NFC West is up for grabs. Each team has something to prove heading into 2010. Arizona's gamer Kurt Warner retired leaving the team Matt Leinart's hands. 49ers no nonsense coach demands excellence. Niners have rising talent. The time is now for them to step up and be counted. Seattle lost their way in recent seasons almost seeming unmotivated at times. The Rams have a long way to go after front office gaffe's and injuries quickly turned a once proud franchise into a laughingstock.
1) San Francisco 49ers The time is now for SF to put themselves on NFL radars. There's no clear cut dominant team in the West. Maturity breeds consistency, or so I've been told. Mediocrity ruled the day last year. SF's once pounding running game never got going until late in the year. QB's never put fear into defenders or confidence into receivers. Overall team stats were just below middle of the road. Room for improvement on all fronts. Their 2nd first round pick netted highly regarded Mike Lupati (OG, Idaho) who many think is already All Pro material. 2nd rounder Taylor Mays (S, USC) is a heavy hitter. Penn State LB Navorro Bowman (according to ESPN) has "great physical skills, natural instincts and a nose for the football." 49ers addressed needs. Now it's time for this club to come together as a team.
2) Arizona Cardinals QB Matt Leinart will be given every opportunity to win the starting nod. He's had mixed results over the course of a short career. Can he step up and play like a #1? Arizona's immediate future depends on it. Running game showed flash for the first time in years with the 1-2 tandem of Hightower and Wells (combined 1,391 yds, 15 tds rushing - 75 rec, 571 yds receiving). Cards schedule was easy in '09. Guess which team has easiest '10 schedule? That's right. Cards opponents, based on '09 records, are 114-142. Worst in football. Leinart & Co. couldn't write a better script for success. Defense has to step up and clamp down opposing offenses. Great coaching staff but draft never lived up to expectations beyond 1st rounder Dan Williams (DT, Tenn).
3) Seattle Seahawks New coach Pete Carroll first season in Seattle will be challenging. 2009 offense was abysmal scoring 14 or fewer seven times. Defense was just as inept surrendering 31 or more points six times. The result, 17.5 points per game scored by offense vs 24.4 given up by defense. It's amazing they won 5 even when playing the Rams twice. Running attack seemed lost. Passing game never bailed out team when needed. Bickering on all levels prevailed starting with WR TJ Houshmandzadeh's personal ratings complaint against Madden Football. 'Hawks draft did not go well. Perhaps Carroll needs a new scouting crew too?! A kick in the butt might re-energize a team clearly playing below potential.
4) St. Louis Rams No winning seasons since 2003 and team has been progressively degenerating. Cumulative record last three seasons stands at 6-42. When you're this bad drafting becomes ultra important. NFL #1 pick was Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford. Rams had better be careful not to mortgage their future on this kids contract. That said, Bradford has the tools necessary to become an upper tier signal caller if handled correctly. Rams second 1st round pick addressed another important team need when they selected offensive lineman Roger Saffold (Indiana). I'm a bit skeptical on their remaining picks and firmly believe a golden opportunity to build a powerful team was lost. Rams will not win many and seem years out from returning to competitive football. New ownership needs a big wrecking ball as this franchise needs a complete makeover.