In a year of change under center in the NFC West, Al Dannity expects a team with some history at quarterback to come out on top.
No dominant signal-caller To say the NFC West is light on elite quarterbacks is an understatement. This is a division where Charlie Whitehurst, San Diego’s third choice under center, made headlines when he signed with Seattle.
A few factors have conspired to ensure the whole NFC West enters 2010 with doubts at quarterback. Whitehurst was signed by the Seahawks because of lingering concerns over Matt Hasselbeck’s durability. The off-season saw Kurt Warner, one of the most explosive passers in league history, retire to be replaced by Matt Leinart. The former Trojan has stuttered in his, to date, brief NFL career. San Francisco continues to hum and haw over what to do with Alex Smith, while the Rams have drafted Sam Bradford to be their quarterback of the future.
Divisional play is critical Each of these franchises’ six divisional games will make or break their seasons. Right now the NFC West is the weakest division in the NFL. It’s hard to see any one team do enough in non-divisional games to carve out a significant advantage. There are however three cross-divisional games for each of these franchises worth keeping an eye on. While I fancy the San Diego Chargers to sweep the NFC West, the rest of the AFC West could provide some much needed victories for San Francisco and Arizona as the race for the playoffs heats up.
The final shake-up The Rams are the only team guaranteed not to contend for the NFC West in 2010. St. Louis has reason to hope for the future with Sam Bradford but it will take at least a season for this team to develop into a potential playoff contender.
The Seahawks are the great mystery of the division. If Pete Carroll can get the most out of the talent on his roster then Seattle has an outside chance at making the playoffs. In reality it’s hard to see this team staying in contention down the stretch.
That leaves San Francisco and Arizona, two teams who have almost backed themselves into a battle for the title. The Cardinals will suffer without Kurt Warner and the loss of talents like Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, and Karlos Dansby can’t be overlooked either. Leinart has potential under center but he’s entering a difficult situation. The 49ers have all the tools to win the division except for a quarterback. There’s no Joe Montana or Steve Young on Mike Singletary’s depth chart but in 2010 he won’t need one. The tools around Alex Smith should be enough to make San Francisco the class of the NFC West in 2010.
XXXII: Gabriel Morency previews the weekend’s CFL and Arena Football action