For years now the NFC West has been considered the worst division in the NFL. However, the division that was once known as the NFC worst, is now considered by many to be the best in football.
With the emergence of the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks, plus the seemingly very bright future of the St. Louis Rams, the Cardinals have a lot of work to do if they want to contend for an NFC West championship. So, the question becomes, where do the Cardinals stand in this new and improved NFC West?
San Francisco- The 49ers have now been to the playoffs in back to back seasons and are the defending NFC champions under now third year head coach Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers did lose starting safety Dashon Goldson in free agency, as well as starting wide receiver Michael Crabtree to a torn Achilles tendon in OTAs.
However, with the additions of guys like wide receiver Anquan Boldin and defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey in free agency, as well as free safety Eric Reid in the draft, the 49ers continued to stock pile talent this offseason. However, the key to the 49ers success will be the success of the read-option. If the read-option continues to be successful then the 49ers will probably win 11-13 games this season, if not, it will be interesting to see how Harbaugh and quarterback Colin Kaepernick adjust.
The Cardinals and 49ers have had a great rivalry for the past six or seven years now and with the improvements the Cardinals made this offseason there is no reason in my opinion they can’t at least win one game this year against the 49ers. I believe both games will be close.
Seattle- The Seahawks were the surprise team of the NFL last season. Behind a great defense and the emergence of Russell Wilson at quarterback, the Seahawks went on to win 11 games and a playoff win against the Washington Redskins. Like the 49ers the Seahawks continued to stockpile talent this offseason with the addition of Percy Harvin from the Minnesota Vikings. Much like the 49ers, much of the success of the Seahawks will depend on the read-option as it is a big part of their offense.
I am not a big believer in the Seattle Seahawks. While they are a talented team, Pete Carroll has yet to show that he can establish long term success in the NFL. If defenses figure out the read-option, Russell Wilson becomes an average 5’10” quarterback. I think the Cardinals can at least split the season series with Seattle, with a win at home and a loss in Seattle.
St. Louis- The Rams had two first round draft picks this year as well as next year. The Rams added a lot of talent this offseason with the signing of tackle Jake Long from the Miami Dolphins, and drafting wide receiver Tavon Austin, and linebacker Alec Ogletree. The Rams possess a solid defense, but many questions on offense.
This is a make or break year for quarterback Sam Bradford, but the Rams also have to find a replacement for the departed Steven Jackson and if Tavon Austin can replace Danny Amendola and be the number one receiver that the Rams have never had.
The Rams are a team that no one really knows about right now. The Cardinals have been able to have success against the Rams since 2004, and I don’t think that will change this year. I think with the Cardinals improvements, they can win both games against the Rams this year.
So adding up all of those different scenarios against all three of the Cardinals NFC West opponents, I think a 4-2 record in the division is reachable. I think the Cardinals can have a successful season and would be considered contenders in every other division in football. We will have to see if the improvements that all of the NFC West teams have made will pay off this season.