September 2, 2013 in Sports

2013 NFL Preview: NFC West

 

San Francisco 49ers

NEW FACES

WR Anquan Boldin, WR Jonathan Baldwin, S Craig Dahl, K Phil Dawson, QB Colt McCoy, CB Nnamdi Asomugha, S Eric Reid, TE Vance McDonald.

KEY LOSSES

QB Alex Smith, S Dashon Goldson, TE Delanie Walker, K David Akers, WR Randy Moss, DL Isaac Sopoaga, DL Ricky Jean Francois.

STRENGTHS

LBs, RBs, OL, special teams.

WEAKNESSES

WRs.

EXPECTATIONS

Super Bowl return – and win – is what 49ers have in mind after reaching big game for first time in 18 years and falling short of sixth title. Schedule, though, more daunting and division much better. 49ers believe Colin Kaepernick is guy who can lead team to another special postseason. Addition of Phil Dawson bolsters confidence in kicking game. Boast one of best overall defenses, led by LBs Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith.

Seattle Seahawks

NEW FACES

WR Percy Harvin, DE Cliff Avril, DE Benson Mayowa, DT Tony McDaniel, DT Jesse Williams (IR), DT Jordan Hill, RB Christine Michael, QB Tarvaris Jackson.

KEY LOSSES

DT Alan Branch, OL John Moffitt, KR/RB Leon Washington, QB Matt Flynn, LB Leroy Hill, CB Marcus Trufant, TE Anthony McCoy (IR).

STRENGTHS

QB, RB, OL, DB.

WEAKNESSES

DL, OLB, TE, G.

EXPECTATIONS

Settled at quarterback with Russell Wilson, at running back with Marshawn Lynch, and with league’s best secondary, led by All-Pros Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman. Seattle expected to battle 49ers for division crown. But schedule doesn’t help with road games at Houston, Indianapolis, Atlanta and N.Y. Giants. Survive those, hold serve at home where they were undefeated last year and road to Super Bowl may go through Seattle.

St. Louis Rams

NEW FACES

WR Tavon Austin, WR Stedman Bailey, OT Joe Barksdale, TE Jared Cook, OL Barrett Jones, OT Jake Long, S T.J. McDonald, CB Brandon McGee, LB Alec Ogletree, RB Zac Stacy, LB Will Witherspoon.

KEY LOSSES

WR Danny Amendola, S Craig Dahl, RB Steven Jackson, LB Rocky McIntosh, S Quintin Mikell.

STRENGTHS

DL, WR, CB

WEAKNESSES

S, RB.

EXPECTATIONS

One of youngest teams also was among most improved in first season under coach Jeff Fisher, shaking off five-year stretch totaling 15 wins – worst in NFL history. More youth must step up to contend in stacked NFC West, so posting franchise’s first winning season in decade might be plenty. Speedy Austin and Cook should help rev up offense that features two former No. 1 overall picks in QB Sam Bradford and OT Jake Long.

Arizona Cardinals

NEW FACES

Coach Bruce Arians, QB Carson Palmer, RB Rashard Mendenhall, OT Eric Winston, CB Jerraud Powers, ILB Karlos Dansby, ILB Jasper Brinkley, OLB John Abraham, S Yeremiah Bell, OLB Lorenzo Alexander, OG Jonathan Cooper, S-CB Tyrann Mathieu, ILB Kevin Minter.

KEY LOSSES

QB Kevin Kolb, QB John Skelton, S Adrian Wilson, CB William Gay, S Kerry Rhodes.

STRENGTHS

WR, DL.

WEAKNESSES

OL, S.

EXPECTATIONS

Sixty-year-old Arians brings “throw deep” mentality that will only work if questionable offensive line, weakened further by loss of first-round draft pick Cooper (broken leg) at left guard, can keep Palmer upright. With wholesale roster changes, Arians has quickly put his stamp on team, including adding several dozen plays for CB Patrick Peterson on offense.

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