2013 NFL Preseason Predictions: NFC West (Hanson)
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Here are my 2013 preseason predictions for the NFC West:
1. San Francisco 49ers (schedule): 13-3
Since taking over as head coach, Jim Harbaugh has back-to-back seasons with at least 11 wins and a Super Bowl appearance. After coming up short last year, it's now Super Bowl or bust for the Niners.
The 49ers have one of the league's best offensive lines, a dynamic quarterback in Colin Kaepernick and 30-years-young Frank Gore, who has back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons. Although the 49ers added Anquan Boldin, they will miss Michael Crabtree for most of the year due to an Achilles tear.
With few weaknesses, the Niners have as much of a chance to take home the Lombardi Trophy as any other team in the league.
2. Seattle Seahawks (schedule): 10-6
It was only a couple of years ago that the Seahawks and Rams were flexed into the Sunday Night Football matchup in Week 17 to determine who would win the NFC West. Ultimately the Seahawks left the contest as NFC West champs with a losing record (7-9). The division has certainly changed quite a bit in a short period of time.
While the Seahawks may be the second-best team in this division, I have them ranked second in my NFL power rankings. The 'Hawks are a complete team with a talented young quarterback in Russell Wilson, talented runners Marshawn Lynch and Christine Michael and an improved receiving corps once Percy Harvin returns from injury.
In addition, their defense is as good as it gets and they are solid at all three levels. Unlike the 49ers, however, the biggest strength of the Seahawks defense is their secondary with Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner at corner and Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas at safety.
Once the Seahawks are in the tourney, they will be a team that nobody wants to face in the Wild Card Round.
3. St. Louis Rams (schedule): 8-8
The Rams are an up-and-coming team that is also the youngest team in the league. They finally added some weapons in the passing game for Sam Bradford and Chris Givens could be on the verge of a breakout season. In addition, they added Jake Long in free agency as his blind-side protector.
Defensively, the Rams are solid across the board with standout players at multiple positions. Unfortunately for the Rams, it's a bit of a penalty to play in what many believe is the most competitive division in football now.
4. Arizona Cardinals (schedule): 5-12
The Cardinals took some steps to improve their biggest trouble areas: quarterback and offensive line. They traded for Carson Palmer and drafted Jonathan Cooper in the first round, but Cooper is out for the year with a fractured leg.
Like the rest of the teams in this division, the Cardinals have an above-average defense led by Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson.
All of our contributors will make their division and Super Bowl picks and we will track those on this centralized predictions page.