2013 NFL Predictions by Division: NFC West

Ronald Martinez

A year removed from the Super Bowl, the 49ers take the West and emerge as a legit contender once again.

1. San Francisco 49ers: 13-3

If you take a look at the 49ers roster, you would probably think that those guys are a shoe-in to make the NFC Championship at the very least. They had the hands-down best defense in the league last season, and only improved this offseason. Nnamdi Asomugha, who only a couple years ago was considered the second best corner in the game behind Revis Island, is a back-up in their system.

They traded up in the draft to get safety Eric Reid. These guys join Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner to complete the secondary. The linebacking corps consists of four starters that could all be on the All-Pro squad in the same year. Their defensive front is anchored by the monstrous Justin Smith. You look at the offense and think, "When will it ever end?" Ironically, Colin Kaepernick could be their Achilles Heel. There's no doubt he is extremely talented, but I just don't think the read-option will thrive as much as it did last season. The 49ers *grab the second seed in the NFC.

2. Seattle Seahawks: 11-5

The Seahawks are another team that has done a lot of work to improve in the offseason. They didn't lose much except for defensive end Jason Jones and cornerback Marcus Trufant. They did gain a lot, however, by snagging Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Percy Harvin, and Antoine Winfield. Their draft was pretty much 100 percent for depth purposes to ensure success for the future. The Seahawks' defense is very solid, but I can see their offense slowing them down in the future. Marshawn Lynch is a just a beast and he is capable of carrying the team to victory. But that's not their philosophy. Similar to the 49ers, the Seahawks thrive from the read-option. Like I said earlier, I think that this could be the end of that scheme, much like the Wildcat died off. Wilson is good, but I don't see him having as much success in the traditional quarterback role. The Seahawks have a good season nevertheless and finish with the final Wildcard spot in the NFC.

3. St. Louis Rams: 9-7

Just when you think you've gotten down to the scum of the West, you get to the Rams, a team that has improved significantly. Their offense is still in the works, but it is serviceable. Sam Bradford has made strides since he first entered the league. They also have two young, speedy receivers in Chris Givens and rookie Tavon Austin and a great receiving tight end in Jared Cook. Losing Steven Jackson through free agency hurts, but Daryl Richardson performed adequately on minimal carries. The defense contains more bright spots with Michael Brockers, Chris Long, and Robert Quinn in the front, James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree at linebacker, and Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins in the secondary. To bad for them, though, they have to play the Seahawks and 49ers each twice per year. Give them one more year and they will be a playoff contender in a tough NFC.

4. Arizona Cardinals: 3-13

Rounding out the NFC West is a lowly Arizona Cardinals team. They have a few pieces that can help build a foundation for a great offensive team such as Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer, but overall the offense is porous. The Cardinals surprisingly have a pretty stout defense. Their front in the 3-4 scheme has Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett, two pretty good pass rushers. The linebacking corps contains Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby whom are two perennial 100 tackle players. Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson are two players that are electrifying both in the secondary and special teams. It will be a couple of years before the Cardinals can compete for a playoff spot.

What are your thoughts on the NFC West?

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