As promised, here is the second conference preview of the day, the mediocre NFC West.
St. Louis Rams (Playoffs)
This is an ugly division that will end up being competitive simply because all the teams are so mediocre. Any team, except the 49ers, could end up winning the division with a .500 record and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised. It's essentially a competition to see who can be the least mediocre. (insert NL West joke here)
I like the Rams to win this division simply because they have the best offense and are the most experienced playoff team. With Stephen Jackson playing a bigger role in the offense, they should have a more balanced attack. Plus Mike Martz is the best offensive coordinator in the game.
For all the attention that Drew Rosenhaus has had lately, who ever Shaun Alexander's agent is deserves some recognition. Knowing Seattle would slap the franchise tag on Alexander until his knees gave out, his agent argues for a new contract that pays Alexander the same amount he would make by accepting the franchise tag PLUS it prevents Seattle from applying the franchise tag to Alexander next off season.
As a result Alexander will be an unrestricted free agent when the season ends, which means he will be playing for a new contract next season. Considering Alexander was a yard away from leading the NFL in rushing last season, it's scary to think what a motivated Alexander is capable of. Too bad they have a defense with seven new starters.. The Seahawks haven't won a playoff game since 1984 and there is no way they will win one this season.
Has there ever been more hype around a team that went 6-10 the previous season?
I like their defense (ranked 12th last season) and their receiving corp is stocked with young talent. Their offensive line is one of the biggest in the NFL, and they have one of the better offensive coaches in the league.
Unfortunately, Kurt "Immobile Target" Warner is their quarterback. Sure, Warner returns to the division he dominated en route to winning two league MVP awards. While Warner has one of the quicker releases in the NFL, he has feet made of lead. Even if the offensive line can do a better job of protecting Warner (a BIG if considering the o-line has struggled in the preseason) than the Giants or Rams were able to do, rookie J.J. Arrington is still too small to be a starting runningback. I see easily see the Cardinals going 4 and 2 to start the season before struggling to a .500 record.
San Francisco 49ers
Not starting Alex Smith at the beginning of the season is a smart move by the 49ers coaching staff. It kills a rookie quarterback's confidence to throw him into the frying pan when the rest of his team is so lousy. He ends up over-extending himself, which leads to interceptions and sacks, which could damage him mentally for the rest of his career.
By the way, October 2nd the 49ers-Cardinals game will be played in Mexico City. This is akin to the Montreal Expos playing their home games in Puerto Rico. On the schedule this is a home game for the Cardinals, but the Arizona owner(s) realized there was no way they were going to make money from this game and decided to move it to one of the biggest stadiums in the world to try and make a profit.