NFL: NFC West season preview
We take a look at each division before the start of the 2014 season
With a terrible offensive line and no offensive target apart from Larry Fitzgerald last season, Carson Palmer performed reasonably well. This offseason the Cardinals have made a major upgrade to the offensive line with Jared Veldheer and have added speedy rookie John Brown to play opposite Fitzgerald - Palmer should have his best season in years. But despite the optimism on the offensive end, last year’s defence has been shattered. The Cardinals had the best run defence in the NFL a year ago but have lost three of their top four performers. Darnell Dockett has a season-ending injury, Daryl Washington will serve a season-long suspension and Karlos Dansby left in free agency. A shame for what could have been an excellent season.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers coaching staff are promising that talented quarterback Colin Kaepernick will have a real breakout year after a disappointing season last year. With Kaepernick and Davis fully fit and Michael Crabtree back, the electric runner could finally deliver as a passer. Under Jim Harbaugh the 49ers defence has never been outside the top five, but injuries in key areas on the defensive line and a rebuilt secondary could see that run come to an end.
The defending champions have no weak spots. It doesn’t happen very often in the NFL but experts are predicting Pete Carroll’s team to repeat their Super Bowl win from a year ago. Last season they relied on their stellar defence and smash-mouth football to grind out wins, but Russell Wilson, entering his third year, will be given more responsibility to lead the offence - with Percy Harvin fully teams will have to be even more wary. The only major issue is injuries to the offensive line, but that was a problem last year and they still won it all.
St Louis Rams
The Sam Bradford era could be over and he may well go down as the biggest quarterback bust in league history. His $78m contract has garnered just 18 wins in four seasons but he still had the talent that made people believe in him – but he will now miss this entire season because of an ACL injury, leaving veteran Shaul Hill as the starter. The pass rush is the most formidable in the NFL but the Rams are a good team stuck in an exceptional division. Place them elsewhere and they would have a chance of reaching the playoffs, but not in the NFC West.
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