NFC West Division Preview
After the exodus of Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin do the Arizona Cardinals have what it takes to three-peat as NFC West champions?
According to the oddsmakers the answer to that question is no. The current favorite to win the division are the San Francisco 49ers at -130, and with good cause. San Francisco 49ers (-130) Alex Smith begins the season as the No. 1 quarterback, and for the first time in his career he doesn't have to worry about someone overtaking him for the starting gig. Last season in 11 games Smith passed for 2,350 yards with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. With his excellent corps of young talented receivers he should continue to improve this season.
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Tim Crabtree should be ready to make an impact after a late start last season due to a contract dispute. Josh Morgan is a solid wideout on the other side, while acquisition Ted Ginn Jr. may finally live up to his potential after a change of scenery. Tight end Vernon Davis rounds out Smith's options and he ranks among the top receiving tight ends in the game after last season's breakout. San Francisco has all that going for them in the passing game and we haven't even mentioned running back Frank Gore yet. Gore averaged 80 yards per game last season and he had a career-high 10 touchdowns. Look for both numbers to go up this season as long as he can stay healthy.
Arizona Cardinals (+200) The Cardinals are a wild card in the West this season after their turnover last season. Losing Warner means Matt Leinart inherits the starting QB job. Considering how Leinart has struggled whenever he has seen the field during his short career it's likely make or break time for the former Heisman winner. If Leinart can't step up, veteran Derek Anderson was signed to back him up. Larry Fitzgerald is arguably one of the best receivers in the league, but will his numbers take a dip without Boldin around? Judging how Fitzgerald has performed when the often injured Boldin was out over the years he should be more worried about Leinart than the new starters – Steve Breaston and Early Doucet. If the Cardinals are smart they may want to focus more on the running game behind the tandem of Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells. Hightower should begin the season as the starter but if Wells live up to expectations he could take over during the season. Seattle Seahawks (+350) Things changed in Seattle during the offseason with Pete Carroll leaving USC to take over the head coaching duties. However, he may not have the weapons to continue his college success in the big leagues. With an injury-prone quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck and a lackluster running game made up of Julius Jones and Leon Washington the loud fans in Seattle could be in line for a tough season. St. Louis Rams (+2500) What the Seahawks will have to live through should pale in comparison to what the Rams faced last season. The Rams went 1-15, which earned them the first pick in Sam Bradford. He'll back up A.J. Feeley to start the season, and the Rams have a couple of stars in Steve Jackson and Donnie Avery, but they are likely headed for the division basement again.
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