2013 NFL Preseason Predictions: NFC West (Yanotchko)
Here are my 2013 NFC West preseason predictions:
1. Seattle Seahawks (schedule): 12-4
The Seahawks certainly arrived last year, and quite earlier than most people thought was even possible. For Seattle, it all started once they found their quarterback in Russell Wilson, who lit the league in the second half of the 2012 campaign. The Seahawks still have the impressive ground game with beast mode Marshawn Lynch, and they will hope to get back the matchup headache Percy Harvin from hip surgery soon.
The Seahawks however are a team that is defined by their defense, as they have the league's best secondary. Richard Sherman certainly leads with his mouth, and they also have the best pair of safeties in the league in Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. Seattle has perhaps the most complete team in the league, and will take away San Francisco's NFC West crown this year.
2. San Francisco 49ers (schedule): 11-5 Wildcard
The 49ers were five yards away from being Super Bowl champions last year, and they will now have to deal with a much tougher NFC West this year. The 49ers have embraced the read option, and just like Seattle, they found their quarterback of the future in Colin Kaepernick when Alex Smith went down with injury last year. The Niners will be without their top receiver in Michael Crabtree to start the season with a torn Achilles, and they hope former Raven Anquan Boldin can fill his shoes.
When you think about the 49ers, you have to mention the league's best defense as they are stacked at every position. They have the best linebacking corps in the game with Aldon Smith, Navarro Bowman, and perennial first team All Pro Patrick Willis. The 49ers have even bolstered their already deep defense by adding Glenn Dorsey and Nnamdi Asomugha, and will still look to be the top unit in the league.
The 49ers will make it back to the playoffs again this year, but this time they will be going the wildcard route.
3. St Louis Rams (schedule): 6-10
The Rams were certainly frisky last year, as they gave many teams trouble, and they will be a much improved team again by years end. The Rams have a great coach in Jeff Fisher, who doesn't have the greatest talent to work with, but has them playing hard every game. The Rams have invested heavily in offense for the upcoming year by adding All Pro tackle Jake Long, and also by drafting speed merchant Tavon Austin from West Virgina.
This Rams team is absolutely paced by their defense as they have one of the top linebackers in the league in James Laurinaitis in the middle, and one of the upcoming secondaries with Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins.
The Rams will need to improve on a league-worst 18 points per game last year, and while adding Austin and tight end Jared Cook is a start, they still need more pieces than they currently have.
4. Arizona Cardinals (schedule): 3-13
The Cardinals will finally be heading into a season where they have a definitive starting QB in Carson Palmer, and this hasn't happened since Kurt Warner retired. The only question is of course how long will Palmer last, as any quarterback that lined up for the Cardinals last year almost got killed. The Cardinals season is not off to a good start, as first-round draft pick Jonathan Cooper is already out with a broken leg that was sustained in the preseason. The Cardinals do have have a trio of solid receivers to work with in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and Andre Roberts.
The Cardinals team strength lies in its defense however as they have a great line with Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett, star linebacker Karlos Dansby, and All Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals will be turned around under new coach Bruce Arians, but it will take time and a heck of a lot more building blocks through the draft.
All of our contributors will make their division and Super Bowl picks and we will track those on this centralized predictions page.