Russell Wilson brought the Lombardi trophy back to the North western part of the country and for the first time we have a head coach who won both a Superbowl and College National Championship. But the champagne from Super Bowl toasts typically causes hangovers the following season, and it is rare for a team to cultivate the motivation to repeat. The 49ers have been on the brink of championship for the last few years, but have taken both external and internal punishments. With a series of injuries and suspensions this may be a down year for the younger Harbaugh. The Arizona Cardinals will host the NFL Super Bowl this year, and will have all the momentum heading in and throughout the season. With the return of their rising superstar safety, their All-pro corner, the Cardinals defense will rank among the top in the country. The Rams strive to break even in the toughest division in the NFC, and possibly the league. With no Quarterback, limited options at receiver, and an unproven ball carrier, the Rams should be doing a nose dive for the rights to Jameis Winston.
Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
There has been no indication that the Seattle Seahawks will suffer a Super Bowl hangover. The number one defense lost two of the veteran leaders but were easily replaced with youth and athleticism. The Legion of Boom lost Browner who did not contribute to the Super Bowl win anyways. Russell Wilson has looked exceptionally sharp in preseason, and Percy Harvin is fully healthy which really makes this team scary. Having a Percy Harvin type of player on a defensive dominant team gives some added balance to Pete Carroll's offense this year. The only slight hesitation I have in crowning this team a repeat champion is the health of Marshawn Lynch over the duration of the season. If Christian Michael can equal 75-85% of the production that ‘Beast Mode’ gives this team, Seattle will be playing in the championship once again.
Arizona Cardinals (9-7)
There has been a lot of incoming hype surrounding Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals defense. Larry Foote and Kevin Minter will lead a ferocious defensive front, who managed to earn the only win in Seattle in years. The secondary only got stronger adding the veteran Cromartie and the return of the ‘Honey Badger’. The only potential setback would be the play of Carson Palmer. Does Palmer have enough in the tank to lead this team to a Super Bowl hosted at home in their own stadium. The ball carrying duties have been assigned to second year pro Andre Ellington, who is expected to shoulder the offense throughout the season. We can only hope that Carson does not waste away Larry Fitzgerald’s few remaining productive seasons.
San Francisco 49ers (6-10)
The 49ers are in a bit of a mess right now. Bowman is out, the Pro Bowl Lineman held out the majority of camp, Aldon Smith is suspended until November, and McDonald is up next. They lost Carlos Rogers, Frank Gore is 31 years old, and Donte Hitner, I mean Whitner is setting the tone in Cleveland. If Colin Kaepernick does not display sheer flawlessness at the QB position, then San Francisco is done this season. Coach Harbaugh has consistently produced since he first stepped into the HC role a few years ago, but every dog has his day. This team has plenty of talent, but the hinges to this machine are coming loose with potential to collapse.
Saint Louis Rams (3-13)
The Rams are considerably done after losing Sam Bradford, again? No this is not deja-vu, this is simply the story of the Rams since the drafting of Bradford. Shaun Hill will take over a remedial offense which really only produced Zac Stacy as a small hope for the future. There are plenty of weapons surrounding the back-up QB; Jared Cook had success last year in the red zone, and Tavon Austin is an unopened present waiting under the tree. One thing the Rams do not need to fret about is the d-line. From Quinn to Chris Long, opposing QB’s will be ridding themselves of the football rather quickly. If Quinn and Long do their job then Janoris Jenkins and T.J. McDonald should both be Pro Bowlers by season end. Besides, what else do they have to look forward to?
Its tough to say Tavon showed flashes of greatness last year, not even glimpses. There were about 5 plays that come to mind that really displayed all the God-given ability that Tavon truly possesses. But on a team where the Quarterback position is in flux, and there is no perennial deep threat teams will be keying on Austin. Luckily, whoever is taking snaps under center this year will receive a “watered-down” playbook. A limited playbook will mean an emphasis on the short and intermediate passing attack which will favor Tavon. One thing that teams can not game plan for is his return ability.
No mind-boggling decision here, with Frank Gore over the 30 mark and officially beginning his decline in his career. So what better player suited to take over the reigns in Northern Cali then the powerhouse back Carlos Hyde. Not only is he durable enough to withstand the punishment from the NFC West defenses, but he is a versatile back who can be utilized for Colin in the passing attack. 49ers will be in good hands once Coach Harbaugh takes the handcuffs off of his rookie running back.
The Seahawks will compete along with the Packers, Falcons, and Saints for the rights to the Superbowl crown. I'm not a believer in this dynasty, and even great teams hardly repeat, not in this league. I expect the Seahawks to advance deep in the playoffs losing to most likely the Saints. Though they'll be back as long as the core remains, the Rams will be in the hunt for the 1st pick in the draft. Everyone else can be chalked to mediocrity.
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