The race for the Super Bowl XLV championship is as wide open as ever. We will sort out the pretenders from the contenders, starting with NFC West and AFC West.
St. Louis Rams – The Rams are coming off a horrendous season, where they went 1-15, the bright side is that paved the way for Sam Bradford. Bradford has been showing flashes of brilliance this preseason, as he has completed 60 percent of his passes and has not thrown an interception. Unfortunately for the former Sooner his job just got a little harder, after wide receiver Donnie Avery suffered a season ending injury. Even with Bradford and Steven Jackson, the Rams leading rusher and receiver last season, expect St. Louis to make another run for the number one overall pick in 2011.
Seattle Seahawks – I’m jumping on the Seahawks bandwagon! Well, maybe not.
I almost convinced myself that Seattle can win the weak NFC West because Matt Hasselbeck is the only starting quarterback in the division with any postseason experience and that Pete Carroll is a defensive genius. Then I came back to reality after seeing that Hasselbeck was only able to throw 17 touchdowns and was picked off 17 times in 2009. Also, Seattle’s defense has too many problems for Carroll to solve in one year. My last draw on Seattle was when I heard they released T.J. Houshmandzadeh because Mike Williams (who at one point weighed 270 pounds) is having an amazing preseason, give me a break! Sorry Seahawk fans but look forward to another dismal season.
San Francisco 49ers – Almost every football expert has penciled in the 49ers as the NFC West division winner in 2010 due to their talented roster but people should not be quick to give the crown to San Francisco just yet. They still have a lot of questions to answer, especially on offense.
Alex Smith, the former No. 1 overall pick, has not proved to be an elite quarterback. Yeah, he has shown he can play under the spread offense but that could hurt Frank Gore’s performance in the running game. Also, Michael Crabtree has yet to prove that he can be a No 1 wide out and has recently been questioned about his work ethic after Vernon Davis got in his face about his lack of effort during training camp.
Davis was almost ready to be named a bust until his break out season in 2009, where he tied the tight end touchdown receiving record with 13, but the question is can he do it for back-to-back seasons?
If Smith is the real deal then this is the season to prove he can make the offense click mainly because the Niners spent two first-round picks on offensive linemen.
Arizona Cardinals (my pick for NFC West Champion) – The best thing Cardinal fans can wish for in 2010, besides winning the Super Bowl, is Matt Leinart getting released.
The Cardinals are having plenty of issues finding a replacement for Kurt Warner, but with Leinart getting the boot from Arizona, Derek Anderson can now center on building chemistry with the offense. The former Pro Bowler has shown he can create with productive offensive weapons, as he did in Cleveland.
Fortunately for Arizona they have arguably the best receiver in the league, Larry Fitzgerald, who can make any quarterback look good. But after Anquan Boldin’s departure to Baltimore, look ahead to teams doubling on Fitzgerald. That’s where the running game comes into play.
If running backs Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower can move the chains that will make defenses focus less on Fitzgerald. Also, up and coming receiver Steve Breaston can make big time plays for Arizona.
The Cardinals have most of their defense intact and have an easy schedule, only playing four playoff teams from a year ago.
Predicted Standings – 1. Cardinals (8-8, win tie breaker), 2. 49ers (8-8), 3. Seahawks (5-11), 4. Rams (3-13)