No reason to believe otherwise: this is the NFL’s best division. But just because it’s the best division in football, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the toughest to figure out. As a whole, it’s led to believe that this will be a down year for the division. The Seahawks are still the favorite but are dealing with minor issues to coincide with the Super Bowl hangover. The rest of the division is simply dealing with lots of injuries and we could see less of a dominance with their out-of-division games. How will things shake out for each individual team?
Seattle Seahawks: I’m sure that I don’t need to stress how difficult it is to repeat as Super Bowl champions. If Seattle were to accomplish the feat, it will have been the first time we’ve seen a team do that since the Patriots of the early 2000s. Despite the obstacles, this Seahawks team is the first team with a real chance to repeat in a long time. There’s a real chance that we’ll see them regress from last season but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t the favorites to win the division, and the conference, once again. Questions linger on the offense: how will Marshawn Lynch do and who is Russell Wilson going to to throw the ball to? Combine that with a few key departures on defense, mostly in the backfield, and we have a less potent team. Seahawks still win the West, but it’s not as impressive.
San Francisco 49ers: My argument still stands: the 49ers were the best team in the NFL the past two seasons. Unfortunately they had to deal with playing in the best division in football and suffered losses that felt more unfortunate than telling. Did San Francisco’s window close a bit after last season? Now that Colin Kaepernick got his big “but team friendly” contract, how does the pressure affect him? A healthy Michael Crabtree plus Steve Smith will certainly help things but the offense will need to be much more effective, seeing as their defense is dealing with some injuries and off-the-field issues that will result in suspensions. Can this team rely more on their offense? Some say that if they don’t compete once again for a title, this might be Jim Harbaugh’s last season. There’s potential for regression, but I think the Niners are, at worst, the second wild card.
Arizona Cardinals: By default, the Cardinals are the dark horse of the division. Especially with the Rams’ chances going down the drain. Arizona has been a playoff-caliber team for the past two seasons but are unfortunately in tough spot to actually make the postseason. Can they finally overcome their obstacles? Carson Palmer must, MUST, cut down on the turnovers. Their defense was solid last season but a couple of key players will be missing, so much like the 49ers, the Cardinals need to rely more on their offense. I like a big year from RB Andre Ellington and more focus on WR Michael Floyd. It’ll also be interesting to how well their secondary does with the return of Tyrann Mathieu. I like the Cardinals more than most people but maybe, just maybe if they were in another division, they could see success.
St. Louis Rams: This Rams team was showing signs of a breakout season, the only thing holding them back was a decent and healthy season from Sam Bradford to get things going in the right direction. But this is the NFL and sometimes, the worst of your team’s injuries occur before the season has even begun. Bradford tears his ACL during preseason and just like that, St. Louis’ season is pretty much lost. Their defense, particularly their front line, will be great but it won’t be enough. Bradford isn’t en elite quarterback by any stretch but he’s better than every single back up in the league. Now the topic turns from “Can the Rams be a playoff team?” to “Do the Rams part ways with Bradford?” because of one play in a meaningless game. With their starting QB gone, the Rams are looking at a long season.