August 9, 2012

3-Way NFL Preview: NFC West

San Francisco 49ers
W17L:  10-6  (4th seed, loses to New Orleans in Wild Card Round)
Forecaster:  11-5  (2nd seed, loses to Green Bay in NFC Championship)
Random:  8-8

W17L's Take:  Nobody thought the 49ers were supposed to go 13-3 last year.  But they put up some really impressive defensive numbers, and Alex Smith re-invented himself as a top-notch game manager who can make big plays when necessary.  In the NFC West, even a down year for this team should get them 10 wins and a playoff spot.

Forecaster's Take:  The 49ers are the second best team in the NFC thanks to an incredible rushing defense and top-10 finishes in 4 of the 9 predictor stats last year.

Seattle Seahawks
W17L:  4-12
Forecaster:  11-5  (5th seed, loses to Green Bay in Divisional Round)
Random:  11-5  (5th seed, loses to Green Bay in Wild Card Round)

W17L's Take:  I have no reason to think Matt Flynn is a bad quarterback.  In his first start, he almost got the Green Bay Packers a win over New England in a super exciting game.  In his second start, he set the Packers record for passing yards and touchdowns in one of the more bizarre games you'll ever see (Matthew Stafford threw for over 500 yards).  However, two starts don't give me the confidence to say that Flynn can lead a team to the playoffs this year, especially one coming off a 7-win season.  It's going to be a rough learning experience for Flynn.  (And yes, I realize Tarvaris Jackson might start.  Still going with 4-12.)

Forecaster's Take:  The Seahawks are one of the major sleepers team this year.  They don't run the ball very well (which allows them to use their passing game), their defense forces opponents to run a lot of plays, and the defense is also very aggressive, which leads to penalties but also makes them more effective.

Arizona Cardinals
W17L:  5-11
Forecaster:  9-7
Random:  11-5  (2nd seed, loses to Green Bay in Divisional Round)

W17L's Take:  Larry Fitzgerald is the only great player on this team.  I don't think Kevin Kolb or John Skelton are good enough to take Arizona to the playoffs, or anywhere close.

Forecaster's Take:  The Cardinals will be pretty good this year, thanks to a defense that commits a lot of penalties and keeps drives going as long as possible.

St. Louis Rams
W17L:  5-11
Forecaster:  2-14
Random:  3-13

W17L's Take:  The Rams are slowly getting the pieces needed to become a contender.  Sam Bradford is a quality passer, Steven Jackson is a great running back, and Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold provide some talent on the offensive line.  However, that contendership is still a long way away.

Forecaster's Take:  The Rams are the worst team in the NFL because of their awful rushing defense and lowest-scoring offense.

For an explanation of the Forecaster and Random projections, go here.  Teams are ranked by total wins over the three projections.

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