Looking through the teams in the NFC West you wonder who will come out of this wretched division to make the playoffs. The St. Louis Rams just may be the worst team in NFL. The Seattle Seahawks have been doing little more than treading water the last few years. The San Francisco 49ers managed a .500 record in 2009, but do the know what it takes to go to the next level. The Arizona Cardinals lost so much talent after the 2009 season ended, can they repeat as division champs? These five players will answer a lot of those questions.
1. Matt Leinart: The Arizona Cardinals quarterback has spent the last two seasons watching from the bench studying Kurt Warner as he worked his magic. Unfortunately for Cardinals fans it doesn’t look like Leinart learned too much from his teacher. Recent rumblings have Leinart losing the starting job to former Cleveland Brown Derek Anderson or even being traded. That is a horrible sign for the Cardinals season to come. I believe Leinart gives Arizona the best chance to win, but obviously he is doing something that makes his coaches disagree. If the Cardinals need to rely on Anderson I can’t see them getting a whiff of the playoffs.
2. Michael Crabtree: The San Francisco 49ers first round pick in 2009 held out until early October last season and that cost him a chance to learn the offense in depth. With that said Crabtree still had a decent rookie season with 625 reception yards in 11 games. With just a little improvement he can become a 1,000 yard receiver and will be one of the 49ers two biggest offensive weapons, along with tight end Vernon Davis. Crabtree needs to make quarterback Alex Smith look good by helping to stretch out the field. Crabtree is a big play waiting to happen.
3. Matt Hasselbeck: The Seahawks quarterback has never been among the elites of the game, but he has been a solid starter. 2009 was a bad year as he had just 17 touchdowns with a career high 17 interceptions. The question becomes is Matt Hasselbeck done at age 35 or was 2009 just a bump in the road. Hasselbeck does have a few weapons at his disposal in T.J. Houshmandzadeh, rookie Golden Tate, and possibly former first round pick Mike Williams. It won’t take much to win this division, so a strong showing by Hasselbeck could give Seattle a chance to make the playoffs.
4. Sam Bradford: As the number one overall pick of the 2010 draft, the expectations are high for Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. Although I don’t see anyway that the Rams could win the division, they could play spoiler near the end of the season as Bradford learns and grows into an NFL quarterback. If one of the other teams in the division trips up and loses to the Rams, it could be the difference between the playoffs and staying home come January.
5. Joey Porter: The Cardinals defense went through some changes this offseason, including losing leading tackler Carlos Dansby to the Miami Dolphins. The Cardinals brought in veteran defensive end Joey Porter to help with the pass rush. Porter is known as much for his mouth as he is for sacks, although he did lead the Dolphins last year with 9 sacks. If Porter can get the rest of the defense on board with his us against the world attitude, then the Cardinals may just repeat as champions of the NFC West.
The 49ers probably have enough talent to win the NFC West this season. I see them finishing at 9-7 and being the lone representative of the division in the playoffs.
Kent Somers, Arizona Cardinals Depth Chart Shifts a Little, azcentral.com