The next eight articles I write are going to be by division. I’m going to highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly of each team in the division from my point of view. The first division I’ll be covering is the NFC West:
San Francisco 49ers
The Good: The best thing that I see coming from this team is the defense. The front 7 is outstanding. Aldon Smith is leading NFL Rookies in sacks, while Navorro Bowman and Patrick Willis are playing lights out. Justin Smith continues to impress week in and week out as well. The secondary, who many thought was makeshift, is consistently playing well and continuing to improve. Not to mention they now hold an NFL record of not allowing a rushing touchdown this far into the season. On the offensive side of the ball they have a solid run game with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, Alex Smith has improved drastically and Michael Crabtree has had a pretty impressive season after continually being labeled a draft bust. Kyle Williams is steadily improving and they brought in Braylon Edwards to have a bigger threat – he hasn’t worked out so well, but with the others stepping up that isn’t a concern. The tight end duo of Vernon Davis and Justin Peele hasn’t disappointed and the offensive line has impressed the hell out of me, especially when they roll out Joe Staley for a quick pass.
The Bad: Some of the special teams work hasn’t been the best, they have had flashes of Teddy Ginn Jr taking a few back, but he’s not consistent. Andy Lee and David Akers have been solid, but the only thing I fuss with about their special teams is the execution, they haven’t been burned over and over again, but there has been missed tackles and some easier stops that could have been made. When they are on point with special teams they are up there with the best of them, but when they aren’t feeling it they are pretty low on my ratings. If they were consistently average, they wouldn’t be here on my “Bad” portion.
The Ugly: Despite having a pretty good tight end tandem, and a rough-n-tumble set of backs, the 49ers have the NFL’s worst red zone offense. They have only scored a touchdown 17 out of 49 times in the red zone. That NEEDS to get better for them to succeed long-term. Field goals won’t win it all.
The Good: Pete Carroll has made a bazillion changes in Seattle since he took over, and those changes have paid off. Marshawn Lynch is simply beasting! Tarvaris Jackson (when healthy) has looked like a legit NFL starting quarterback despite the critics. He may not have the stats that Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees bring to the table each week, but he makes the plays when he needs to and he is very versatile. Doug Baldwin has been outstanding as an undrafted free agent, Tom Cable has made a wish-wash offensive line work, and the defense is second in the NFL in takeaways. In my opinion the defensive backfield is one of the most underrated in the league. Brandon Browner is at least a top 5 Corner, and Richard Sherman is not far behind him. Cam Chancellor and Earl Thomas make a solid safety tandem and Red Bryant shores up a pretty solid defensive line (Can you imagine it next year when Osi Umenyiora is there? You heard it here first!)
The Bad: The time it took them to gel. When you first glanced at this team you probably thought as I did, that they wouldn’t be very good. However if you dove into it as I did, you could see that they had the talent and coaching staff to make things work and be a pretty damn good team, They went out and got 2 former Raiders in Robert Gallery and Zach Miller. Gallery wasn’t much in Oakland until Tom Cable showed up, and he played pretty solid, so being coached under Cable in Seattle was bound to work for them; so far it has. Zach Miller hasn’t been much and hasn’t fit into the system, but they are playing pretty good. If they had things squared away from the get go, they could have possibly been threatening for the NFC West Title again this year. Going into week 16, the Seahawks have won 5 out of their last 6 games and have played phenomenal. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, when you think of how long it took them to play as a team.
The Ugly: Moving the ball. Seattle is ranked 28th overall in the league in yards per game (198 YPG Passing 103 YPG Rushing). Averaging only 301 yards per game won’t get you anywhere fast, granted they are winning games, but as mentioned earlier with SF, field goals don’t win games in the long run. Also they are in the bottom part of the league with explosive plays (Plays over 20 Yards). They need to consistently move the ball to be a serious contender, and now they don’t have enough to get the ball into scoring range when facing other teams that average 450+ YPG. If they get more yards, there are more opportunities to score
The Good: Surprisingly, a 5th rounder out of Fordham in John Skelton. This guy has entered the lineup due to Kevin “Fragile” Kolb going down each week. He has stepped in and has sparked that offense, when he’s in, they win. When Kolb is in, not so much. Something about the aura of Skelton with the offense just seems to click, the season started out (with Kolb) 1-6; since then they have won 6 of their last 7. The defense is playing as well as Skelton has been, and Calais Campbell has been BEASTING (PAY THE MAN!). Special teams have lit it up as well, Patrick Peterson has 4 punt return TD’s and has been close to even more. Those that kick to this kid need to be drug tested!
The Bad: There is going to be a quarterback controversy in Arizona in the offseason, if it hasn’t begun already. John Skelton is 5-1 in games that he’s started in or taken the majority of the snaps, and he’s brought the Cards back in almost every one of those games to earn himself a clutch title of sorts. On the flip-side, Kevin Kolb has a 1-7 record in the games that he has started, or taken the majority of snaps. I’ve talked to several Cardinals fans that are pissed off about getting rid of a 2nd rounder, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a load of money for a quarterback that had barely any experience before the trade, which leads me to:
The Ugly: Picking up off the last segment, the ugly of this team is Kolb. Go ahead and tell me that Kolb hasn’t had the benefit of the offseason, or he didn’t have time to gel with his team, or that it’s a new system… the same can be said for all the rookie QB’s in the league, who are oh by the way, winning ball games and looking good while doing so, not to mention Skelton has stepped in and done a hell of a job with the same squad. Kolb is a china doll and if he’s in, it’s not for long. Toes, ankle and concussions have rocked this guy in his career. Take a look at last year, first game of the season, 2ndqtr and he goes down with a concussion. Mike Vick steps in and wins the job. Kolb gets traded for a 2nd round pick and a Pro-Bowl Cornerback and they sign him to a big deal. He was unproven, and Arizona is now stuck with this guy barring any fine print in his contract. In my opinion, Kolb is not, and never will be an NFL starter. Time to let the ship sail.
St. Louis Rams
The Good: Despite having a horrible record this year, the Rams have some upside. If Steven Jackson and Sam Bradford can keep this thing going, there could be no stopping the Rams. This team has shuffled at literally EVERY position. I don’t know if it was the conditioning or what happened, but the Rams were hit with the injury bug BADLY. The good here is Bradford will have some weapons, Steven Jackson is still a workhorse, Brandon Lloyd will continue to get better for them and once they get healthy they’ll have a pretty good roster. I had this team winning the division in my preseason picks, but didn’t anticipate the health issues. Once they get it going, it could be scary.
The Bad: The aforementioned injuries. This team has played the backups, backups, backups. Offensive line has left 3 different QB’s running for their lives, cut down the production of Jackson and hasn’t been able to execute as they should be. The defense was built pretty well, I was excited to see them this year, but they are down to scrubs. They are playing with their 10th, 11th, and 12th options in the defensive backfield. So many things have gone bad, and it’s made this coaching staff look horrible. Steve Spagnuolo had a pretty good year last year, taking the team to a win-and-in situation at Seattle for the season finale. There is no doubt in my mind that the new ownership of the Rams is going to replace the staff, and I disagree with getting rid of them because it is a solid staff minus one guy.
The Ugly: The same man who ruined the Broncos has ruined the Rams offense. Josh McDaniels seems to be a cancer to teams that he’s been associated with. His style of an offense is not that of the skill set of their franchise QB in Sam Bradford. There’s too much going on with the slim amount of talent they have due to injuries and it seems to me that Josh will not scale down the offense at all. It’s either his way, or no way. In my opinion, the rest of the staff deserves to stay because it’s not 100 percent their fault and they are a solid coaching staff. But McDaniels needs to go.
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