Friday, August 04, 2006

More NFL predictions: NFC West

Seahawks 12-4

I’m not as sold on the Seahawks as a lot of people. I view last year as a year where pretty much everything went right for them, and I still see the team that went 8-8 and 9-7 for so many years. Still, I think they have improved this offseason on paper, so I only see a nominal drop-off from the tremendous success they had last year. I think they’re going to be in more close games. The Seattle offense is going to miss Steve Hutchinson, and that line is really important to setting up the entire offense. Their wide receiving corps has a lot of question marks, and without a consistent running game the whole thing would shut down. I don’t think that’s going to happen thanks to the excellence of Shaun Alexander and a still strong line led by Walter Jones. Matt Hasselbeck is an underrated quarterback, as I think he’s one of the best in the game but doesn’t really get that credit. On defense, I think their defensive line overachieved last year, but as long as they can continue to be strong on that front, they’ll be fine. Their secondary is strong and I like the addition of Julian Peterson assuming he can stay healthy. So I guess I’m in the odd position of knocking a team I think will do well, because while I think they are better than the pack, I don’t think they’re that much better than the pack.

Rams 10-6

I’ve decided the Rams are my surprise team this year. Every year in the NFL I try to pick a surprise team that finished under .500 the year before and nobody is predicting much from as a team that will be much better. And I’ve been doing pretty well at it, picking the Steelers two years ago (people forget that nobody was giving them credit then after a 6-10 season) and the Bucs last year. I hadn’t even settled on my surprise team until I was thinking about the NFC West over the past few days. Here’s my thinking. This team has all the tools on offense you could want. Marc Bulger is an excellent quarterback. Steven Jackson is a tough, big halfback. Torry Holt is an elite receiver, and Isaac Bruce and Kevin Curtis are nice complements. The offensive line is strong as well. Basically the problem has been that Mike Martz has been too pass happy and that imbalance has created turnovers and too much pressure on the defense. The new philosophy seems to be to concentrate more on running, and I don’t see why that won’t work. Then on defense they have a renewed focus under Jim Haslett, a strong defensive mind. They have a very good front seven led by Leonard Little and Pisa Tinoisamoa and the addition of Will Witherspoon. If they can control the ball on offense with more running and take the pressure off the defense, this will be a much improved team and their confidence will increase rapidly. So what the hell, I’m predicting good things from the Rams in 2006.

Cardinals 7-9

The Cardinals are a chic upset pick this year, and for that matter, they have been a chic upset pick for a number of years. I think there is definite merit to the notion that the Cardinals are a team to be afraid of, but I don’t think they’re there yet. The reason is pretty simple. I don’t trust Kurt Warner to make it through the season, and while I think Matt Leinart will be an excellent NFL QB, he isn’t ready yet. This team is going to be dangerous in a couple years when Leinart is developed with all the weapons around him. But this year they are going to have growing pains in trying to find the right balance between passing and rushing, and the transition towards Leinart as the leader of the football team. I love the Cardinals receivers. Anquan Boldin has been a monster in his early career, and I think Larry Fitzgerald has even more upside than him. But they have not been able to establish a running game at all in recent years, and I think that is as much on the offensive line as it is on the running backs. Edgerrin James unquestionably upgrades that, and I think the offense will show sparks of greatness but also be inconsistent. The defense has been quietly improving, but don’t have as much raw talent as a lot of teams. It’s good enough to keep them in games, but not good enough to dominate, so I think the impetus for improvement is going to be on the offense. Bertrand Berry’s health will be key for the defense, as will be the development of their younger players. They have kind of neglected the defensive side of the ball in recent drafts, which leaves them with a dearth of young developing defensive talent, not unlike the Redskins.

49ers 2-14

What is there to like about the San Francisco 49ers in 2006? The only hope for this season is to start Trent Dilfer, but that might get them to 4-12 rather than 2-14, and only make it harder for a potential larger turnaround in future years. Alex Smith looked amazingly bad last year, and you can count me among those ready to already give up on him. He has next to nothing at WR either, and I’m not sold on Frank Gore at HB. Vernon Davis and Eric Johnson are a good pair of TEs, but that’s about it. On defense, they managed to lose the guy who could have offered the most immediate help in Julian Peterson, and lack talent at most every position. This team is going to have an ugly, ugly year.


Anonymous Phil said...

Don't see what there isn't to like about the Seahawks' receivers. Darrell Jackson is a terrific talent who produced like a number one last year while Bobby Engram, though in his thirties is always amongst the leaders in % of catches going for first downs. Nate Burleson is roughly a league average WR. According to Football Outsiders, D.J. Hackett had more value than any player thrown less than 50 passes last year, small sample size duly noted. Jerramy Stevens is an above average tight end (if you were counting TEs which I'm not sure you were).
I agree with you on the Cards not so much on the Rams but you said it was a surprise pick anyways.

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least we have a professional football team in San Francisco :D

9:58 PM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

I actually really like Darrell Jackson as well, but I'm not betting on any wide receiver recovering from a serious knee injury. That's the sort of injury that drops guys out of the league overnight. I don't trust him as a number one at all. Burleson is also an injury question mark, and I'm not as sold on his talent to begin with. Engram to me is just a guy. He'll catch passes, but he isn't going to significantly improve an offense. I cop to not knowing much about Hackett, so maybe he will step up. But I'm deeply suspicious of that group. Burleson isn't a 1, Engram isn't a 2, and Jackson is a question mark.

There are actually a lot of people from NorCal at school here, and man, 49ers fans are a *depressed* bunch. My sports law class last semester a few times felt like a collective grieving session on a few occasions for that franchise.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Dave Ling & Franchise said...

I'm a monster Seahawks fan since the lean Largent years but even my excitement in tempered with the team this year. I think the WR corps is going to really miss Joe Jurevicius' steady hands and leadership. Burleson was aweful last year and Jackson is hurt. However, the O-line is still good, even without Hutch and Alexander is the best player in the league (if he was in NY he would be a legend).

The story in Seattle will be the D. Julian Peterson was a key addition and if youngsters like Tatupu, Tubbs, Hill and Boulware can keep progressing, then the Seahawks will be in good shape.

Expectations on the Seahawks are far beyond winning the NFC West, where they should roll. Superbowl or bust.

There's professional football in San Francisco? There's a couple of pro players in San Fran, far too few to consider them a team full of them.

Fitzgerald is going to have a ridiculous year in Arizona. Edge is going to open up the passing game and Fitz should run wild to lead the league in reception yardage.

Quality pick with the Rams to bounce back now that Martz is gone. They're still offense centric with Linehan at the helm so if their D can get it done, they should battle the Cards for second in this division, which might be good enough for a playoff spot.

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There IS a professional football team in San Francisco that has won FIVE NFL Championships which makes it...let me count...that would be FIVE more than Seattle. Wait till they at least win one title before you start mouthing off.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Dave Ling & Franchise said...

There was a professional football team in San Francisco a decade ago until mismanagement of the reality of the salary cap system caused that one time proud franchise to be a laughing stock. That's not me mouthing off, that's an unfortunate fact.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Niners will be improved this year offensively. I like what they have done with the offensive line, the addition of Antonio Bryant and the drafting of Davis. The question is going to be if they can stop anybody defensively. They are going to need immediate impact from Manny Lawson as far as a pass rush and for two cornerbacks to step up as stoppers and keep teams from converting 3rd downs to their wide receivers.

9:37 AM  

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