Jan 19, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) gets shoved in the face by San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) while trying to shake hands after an interception by Seahawks outside linebacker Malcolm Smith (not pictured) during the second half of the 2013 NFC Championship football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Divisional Previews: The NFC West

As we rapidly approach the start of the 2014 regular season, it’s time to assemble divisional previews for each of the eight that exist. We’ll look at last year, then call attention to the key losses and additions by team, and then give an outlook for 2014. We continue with arguably the most interesting and strongest division, the NFC West, and go from the best to worst team in 2013.

Side note for Saints fans: The team plays the San Francisco 49ers this season.

2013 Combined Record: 42-22
2013 Playoff Teams: Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks 

2013 Record: 13-3 (NFC West Divisional Champs, Super Bowl Champs)
Splits: Home (7-1), Road (6-2), Conference (10-2)

How their season ended: Beating their hated rivals in the NFC Championship game, and winning the Super Bowl by a landslide. What more could you ask for?

Key Offseason Losses: WR Golden Tate, DE Chris Clemons, DT Clinton McDonald, CB Brandon Browner, CB Walter Thurmond, DE Red Bryant, OT Breno Giacomini

Important Newcomers: DT Kevin Williams, CB A.J. Jefferson, CB Philip Adams, WR Paul Richardson (Draft), OT Justin Britt (Draft)

2014 Outlook: You might think that it’s hard to speculate what a Super Bowl Champion team will look like the next year. I’ll help you out, as the odds are stacked against the defending Super Bowl Champs.

2013 Baltimore Ravens (8-8) – Failed to make playoffs
2012 New York Giants (9-7) – Failed to make playoffs
2011 Green Bay Packers – Lost to NY Giants in Divisional Playoffs
2010 New Orleans Saints – Lost to Seattle in Wild Card Playoffs
2009 Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7) – Failed to make playoffs

History certainly suggests that things won’t necessarily favor the Seahawks, but it’s hard to discount a team that didn’t exactly lose much in the offseason. Perhaps the ‘cockiness’ and new Legion of Boom rule hurts the team this year more than we realize. You can’t discount the effect the ’12th Man’ has on opposing teams. I like the Seahawks to make the playoffs, maybe even win the division again, but a repeat Super Bowl win is out of the question.

San Francisco 49ers 

2013 Record: 12-4
Splits: Home (6-2), Road (6-2), Conference (9-3)

How their season ended: One tipped Richard Sherman pass away from heading to the Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers followed up their previous season (Super Bowl appearance) by nearly getting back to the ‘big game’.

Key Offseason Losses: QB Colt McCoy, RB Anthony Dixon, WR Mario Manningham, C Jonathan Goodwin, CB Carlos Rogers, S Donte Whitner, CB Tarrell Brown

Important Newcomers: QB Josh Johnson, S Antoine Bethea, QB Blaine Gabbert, WR Brandon Lloyd, OT/G Jonathan Martin, CB Chris Cook, RB Carlos Hyde (Draft), CB Jimmie Ward

2014 Outlook: The 49ers are an interesting club heading into 2014. The team has lost running backs, have a mess of a field in their new billion dollar stadium, and are going to be without two key linebackers (Navorro Bowman and Aldon Smith). Still, there is a lot to like about Jim Harbaugh’s squad. Jim Harbaugh has a stellar coaching track record (36-11-1) in his three years with the team, winning the division twice, and never missing the playoffs. The 49ers should challenge the Seahawks for the division, and at least wind up a Wild Card.

Arizona Cardinals 

2013 Record: 10-6
Splits: Home (6-2), Road (4-4), Conference (6-6)

How their season ended: Being a 10-6 club to not make the playoffs, thanks to the Saints. Bruce Arian’s first year as a head coach went extremely well, despite missing the playoffs. Down the stretch, they were playing good football, winning seven of their final nine games. Oh by the way, they were the only team to hand the Seahawks a loss at CenturyLink Field.

Key Offseason Losses: RB Rashard Mendenhall, WR Andre Roberts, S Yeremiah Bell, CB Antoine Cason, LB Karlos Dansby, LB Jasper Brinkley, T Eric Winston, G Daryn Colledge, LB Daryl Washington (Suspension)

Important Newcomers: RB Jonathan Dwyer, TE John Carlson, WR/KR Ted Ginn, CB Antonio Cromartie, C Ted Larsen, T Jared Veldheer, QB Logan Thomas (Draft), S Deonne Bucannon

2014 Outlook: The Cardinals got exactly what they needed out of Carson Palmer last season, and can only ask him to do it once again. Palmer has the luxury of having a true workhorse at running back, Andre Ellington. The defense is still quite potent, and the Cardinals are tough to beat at home. In order to secure a 2014 playoff appearance, the team will need to steal a win from both the Seahawks and 49ers. They are a true sleeper team this season.

St. Louis Rams

2013 Record: 7-9
Splits: Home (5-3), Road (2-6), Conference (4-8)

How their season ended: Wondering what could have been, as quarterback Sam Bradford could have guided this team to better things. However, a torn ACL against the Carolina Panthers in Week 7 would end Bradford’s season.

Key Offseason Losses: TE Mike McNeill, QB Kellen Clemens, G Harvey Dahl, CB Cortland Finnegan, G Shelley Smith, G Chris Williams, S Darian Stewart

Important Newcomers: WR Kenny Britt, G Davin Joseph, QB Shaun Hill, DE/DT Alex Carrington, OT Greg Robinson (Draft), DT Aaron Donald (Draft), RB Tre Mason (Draft), Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams

2014 Outlook: If you would have talked to me pre-Sam Bradford injury, I would have had a different outlook for the St. Louis Rams. However, this ACL tear spells true disaster for the team. We all have to wonder, ‘Who Will Play Quarterback for the Rams in 2014?’. The free agent market has little to no appeal, and suddenly the team may have to trade to gain something that resembles a quarterback. The defense can only carry you so far, especially in the NFC West. The Rams have to act fast and hope for the best, otherwise it will be a long year in St. Louis.

NFC West Bold Predictions

  • The 49ers will win the division
  • The Seahawks will be bounced out in the Wild Card playoffs
  • The Rams will win no more than 6 games
  • The Cardinals will sneak in the playoffs as an NFC Wild Card this year

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Tags: Arizona Cardinals NFC West San Francisco 49'ers Seattle Seahawks St. Louis Rams

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