Minnesota.

    But injuries to Anquan Boldin and Marcel Shipp, two of their offensive stars, could hinder Arizona.

    The Rams will still be fun to watch.

    Torry Holt has emerged as the star of "the greatest show on turf" -- his 117 catches led the league last season and were 48 more than fellow receiver Isaac Bruce had. Not only did Bruce slip a little but so did Faulk, who had his second consecutive season with...
    -09-02-2004, 06:21 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams are the best pick among a weak west
    by RamWraith
    By BARRY WILNER
    AP Football Writer


    The fashionable pick in the NFC West these days seems to be Arizona.
    We're not going to be fashionable, although the Cardinals are improved
    and should reach the .500 mark for the first time since 1998, when
    they were 9-7.

    And an 8-8 record could sneak off with this weak division, where only
    the ***** aren't good enough to contend.

    Still, the Rams should have plenty of offense and just enough defense
    to overcome any challenges - and overcome coach Mike Martz's sometimes
    strange sideline decisions.

    Seattle seems too fragile and must prove it can beat the Rams, who
    swept three meetings with the Seahawks last year.

    These are not quite the Rams who dominated the early decade with a
    scintillating passing attack and the magical Marshall Faulk. Steven
    Jackson has usurped Faulk as the starting running back, and Marc
    Bulger long ago took over for Kurt Warner, who is now with the
    Cardinals.

    "When he has that adrenaline going, he's tough to bring down," Bulger
    says of Jackson, in his second pro season. "You give him a little bit
    of a crease, his legs are so big and he's so strong that he's tough to
    bring down."

    The receiving corps remains dynamic as long as Torry Holt and Isaac
    Bruce are around, and Rams fans are excited about Kevin Curtis and
    Shaun McDonald. Bulger could have more options than Warner did -if
    Jackson is as good as advertised and Faulk still has some of his touch
    - and the line is one of the NFL's best.

    For St. Louis to do better than the 8-8 that got it into the playoffs
    as a wild card, it needs a less-charitable defense. The Rams yielded
    an ugly 392 points last season, 12th in the NFC.

    That prompted a bunch of moves, particularly at linebacker (Dexter
    Coakley and Chris Claiborne) and in the secondary, where starting CB
    Jerametrius Butler already is gone with a wrecked knee. If the Rams
    can cover people and get the usual pass rush from end Leonard Little,
    plus improved performances from the LBs, they should be the class of
    the division.

    Watch for DT Jimmy Kennedy and end Anthony Hargrove to support Little,
    which should help the so-so secondary.

    "We played pretty well on the defensive line last year and I felt like
    our linebacker play wasn't what it needed to be," Martz said. "We've
    made the personnel changes, and it was significant. This is as excited
    as I've been about a defense here."

    They're excited about defense in the desert, too. Indeed, the
    Cardinals are showing more signs of life in all areas than at any time
    recently, and if the Rams remain a .500 team,...
    -08-30-2005, 05:40 PM
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