We saw a lot of shakeups in the NFC West in this offseason. The Seahawks have a new coach – again – in Pete Carroll. Jim Mora only lasted one year, and we will see how long Carroll will stick around. He did great at the college level, but has struggled in his NFL coaching career.
He has mastered the first hurdle admirably and provided the Seahawks with lots of talent through the draft. We will see how his coaching style translates during the season. It will be interesting to see if he will have success in his third NFL head coaching job.
Kurt Warner decided to call it a career, and the Cardinals will be looking to replace the five time Pro Bowl quarterback. They will also have to do without their former No. 1 wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who will now catch passes from Joe Flacco in Baltimore.
Here is a look at the odds to win the division title in the 2010 NFC West (all odds from Bodog and Bookmaker):
San Franciso 49ers (EVEN)
Logically, the 49ers should win the division. The rest of the teams are in rebuilding mode, and the Niners have all the pieces in place for a great season. They have one of the best running backs in the league in Frank Gore. He rushed for 1,120 yards and ten touchdowns last season, and should benefit from San Francisco’s first two draft picks.
The Niners picked twice in the Top 17 and snagged right tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati. Both are known for their superior run-blocking ability and will make Gore an even better weapon. They have struggled in pass protection at times, and that is the biggest issue the team might face in 2010.
San Francisco will have to protect Alex Smith, who seems to be the weakest link on the team. He has improved and played his best season last year. He threw for 2,350 yards and 18 touchdowns in just 11 games. However, he gave up 12 interceptions and was sacked 22 times. Smith will have to improve his accuracy and hope for more protection from the offensive line.
Mike Singletary is one of the better coaches in the league and should have his defense prepared to go. The team got more pressure on the opposing quarterback last season and finished with 44 sacks. They added Taylor Mays in the draft and should improve in the secondary.
The 49ers are not facing a tough schedule and could go 5-1 in the division. They were strong at home last year, posting a 6-2 record. If Alex Smith can build on the promising 2009 season, San Francisco should take the division easily.
Seattle Seahawks (+250)
The Seahawks had a great draft under their new regime, and are looking to surprise in 2010. Pete Carroll landed Russel Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate and Walter Thurmond with his first four picks. They are all great additions to the team.
One of the biggest problems will be quarterback. They lost Seneca Wallace to the Browns and picked up Charlie Whitehurst in a trade with the Chargers. They also signed J.P. Losman and claimed Isaiah Stanback in a quest to bring a bevy of bodies in to find a backup for Matt Hasselbeck.
But that is the problem. In my opinion, they should have found someone to replace Hasselbeck, not back him up. While he has had a great career, and has been a fan favorite for years, he is getting too old and fragile to get the job done.
Hasselbeck threw nine interceptions in the last three games of the 2009 season. The 34-year-old has played a full 16 games only once in the last four seasons, and finished last year with 17 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
On top of his own struggles, Hasselbeck won’t have a playmaker to throw the ball to. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is recovering from sports hernia surgery. The 32-year-old is not your typical No. 1 wideout, and seems to be better as a possession receiver. Deion Branch is not good enough anymore to take up No. 1 duties, and Deon Butler hasn’t shown anything to make me think he could take over.
The Seahawks have one of the loudest stadiums in the league and they are looking to benefit from the 12th man again. They need Hasselbeck to hold up and play well and the fans to cheer them to a couple of extra wins if they want to challenge the Niners.
Arizona Cardinals (+250)
The Cardinals lost their veteran quarterback and No. 1 receiver. They added Derek Anderson to the mix to compete with Matt Leinart for the starting job, but I can’t see either of them leading the team to a division title.
The loss of Anquan Boldin will hurt the pass offense even more. While Larry Fitzgerald is a good receiver and Steve Breaston is promising, Boldin will not be there to take the defense’s attention off those two, and their numbers will most likely drop.
The new signal caller won’t get a lot of support from the offensive line and will have to make quick decisions, a tough spot for either of the two quarterbacks. Offensive tackles Mike Gandy and Levi Brown gave up a combined 18 sacks and committed a combined 18 penalties last season.
The Cardinals lost a couple of big names on defense as well. Karlos Dansby packed his bags and made his way to Miami. Arizona cut Antrel Rolle, and the Giants picked him up. The Cardinals did draft Darryl Washington to eventually replace Dansby, but I don’t think he’s going to have the same impact quite yet.
St. Louis Rams (+1200)
The Rams will try to rebuild their team about newly acquired top-pick Sam Bradford. The Oklahoma quarterback is supposed to be the future in St. Louis, but it remains to be seen if he can step in immediately. So far, A.J. Feeley has been given the most repetitions at QB during the minicamps.
Bradford will have to adjust to the pro game. He is used to the spread shotgun formation in Oklahoma and will learn to make quick decisions when playing under center. He will need some time to get used to that, and most likely won’t have an impact in the 2010 season.
On top of the rookie quarterback, the Rams have a weak offensive line that will cause even more problems in their attack.
The Rams defense has been bad historically, and it doesn’t look a lot better for the 2010 season. There are question marks surrounding the health of promising corner Bradley Fletcher, and 2008 second-overall pick Chris Long hasn’t progressed at defensive end. Free safety O.J.Atogwe is the one bright spot on defense.
The Rams are on the right track, but they will need more time to become a contender for the division title.
While the 49ers are a good bet to win the NFC West, a better bet would be hoping on board for our NFL predictions package, offering winning gambling advice on a weekly basis.