The NFC West is widely considered one of, if not the toughest division in the NFL heading into the 2013 season. As we approach the start of the season the Season Predictions have been being churned out fast and furious by virtually every member of the media. This article wont be a compilation of all the different predictions for the NFC West, instead we will focus solely on the prediction published in ESPN’s “The Magazine”. In the current issue of “The Mag” the writers at ESPN have attempted to predict every single game of the upcoming NFL season through the Super Bowl. Spoiler Alert: In the end The Mag predicts that the Denver Broncos will defeat the Seattle Seahawks 34-31 in the Super Bowl. Of course if the Seahawks are playing in the Super Bowl that means they likely had a pretty good season, so we will start the review of this predictions article with them and proceed through the division in order of projected finish. Naturally I can’t do a really in-depth review of this article, after all ESPN charges people for this magazine and I am sure they might be upset if I gave away the goods for free so we will do a brief overview.
Seattle Seahawks. The Mag predicts that the Seahawks will finish the 2013 season with a 13-3 record, winning the NFC West, and securing the #1 seed with the NFC’s best record. The Mag predicts some pretty tight divisional games, as well as a few blowouts of their lesser opponents. Some predicted scores that stand out: 17-10 win over the Rams in Week 8, 58-0 win over the Jaguars in Week 3, with their only losses coming to the 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, and Houston Texans all on the road. The 13-3 record doesn’t seem all that far-fetched, but any team coached by Pete Carroll is bound to lose one or two games they “should win”.
San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers are predicted to finish the season with a 13-3 record and losing in the Divisional round to the Seahawks. The non-Seahawks NFC West games for the 49ers are predicted to be tight on the road but blowouts at home. Some scores that jump out at me are: 32-3 over the Rams in week 13, 24-10 against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London, and the 3 losses coming to the Rams, Seahawks and Washington Redskins all on the road. The 13-3 record again seems fairly reasonable, although I find it hard to believe that they will lose to the Redskins but they could easily slip up to the Texans or Falcons.
St Louis Rams. The Rams are predicted to finish the season at 7-9 and missing the playoffs yet again. The 7-9 mark seems to be the floor for the Rams projections this season, the tough division certainly plays into that as the Rams only go 2-4 against the NFC West with wins at home against the 49ers and Arizona Cardinals. Some scores that really stand out in the projection are : 52-28 loss at the Dallas Cowboys, 26-3 loss at the Falcons. The Cowboys score is especially confusing when they follow it up with a 24-21 victory over the San Francisco 49ers the following week. If I remember correctly The Mag predicted the Rams would finish the 2012 season at 0-16, so take these predictions with a grain of salt. Of course 7-9 is a very realistic projection for this young Rams team, and looking at the schedule one could easily make a case for an 11-5 record. With such a young team and so many unknowns though it’s probably more realistic to split the difference and hope for a 9-7 season.
Arizona Cardinals. For some reason the Cardinals are projected to have higher ranked offensive and defensive units than the Rams and yet only finish the season with a 3-13 record. The fact that these projections were made prior to the Cardinals losing first round selection Jonathan Cooper for the season makes that record seem all the more likely. The Cardinals only projected wins come against the Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers and Rams all at home. Some questionable projections include blowout losses at the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as well as a more respectable 17 point loss at the Tennessee Titans. I don’t think the addition of Carson Palmer will make the Cardinals a playoff sleeper in 2013, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they snuck up on a few teams and finished closer to 6 wins.
Just like virtually every member of the mainstream media it seems The Mag only recognizes the NFC West as the Seahawks vs. the 49ers with everyone else in the division scrounging for table scraps. I will say those two teams likely have 2 of the 3 or 4 most talented rosters in the entire NFL, however injuries and suspensions to some of their top playmakers on offense and defense may make those 13-3 projects difficult to reach. I expect the top two teams to underperform the projections while the bottom two teams in the NFC West outperform the projections. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were a 3 horse race for the division crown in late November with three NFC West teams posting double-digit wins. Thank you for reading and as always, Go Rams!!!