SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: (8-8 2009)
The 49ers are entering the 2010 season with one goal; win the division. With Kurt Warner out in Arizona, and the Pete Carroll regime beginning in Seattle, everyone sees the potential for the 49ers this season. With Alex Smith behind center, Smith made great strides last season and hopes to continue the progress, the 49ers will have a well balanced offense that will need a consistent year from Smith. Frank Gore is the heart of the offense, the running back had 229 carries last season for 1120 yards and 10 TDs. If Gore can stay healthy and play all sixteen games this season, and the acquisition of Brian Westbrook helping on third downs, the 49ers ground game will be extremely explosive. The main reason the 49ers running attack will be even better; the receiving corps. The positive progress that Smith has made, the ridiculous talent levels of tight end Vernon Davis and second year stud receiver Michael Crabtree, has this team in great position to win some ball games. And of course we need to discuss the defense. The 49ers defense is strong, fast, and hungry. The 49ers were 6th against the rush last year, 21st against the pass, and 4th in points allowed. Clearly, the issue is the secondary. The combination of Goldson and Lewis at safety should help solidify a much more intense, ball-hawking secondary. If the pass rush stays aggressive, and the secondary can make some plays late in games, the 49ers have double digit win possibilities this season.
ARIZONA CARDINALS: (10-6 2009)
The Arizona Cardinals "Post Kurt Warner" era will begin this season and the major question mark on this team is at the quarterback position. With Matt Leinart showing no signs of leadership, progress, or command behind center during this preseason, it seems more evident that Derek Anderson will be announced the starter come opening day. Anderson has the big arm that this offense will need, but they will need consistent play more than anything. Will the Cardinals commit to a running game now that they will struggle at the quarterback position, and without Anquan Boldin opposite Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals wide receiver depth has taken a hit. I believe this is a rebuilding year for Arizona. They were 28th in the NFL in rushing, and that will definitely need to be better in order for them to win games. Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower can run the ball, consistent four yard gains will open up the play-action passes for Larry Fitz to get some open looks. The departure of Karlos Dansby (to Miami), Antrel Rolle (Giants), Chike Okeafor (FA), and Bryant McFadden (Pittsburgh) will significantly effect the defense. The additions of Kerry Rhodes, Joey Porter, and Justin Miller will help the defense, but it takes more than an off-season for a defense to gel together and become formidable. The Cardinals have a lot of question marks this season.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: (5-11 2009)
Pete Carroll takes over as coach in Seattle and he has some work in front of him. The offense was inconsistent all year last season, and the defense was pathetic defending the pass (30th in the NFL). Carroll wants his defense to be fast and play fast, so the additions of Kevin Vickerson, Quinton Teal, Robert Henderson, and Chris Clemons should help him with that. So with the hopes that the defense has improved, let's look at the offense. This will be Matt Hasselbecks team, hopefully his back will hold up, and he has some weapons to use if his offensive line blocks for him. Russell Okung, the tackle out of Oklahoma State, was the sixth pick of the draft this season and the Seahawks are expecting huge things out of him. They also picked up G Ben Hamilton from the Broncos and hope he can bolster up the offensive line as well. Keeping Hassellbeck on his feet is the primary goal for the O-line this season. Out of the backfield the Seahawks have a healthy Leon Washington who is out to prove his knee is good to go, and the work horse, Julius Jones remains a steadfast behind Hassellbeck. Deion Branch, T.J. Houshmadzadeh, rookie Golden Tate, and TE John Carlson will be Hassellbeck's targets this season. Who will take the step up in the receive corps and give Seattle an eighty reception season? The Seahawks will struggle this season, but there is hope for this team. Pete Carroll is the guy for this team.
ST. LOUIS RAMS: (1-15 2009)
The Rams hope to rebound strongly from the one win season in 2009, #1 pick Sam Bradford will be under center on opening day. He has shown that he is a leader, has the intangibles to win in this league, but now he will have to go out there and do it. The first five games will be good for Bradford as the Rams take on mediocre opponents in the Cardinals, Raiders, Redskins, Seahawks, and Lions (3 of those games at home). Steven Jackson is coming off a 1300+ season, but back surgery in April may play an affect on him early in the season. A preseason injury to #1 receiver Donnie Avery will significantly affect this offense, but look for Brandon Gibson, Danny Amendola, and Keenan Burton to step up. A.J. Feeley will be a good mentor for Bradford and look for Sam to develop quickly, throw some interceptions, but I think he will have a pretty good rookie campaign. The defense, as head coach Steve Spagnuolo preaches, will be the key to the season. Keep the offense in the game, stop the run, get to the quarter; this is the Rams defensive strategy this season. The additions of Na'il Diggs, Fred Robbins, Kevin Dockery, Kevin Payne, and Bobby Carpenter will help this Rams defense that already has solid play coming from Chris Long, and James Laurinaitis. Too much is needed to make this team a contender, but they will be improved from last season.