Mike Ivcic’s NFC West Division Preview & Predictions

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Mike Ivcic’s NFC West Division Preview & Predictions ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>


Welcome to the Ultimate Capper’s NFL Season Preview. Below is the schedule for the division-by-division breakdown for the upcoming season. Also, we’re enhancing our NFL coverage this year with Mike Ivcic’s regular column every Wednesday and a full game-by-game breakdown every Saturday, in addition to our regular features and free picks. The best place for information on the 2013 NFL season is right here at the Ultimate Capper!


AFC West – Tue, 8/13 NFC North – Wed, 8/14 NFC East – Thu, 8/15
AFC South – Fri, 8/16 NFC South – Tue, 8/20 AFC North – Wed, 8/21
NFC West – Thu, 8/22 AFC East – Fri, 8/23 Playoffs – Wed, 8/28

Arizona Cardinals
Record Last Season: 5-11
Over/Under Win Total: 5.5
Odds to win NFC West: 20/1
Odds to win NFC Title: 66/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 125/1
Outlook: Adding Carson Palmer is at least an upgrade for a team that hasn’t had any sort of stability at the quarterback position since Kurt Warner retired, but it’s still not enough to realistically compete in a loaded conference and division. The rest of the offense is also respectable – everyone knows about Larry Fitzgerald, but they also have a good complimentary receiver in Michael Floyd and a feature back in Rashard Mendenhall – but the real interesting element to watch here is the defense. This unit is now a very strange mix of veterans like Darnell Dockett, Frostee Rucker, John Abraham, Karlos Dansby, and Yeremiah Bell combined with a plethora of young, unproven rookies. Arizona does still have Patrick Peterson, though, who may now be second only to Darrelle Revis as far as cover cornerbacks are concerned and should provide the opportunity for the rest of the defense to excel as well. If the veterans can share their experience with the newbies and this defense plays up to its potential, I actually think the Cardinals could surprise some people and pull off a 6- or 7-win season, but reality suggests that this will almost certainly be an organization that will be drafting in the top five next season because the lack of depth, primarily on the offensive side of the ball, will ultimately be their undoing.
Prediction: 3-13, 4th place

St. Louis Rams
Record Last Season: 7-8-1
Over/Under Win Total: 7.5
Odds to win NFC West: 13/2
Odds to win NFC Title: 22/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 40/1
Outlook: Here’s a fun trivia game for you – what did the Steelers, Rams, and Cowboys all have in common in 2012? If you answered the same number of losses, you’d be correct – and if you didn’t, you’re probably just as surprised as I was to learn that all three teams lost 8 games last year. Granted, the Rams had a tie so they only won 7 games, but that was a significantly better record than I had thought. Obviously Sam Bradford is still making too much money for his performance, but he has emerged as a steady, reliable QB that took command of the Rams offense last season by staying healthy and playing all 16 games, a big reason for this team’s improvement from 2 wins in 2011. The problem for St. Louis this season is not so much a tougher schedule, but one where the wins and losses will likely be a bit more defined. The Rams simply aren’t as good as the 49’ers, Seahawks, Falcons, Saints, or Texans, and even assuming one win from that group starts the Rams off at 1-6 and amplifying the importance of beating Dallas, Indianapolis, and Chicago. While all three are certainly winnable games, and the rest of the schedule does have a soft underbelly, I see the Rams taking just a small step backwards this season. They added some nice pieces in OT Jake Long and LB Wil Witherspoon in free agency and the explosive playmaking wide receiver Tavon Austin in the draft, and Jeff Fisher is continuing to prove his worth as a coach, but this team won’t really emerge as a playoff contender until 2014.
Prediction: 5-11, 3rd place


San Francisco 49’ers
Record Last Season: 11-4-1
Over/Under Win Total: 11
Odds to win NFC West: 5/6
Odds to win NFC Title: 4/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 6/1
Outlook: Speaking of ties, how fortunate were the 49’ers to have that tie with St. Louis last season? Had that been a loss, the Seahawks would have won the NFC West and it’s highly unlikely that San Francisco would have been representing the NFC in the Super Bowl in February. As it is, Colin Kaepernick made Jim Harbaugh look like a genius for making the switch, carrying the 49’ers to the brink of a championship. The question now is how the young QB from Nevada will respond to handling the offense for an entire season without any real semblance of a safety net. Colt McCoy is the likely backup, meaning Kaepernick must stay healthy if San Fran wants any shot at repeating in the NFC West, let alone in the entire NFC. The rest of the offense reads almost like a fantasy team – Frank Gore, LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore at RB, Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham at WR, and the beastly Vernon Davis at TE. Defensively, the lineup is almost as impressive – Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Ahmad Brooks, Carlos Rogers, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Donte Whitner, just to name a few. If the Lombardi Trophy went to the best team on paper, this would be your 2013-14 Super Bowl champion… but that’s not how it works. Thus, Kaepernick will have to stay healthy for all 16 games and the players I listed above, especially the ones on defense, will have to at least match if not outperform their expectations. Still, predictions are made based on paper – and this paper says number one seed.
Prediction: 13-3, 1st place

Seattle Seahawks
Record Last Season: 11-5
Over/Under Win Total: 10.5
Odds to win NFC West: 13/10
Odds to win NFC Title: 5/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 9/1
Outlook: Everyone loves this group to repeat their playoff berth from last year, and before I get all “Debbie Downer” on you, so do I. They went 11-5 last year and I think that’s a very safe prediction for this year, too. But every season there’s one team that doesn’t quite live up to the hype, and my fear is that this year that’s the Seahawks. For starters, they were a proper call in week three on Monday Night Football against the Packers away from missing the playoffs entirely last year, so let’s remember that aspect of their 11-5 mark from a year ago. Secondly, the “rah-rah” college atmosphere only works for a little while in the NFL, as many coaches have already found out, because ultimately success at the pro level is still more about discipline and preparation than it is about attitude. Pete Carroll can’t just out-recruit other teams and then make all his players “feel good” and win every weekend just by showing up. I’m not saying Carroll can’t coach, but let’s remember that there’s a reason he was fired by two other NFL teams in favor of a guy that brought a much tougher, firmer mentality to the organization – Bill Parcells to the Jets, Bill Belichick to the Patriots. And finally, it’s extremely difficult to win every home game in back-to-back seasons – so hard, in fact, that it’s never been done since the merger. That means the Seahawks probably shouldn’t guarantee themselves 8 wins simply because they play that many games at Qwest Field. This is a talented offensive team with a great homefield advantage, a tough, stingy defense, and a young, promising QB, and again, I think they win 11 games – but if they only win 7 and miss the playoffs entirely, just remember reading this paragraph and acknowledge that I at least thought it might actually happen.
Prediction: 11-5, 2nd place


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