NFC West Preview

WEST

I don’t have much confidence in Alex Smith at all. However, if Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree can refrain from hit-sticking each other every time the other touches the ball they should have enough of an offense to contend in this division. Last year Vernon Davis attempted to challenge head coach Mike SIngletary and we know how well that worked out. Evidently Crabtree isn’t a residual learner. The sooner he buys into the team concept and pulls his own weight the better. With Vernon Davis already established as a force in the NFL and Ted Ginn Jr. capable of stretching the field, it would be wise for Crabtree to get his act together. He could thrive in this offense and start to actually prove that he was worth all of the extracurricular drama. This division is the weakest it’s been in years and if the 49ers can put points on the board without killing Frank Gore their defense will take care of the rest. Patrick Willis is quickly becoming one of the most feared linebackers in the NFL. With Mike SIngletary guiding him it’s possible he’ll be able to take the torch from Ray Lewis by the end of the season (ps if Ray Lewis is reading this, my calendar is stuck on April 1st and I got confused…..I’m sorry…..please don’t kill me). I expect the 49ers to be able to rack up wins during that Philly, Oakland, Carolina, Denver, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Arizona stretch especially with a bye right in between. (10-6)

Player To Watch: Michael Crabtree. It’s up to him whether we watch him make a fool of himself or become a top 10 WR in this league. He has all the tools but he has to get his head removed from his ass. That’s one condition that can’t be fixed with meds or surgery, it’s all up to him. So far he’s not on the right track, but if Mike SIngletary can turn Vernon Davis into employee of the year maybe he can do the same with Crabtree.

Waiver Wire Sleeper: Anthony Dixon. If Frank Gore suffers through another injury plagued year I suspect the Niners will turn to Dixon rather than the aging Brian Westbrook. Dixon runs with power and has the simple but effective one cut downhill style that will make him a productive back, especially in the redzone.

I have no clue what the Arizona Cardinals are trying to accomplish besides pissing off Larry Fitzgerald. Luckily for them, he’s the Mother Theresa of the NFL and it won’t be that easy, but damn if they’re not giving it their best shot. They’ve had 4 years to figure out what kind of talent Matt Leinart could potentially be. When Kurt Warner retired they immediately handed the keys to the offense to Leinart, no questions asked. Suddenly after 2 preseason games and with his numbers on par with any other quarterback on their roster they decide he’s not what they want. There’s either much more to this story that we’re unaware of or Brett Favre’s their GM. I do believe Derek Anderson is a better fit for their offense because he throws the ball downfield…..but I figured that out from watching a couple Browns games yet these guys watch practice every day and just now had this epiphany. However, even though he’s a better fit let’s remember who Derek Anderson is: he’s the guy that was benched for Brady Quinn, who has already been benched this season in favor of Jake Delhomme. Not exactly the kind of company you want to be associated with. This saga can’t be good for overall team morale and I expect that to manifest itself during the season. Larry Fitzgerald will still amaze us from time to time but it won’t be as frequent as in years past. Losing Antrel Rolle will hurt this team on defense and without the capability of scoring 23 points per game as they did last year I believe the Cardinals will do an about face. (7-9)

Player To Watch: Steve Breaston. With Larry Fitzgerald already commanding extra attention from the defense, if the Cardinals can get something out of their running game Breaston will often be matched up one on one. He’s speedy enough to break through a zone and make big plays down field. Of course all of this is assuming Derek Anderson can stay on his feet and manage to deliver an accurate pass. I have my doubts, but he should still provide a few electric plays this season.

Starting Sam Bradford is really the only option the Rams have. Expectations are far from high in St. Louis so starting a rookie QB provides him with experience minus the added pressure of leading a contender. However, unless they get him some help it’ll be an experiment in how much punishment the human body can handle on a weekly basis. Their main target Donnie Avery went down with a torn ACL and won’t be back until 2011. It was terrible timing for Bradford because he had just gotten a comfort level for Avery and was starting to find him down the field for big plays. They should be calling the Chargers front office like a drunken ex pleading for help, but in the form of Vincent Jackson. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to pick up T.J. Houshmandzadeh (pats self on back for getting spelling right without aid, i smart) to play in the slot and give Bradford a viable target on the numerous 3rd and longs they’re sure to be in throughout the season. Even if they manage to deal for these players it still won’t make up for their non-existent defense. Steven Jackson will have to rush for 150 yards to give them any chance to win, and since he wasn’t able to achieve that feat once last season……. (4-12)

Some people in this world seem to walk on four leaf clovers. No matter where they go or what they do luck seems to be on their side even when they’ve done nothing to earn it. The unnecessarily proud cast of Jersey Shore fits this description…..and so does Pete Carroll. Seattle has the NFL equivalent of Boise St.’s non-conference schedule. If it weren’t for the Chargers and Saints it wouldn’t be out of the question to predict them to finish 14-2. I still think Pete Carroll will flounder at some point this season but looking at their schedule he’s going to have to all but resign in order for them to not win double digit games. I’m not 100% convinced Mike Williams is ready to be a starting number 2 receiver in the NFL. It seems his ex-USC coaches are the only ones believing in him and keeping him in the league. Lane Kiffin had to cut him from the Raiders and Norm Chow had to do the same when he was a Titan…..if being reunited with Carroll doesn’t motivate him he’ll be out of the league soon. The addition of Leon Washington should provide a decent ground game but their defense has to do better with the amount of talent they have. Still, the schedule plays out very well for them and I expect the Seahawks to become the NFL’s biggest fraud heading into the postseason. They’ll probably win the division but their season will promptly end with an embarrassing loss in a Wild Card game. (11-5)

Waiver Wire Sleeper: Golden Tate. It’s his rookie year but he’s already shown good route running and a willingness to go get the ball. When Mike Williams suffers his annual breakdown they’ll look to Golden Tate to fill his role. With the weak schedule the Seahawks have, Tate could be a decent WR2 or 3 if/when he leapfrogs Williams.

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