It seems like forever since it happened, only because it has been forever, but back in 2003 the St. Louis Rams won the NFC West. Ever since then, the Rams have been at the wrong end of the division more times than not. There is a lot of excitement this season, as there is much hope that those times are gone and positive change is happening. Some think it will be a few years before the Rams make an impact, but after going 4-1-1 in the division last season and other recent events inside the division, the Rams could be making noise a lot sooner than some may have thought.
In case you haven’t heard Percy Harvin will undergo hip surgery and will be out for around 3-4 months. Harvin was acquired by Seattle in the biggest trade of the offseason. The Seahawks hoped Harvin would be that explosive offensive playmaker in the slot and possibly in the back field, as well as a playmaker on special teams. The Seahawks were hoping to become a team with an explosive offense that didn’t have to rely so much on their defense and running game, but everything just took a wild turn. Harvin was supposed to help this team get over the hump and possibly make a Super Bowl run, but it looks like the Super Bowl run may have to wait. Without the former Minnesota Viking, the Seahawks are left with Sidney Rice, who actually could miss some time with a knee injury and hasn’t been the player they thought he would be when the acquired him in free agency, Golden Tate, and Doug Baldwin.
Rice showed promise of resurrecting his career having 50 receptions for 748 yards and seven touchdowns. It looks like the career resurrection will be put on hold though as Rice is going to undergo a knee procedure in Europe. It isn’t expected that Rice will miss any time in the regular season, but missing time in training camp and the preseason could have a negative impact on his game early on. Golden Tate is another player that emerged as a tough, physical guy that can make plays. Tate had a career high 688 yards receiving as well as 6 touchdowns, well actually 7, but we all know the 7th was actually an interception. Tate will be expected to step up and be “the guy” in the passing game until Harvin returns to action. Baldwin on the other hand had a sophomore slump to say the least. After having 788 yards and four touchdowns in his rookie season, Baldwin only had 366 yards and three touchdowns last season. To make up for Harvin’s loss somebody will have to step up. The only question is, who will it be? Harvin wont miss all season, but how effective will he be when he gets back? A once deep receiver corps suddenly has more questions than answers for a team that is expected to compete for first place in the NFC West. The 49ers and Seahawks have been trying to best each other all offseason, even when it comes to injuries apparently. The 49ers lose their number one guy for the majority of the season and now so do the Seahawks.
Speaking of the 49ers…The best case scenario for the them is that Crabtree will be able to return towards the end of the season, but even when he gets back, how much of an impact will he really have? A torn Achilles is like a major injury. The 49ers like the Seahawks were hoping to make another Super Bowl run this season, only win it this time. Without their number one receiver, you now have to wonder how likely that actually is. The 49ers still have Anquan Boldin. A.J. Jenkins, and Kyle Williams, but none of them bring what Crabtree brings to the table. Boldin is more of a role player this late in his career, therefore it will be up to the younger guys to step up and fill the hole. It has been said that Vernon Davis could line up at wide receiver as well.
When Anquan Boldin landed in San Francisco it was thought that he would be a role player that would help the niners get over the hump, just like he did with Baltimore last season. With Crabtree gone, Boldin may have to take on a larger role than was expected, he may have to be the number one guy, but being that he is 32, it will be easier said than done. Boldin with the Ravens last year had 921 yards and four touchdowns, he very well could put up similar numbers this season. A lot of the load however will be dropped onto first round pick A.J. Jenkins. Jenkins was only active for three games in his rookie season and played in only 37 offensive snaps and was targeted with a pass just once, which he dropped. Jenkins will basically be a rookie out there, therefore he will have his ups and downs, whether he is ready or not, he will be expected to contribute and play a large role. The Last wide receiver with some experience is Kyle Williams who is mostly known for his fumbled punt returns in a certain NFC championship game. Williams had 212 yards receiving last season and only one touchdown. The 49ers have a lot of young wide receivers with little experience, Crabtree’s injury may hurt them more than some might think.
How Does this affect the Rams? The Rams could very well come out on top of the West. The Rams have stayed pretty healthy throughout camp thus far, and if they stay that way, they should be considered front runners in the division, especially with how explosive the offense is expected to be. They already have a playoff caliber defense, it’s just the offense that needs to get up to speed. A very good thing for the Rams is that they play the 49ers and Seahawks fairly early in the season which is something that they need to take advantage of. Not only d the Rams play the 49ers early in the season,but on a short week. If the Rams are lucky the 49ers will still be trying to find their rhythm on offense and the Rams might be able to take advantage of that. The fact that the game will also be in St. Louis is also a plus. The Rams next division game is on Monday night, week 7 against the Seahawks. That is around the time that Percy Harvin could be getting back, either Percy Harvin will be back that week and be ineffective, or the Rams will be playing a Percy Harvin-less Seahawks. Either way, huge advantage Rams. If the Rams can start off the season strong and get ahead of the Seahawks and 49ers early, the Rams could surprise the entire country and run away with the division.
There is a reason it is stupid to make season predictions before the season actually begins, and this is why, things happen and players get hurt. The losses of Crabtree and Harvin are huge. Sure players will step in and be expected to contribute, but it wont be the same. You cant just replace a number one receiver and playmaker. The Rams’ chances of winning the west just got a whole lot better, and the race to win the west could be between three teams rather than the two that many thought. The Rams have a perfect opportunity to make some noise this season, now they just need to take advantage of this opportunity. Who knows the Rams could do something they haven’t done in just over a decade, win the NFC West.