The fourth in a series of eight division previews, recapping the 2012 season, the offseason, and the storylines to watch in 2013. Next week: AFC!
2012 Regular Season Standings:
- San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)
- Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
- St. Louis Rams (7-8-1)
- Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers’ offseason involved a number of trades, including moving former first overall pick Alex Smith to the Chiefs for a second round pick, and trading for receiver Anquan Boldin from Baltimore. The team also added corner Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency, but have lost some significant starters in Delanie Walker, Dashon Goldson, Ted Ginn and Isaac Sopoaga. Recently they also lost receiver Michael Crabtree to an Achilles tear, he had a big impact late in the season for the 49ers, they’ll hope he can return towards the end of 2013.
In the draft, the 49ers moved up in the first round to get safety Eric Reid (to replace Dashon Goldson), and in a value pick, also got Marcus Lattimore in the fourth (who would’ve been much higher if not for a horrible college knee injury).
Seattle Seahawks – There must be some kind of fad in trading your backup quarterback to the AFC West. Matt Flynn was sent to the Raiders in return for a fifth as Russell Wilson is the clear starter in Seattle. The Hawks also pulled off a big trade for the dynamic Percy Harvin.
They lost their first round pick in the trade, but still made 11 selections in the draft, including Australian Jesse Williams in the fifth. Their free agent period is an example of the rich getting richer – the team added corner Antoine Winfield, as well as defensive linemen Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett without significant losses.
St. Louis Rams – The Rams were active in the NFL draft, getting the most explosive player, receiver Tavon Austin, and also trading back into the first round to select linebacker Alec Ogletree – two players who should develop into long term starters for the Rams.
A couple of seasoned veterans moved on in free agency – wide receiver Danny Amendola to the Pats, and Steven Jackson to the Falcons. The team also added talented tight end Jared Cook from the Titans.
Arizona Cardinals – There’s been a firesale of the Cards’ roster – out is Kevin Kolb, Kerry Rhodes, Adrian Wilson, Beanie Wells, William Gay and John Skelton. The additional of Carson Palmer for a conditional seventh round pick as well as Javier Arenas, Jerraud Powers, Rashard Mendenhall and Jasper Brinkley may help their 2013 campaign to some degree, but they’re not viewed as impact signings.
One of the few brights spots from last year, linebacker Darryl Washington, has been suspended for four games, and perhaps in response Arizona drafted Kevin Minter in the second round to help fill the hole. The Cards also selected Tyrann Mathieu (aka, the Honey Badger) in the third, who had drug troubles in college. A good match for Mathieu, who is now with his close friend Patrick Peterson in Arizona.
San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers are in an interesting position, losers of the Super Bowl typically have a poor season following the loss, but the 49ers have one of the strongest rosters in the league, and quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who’s only started ten games, is the hottest commodity in the NFL.
They’ve had some roster turnover, but there’s no denying that the 49ers are definitely in the mix to represent the NFC again, and perhaps do one better. It’s tough to identify a weak spot anywhere on their roster.
Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson was the biggest steal of the 2012 draft, with the Hawks selecting him in the third round and getting probably the value of a third overall pick. By all accounts, Wilson is working hard in the offseason to again take his team to the playoffs, and despite being in the toughest division in the NFL, he has a good chance to succeed.
Seattle has a strong defense and now with Percy Harvin, their offence could become unstoppable. The 12th man in Seattle helped them to an 8-0 home record in 2012 – maybe they’ll go undefeated all season in 2013?
St. Louis Rams – Despite finishing third in 2012, the Rams actually had the best in-division record. There’s certainly talent on the Rams’ roster, and despite losing some major offensive players the addition of Austin to the offence could elevate them to the next level.
There’s a general view of the Rams as a bad team, but they showed in 2012 they can scrap with the best and they might surprise with a playoff push in 2013.
Arizona Cardinals – Larry Fitzgerald described the 2012 season as his most disappointing season ever. I don’t think 2013 will be a walk in the park either. One positive to cling to is that their new coach, Bruce Arians, helped to turn around a horrible Colts team to make the playoffs the 2012.
Carson Palmer is not going to be the next Kurt Warner, but surely he’s an upgrade over the Skelton/Kolb mess. On the bright side, there’s going to be some good quarterbacks available at the top of the 2014 draft.
Predicted 2013 Standings
- Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
- San Francisco 49ers (11-5)
- St. Louis Rams (9-7)
- Arizona Cardinals (3-13)