Predicted Finish:

Seattle Seahawks (11-5) (2nd seed; Super Bowl Winner)

St. Louis Rams (9-7)

Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

San Francisco 49ers (5-11)

Don’t be misled here. Just because I don’t have multiple teams making the playoffs from the NFC West this season doesn’t mean it’s not still one of the best divisions in football. In fact, it’s primarily a collection of very tough schedules that I see holding down some of the division’s contenders, not a lack of ability.

Do I really think Seattle can come out and go to three straight Super Bowls, something that hasn’t been done since Jim Kelly’s Bills did it in the early ‘90s?

You’re damn right.

The Seahawks defense is epic. They are a unit for the ages. And offensively, they got a lot better in the offseason. They also have a very smart quarterback in Russell Wilson, and the thing that distinguishes the Mannings and the Bradys of the world more than anything else is not their throwing ability or their athleticism or even their leadership. It’s brains. You doubt Seattle can go to a third Super Bowl and win their second. Be my guest. You’ll see.

I have the St. Louis Rams edging out the Arizona Cardinals this year because the Rams got the easier path schedule-wise while the Cardinals have a tough go of it. These are very evenly matched teams, and I really do like the way Jeff Fisher has his guys ready every week. That’ll be enough for second place.

The Cardinals will take a step back this year, and I think they may move on from Carson Palmer at some point as well, but don’t count out Arizona in the future. This is a team with a solid core, especially defensively, and they aren’t going to have a killer schedule every single year.

If there’s a team that got absolutely dismantled in the offseason, it’s the San Francisco 49ers. I believe they are returning one out of 11 starters on defense, which is just… I don’t even know. This entire team has fallen apart this offseason, so when you hear people saying how much the 49ers miss Jim Harbaugh, try not to throw up in your mouth.

Like I said, I have the Seahawks winning it all against Baltimore this year, in what promises to be an epic Super Bowl. One of the keys to getting there, however, is the Packers’ inability to defense a mobile quarterback like Wilson. Expect Green Bay to blow it in the NFC Championship game before Seattle nails it down in the big game.

Games to Watch:

Week 2 – St. Louis @ Washington: Nick Foles’ career numbers against Washington’s lousy secondary are video game crazy. If you like yardage, points, more yardage, more points and more yardage, this will be the game for you.

Week 4 – Green Bay @ San Francisco: There are a lot of teams that are going to be looking for payback against the Niners now that they’re down and out, but perhaps none more so than the Packers. This one could get ugly.

Week 7 – Baltimore @ Arizona: I have the Cardinals’ tough schedule keeping them out of the playoffs. One remedy for that is for Arizona to come out and beat down their tough schedule. This one will be hard to win, but it’s doable.

Week 11 – San Francisco @ Seattle: As I said, a lot of people will be looking for payback. I’ll take the Seahawks.