NFC West Preview

After leading the Niners to the Super Bowl expectations are high for Kaepernick.

Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals have one of the more daunting tasks in the NFL as they look to make headway against one of the better perceived divisions in football. The Cardinals last season got off to a very impressive start with a 4-0 record, including a victory over the New England Patriots. As great as they started though, they hit rock bottom in a hurry losing nine in a row. Their biggest problem was on offense where their offensive line wasn’t very good and they’ve had a lot of trouble with their quarterbacks whether they were injured or not being very effective. They have solved that issue by bringing in Carson Palmer who is a serviceable NFL quarterback. Although Palmer has ruffled some feathers in the past with the Bengals, he didn’t cause a problem with Oakland and will likely be the same in Arizona. Their offensive line was one of the worst in league history as they ranked last in yards per rush as well as sacks given up per pass attempt.  They selected one of the best players in the draft in Jonathan Cooper to help the inside line. Levi Brown also makes a return after missing all of last year with a torn tricep and if he can remain somewhat healthy will be very important for Arizona. Bruce Arians takes over for the Cardinals as head coach. He had one of the more documented stories last year in the NFL when in Chuck Pagano’s absence due to cancer, he led the Indianapolis Colts to an unlikely playoff spot. His offensive play calling will be very interesting for the Cardinals and should be a definitive asset. He was able to help Reggie Wayne put up hall-of-fame level numbers and the Cardinals are hoping Larry Fitzgerald will be rejuvenated after seeing his numbers go the way of the Cardinals the last couple seasons. Arizona does have a good defense and Bruce Arians went with Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator. Last year, they finished top five in passing defense, third-down stops, turnovers and red zone defense. The bottom line is that the Cardinals are in a very tough division and in the NFL, let downs do happen. They should be an improved team, but given the quality of divisional opponents, their win number might not necessarily improve. Dan Sohler

The Cardinals have a new quarterback and coach in Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians.

St. Louis Rams

It was an exciting 2012 in St Louis as they went 7-8-1 and brought respectable football back to the Edward Jones Dome. Jeff Fisher has instilled a new culture and plans to have post season football back real soon. In order for the Rams to play January football they will need Sam Bradford to stay healthy. They addressed that concern in the off season with the signing of Jake Long at tackle. An offensive staple, Steven Jackspn moved to Atlanta and will be replaced by Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead in the backfield. The Rams spent their first round pick on play maker Tavon Austin from West Virginia to improve the receiving corps. They have another Long, Chris Long, on the defensive line that can get to the quarterback and a monster in the middle with James Laurinaitis. Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins have corner back shored up but safety is still a concern in the secondary. The Rams are still a notch below the top of the division, but good things are on the horizon in St Louis. Scott Boutcher

Tavon Austin will be looking to make an impact on the Rams offense.

San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers enter the 2013 season with expectations sky high. In 2011 the 49ers reached the Conference Championship, in 2012 they reached the Super Bowl. Will the upward trend continue in San Francisco? Colin Kaepernick may be one of the more intriguing players enter the season. Many forget Kaepernick has only 7 regular season starts under his belt. His numbers were fantastic and he played well in the postseason. The sky is the limit to how well Kaepernick can play following a full off season of working out as the number one QB on the depth chart. The defense is back basically at full strength minus safety Dashon Goldson and should continue to be a force. Phil Dawson should calm the nerves of the San Francisco faithful following a shaky campaign by former kicker David Akers. The biggest noticeable change for the 49ers will be the receiving core as Michael Crabtree will miss the season due to injury and Randy Moss and Delanie Walker have moved on. Anquan Boldin is the biggest addition to the offense just a few months after scoring a touchdown as a member of the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII. It’s Super Bowl or bust for the 49ers and Jim Harbaugh in 2013. Mike Orzechowski

With Crabtree done for the year, Boldin proves to be a huge addition at receiver.

Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson had an outstanding rookie season and Marshawn Lynch was “Beast Mode” on the ground. Many expect the Seahawks to compete for a title this season.  An injury to key addition Percy Harvin could alter that plan.  Their defense is solid, with power up front, above average linebackers like Bobby Wagner and a stingy secondary that has play makers Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. The Seahawks have depth at several key positions, but do they have enough to match or surpass lofty expectations. Glenn Coyle

The Seahawks will pound the football with “Beast Mode” all season long.

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