OVERVIEW: NFC West
The Arizona Cardinals have posted a mark of 22-42 straight up over the past four seasons which is by far the worst win/loss record of any team in the NFC West, however, thats all about to change in 2005 as I fully expect these Cardinals to win this division and make the playoffs, remember that you heard it here first!
Cardinal HC Denny Green had another fantastic draft highlighted by picking CB Antrel Rolle and RB J.J. Arrington with his first and second choices followed by selecting CB Eric Green and LB Darryl Blackstock with his third and fourth picks, Rolle and Arrington will in all likelihood be immediate starters while Green and Blackstock will add depth to a defense that improved from 26th overall in 2003 to 12th overall in the league in 2004.
Denny Green got a draft steal in the forth round by picking up OG Elton Brown out of Virginia who may very well be another immediate starter, Brown is a mountain of a man at 64 and 339 lbs and was a two time recipient of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy which is given annually to the ACCs top blocker.
The Cards did very well in the free agent wars by signing two time league MVP Kurt Warner to lead the offense and play catch with WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin who comprise one of the best WR tandems in the NFL, to help protect Warner in the pocket the Cards signed OG Oliver Ross away from Pittsburgh and for good measure also brought in OTs Ian Allen and Adam Haayer for added depth.
Arizona has managed to interject a lot of young talent on their roster via excellent drafting as evidenced by the fact that 13 of the Cards 14 draft choices from 2003 and 2004 are on the roster for 2005, and to think that 7 of those 14 draft picks from 2003 and 2004 are starters!
Seattle cant seem to get out of their own way with regard to posting an overall win/loss mark of 35-31 over the past four years which has led to them being what is referred to as a middle of the road team, not bad enough to be in line for higher draft picks but yet not good enough to capitalize on opportunity when it knocks on their door.
The Seahawks finished 2004 with an offense ranked 8th overall in the league but defensively fell from 19th overall in 2003 to 26th overall in 2004, the Hawks really didnt help themselves too much in the draft and instead concentrated on free agency to shore up their defense as 8 of their 11 free agent signings were defense related as they picked up two DEs, two LBs, two CBs, a DT, and a Safety.
The Hawks brought in WRs Joe Jurevicius and Jerome Pathon to ease the release of problem child WR Koren Robinson who had an off season DUI, the loss of backup QB Trent Dilfer to Cleveland will hurt the Hawks tremendously if QB Matt Hasselbeck goes down to injury and RB Shaun Alexander is threatening to sit out most of training camp in protest of the Hawks not honoring him with a new deal, ahhhhhhh nothing but problems problems problems for HC Mike Holmgren.
St. Louis by far has the best four year record of any team in this division with a win/loss mark of 44-26, however, the continued bad play calling and terrible clock management by HC Mike Martz has led to this team falling well short of expectations given this teams immense talent level over the past few years.
The Rams have made the playoffs four of the past five years during Martzs tenure, however, bone headed play calling in 2000 led to a first round loss at the hands of the Saints 31-28 and to think the Rams were 6.5 point road favorites playing at New Orleans, the following season saw these Rams completely out coached when they were installed as 14 point favorites in the Super Bowl against New England but lost 20-17.
2003 saw these Rams once again exit the playoff picture in a 29-23 first round loss to Carolina in a game played at St Louis with the Rams installed as 7 point home favorites, then of course how can we forget the 47-17 pasting the Rams absorbed last season in the playoffs against an Atlanta team that was nowhere near as talented as the Rams?
The Rams had a very average draft and didnt really help themselves in the free agent wars other than picking up LBs Dexter Coakley and Chris Claiborne to help shore up a defensive unit that ranked a shoddy 29th in rushing yards allowed in 2004. I fully expect to see these Rams finish below the .500 mark in 2005 and if Georgia is smart she will give Martz the ole boot at seasons end.
The Niners had a pretty good draft but they are still at least two years away from being able to compete for the divisional crown, HC Mike Nolan has already stated that his intention is to go ahead and start the NFLs first overall draft pick QB Alex Smith under center and let him gain experience, meaning of course that the Niner organization is expecting nothing from this team in 2005 and neither do I.
In closing, obviously I am very high on Arizona this season and expect big things from them in 2005, with that being said I will recommend two Futures wagers on the Cardinals,( A.) To win the NFC West and (B.) To go OVER the posted seasonal win/loss total of 7.5.
In addition to the reasoning I laid out above as to why these Cards will win this division its also noteworthy that Arizona will face the leagues 2nd easiest schedule when considering that the Cards 2005 schedule is comprised of teams that tallied a combined straight up win/loss record of 120-147 last year which equates to a winning percentage of only .449.
Jim Campbell is one of the nations most respected Sports Handicappers, he specializes in College and Pro Football, you can visit Jim at his website located at footballforecastor.com for all of your handicapping needs including free play selections, College and NFL stats, trends and award winning analysis on upcoming games.
With over 30 plus years experience in the handicapping profession Jim has built a solid reputation, his web based handicapping service at footballforecastor.com as been in existence since 1997 and year after year proves to be one of the very best handicapping services in America.