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13 December 2015: Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) warms up under the watchful eye of head coach Pete Carroll at M&T Bank Stadium, in Baltimore, MD. (Photograph by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)
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One man’s NFC West regular season preview

Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire
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The NFC West is an odd, trifling thing. It’s a division that contains no perfect teams -by and large an anachronism in the salary cap era anyway- but two Super Bowl contenders reside therein anyway. There are few superstars to be found here, especially on the offensive end of the ball, where the offensive lines for all four member clubs look to be adequate at best and quite possibly far worse than that.

The quarterbacks in the NFC West are all over the map, with a former star nearing the end in Arizona, an accomplished youngster just entering his prime in Seattle, the stopgap/rookie savior scenario playing out in Los Angeles, and San Francisco postponing their rebuild for reasons known only to them.

The NFC West could produce a Super Bowl winner and the first overall draft pick in next spring’s draft, but there isn’t even a consensus on who the best or worst team should be. And oddly, all four coaches within it have uncommon job security, whether they deserve to or not.

With that preamble out of the way, here’s one man’s preview of the NFC West:

Seattle Seahawks (11-5): As usual, the Seahawks won’t be starting the season in fifth gear, as Thomas Rawls and Jimmy Graham are working their way back from late-season surgeries. The offensive line is young and unsettled, with new starters in at least four positions and possibly all five. In fact, there are fresh faces up and down the roster, with 15 rookies among their 53 actives. There will be continuity with the skill position players; however, the “Legion of Boom” is still intact. Their special

There will be continuity with the skill position players; however, the “Legion of Boom” is still intact. Their special teams units continue to be a strength and most of all Russell Wilson is entering the height of his powers. As long as they can keep him healthy, the sky’s the limit for Seattle.

We can’t discount how the schedule shapes up in their favor, either. Traditionally, a second-half team under Pete Carroll, the Seahawks have what looks to be four of their five toughest match-ups in the second half, with games at New England, home against Carolina, at Green Bay and home versus Arizona in Week 16 that may well decide the division. Opening up against the Dolphins at home followed by a pair of division games against low-watt offenses in the Rams and 49ers gives their line a chance to gel before the real challenges begin.

Arizona Cardinals (7-9): The division could be decided in Week 16, but the guess here is it will be settled well before then, as I’m envisioning a Murphy’s Law type of season for the Cardinals, a hangover from their blowout loss at Carolina in the NFC Championship Game last January.

It’s hard to be convinced Carson Palmer will ever mentally or emotionally recover from his wretched postseason performance and his showing during the preseason. There is cause for concern on defense too, where the pass rush looks dormant outside of Chandler Jones, and they have a rookie cornerback to break in with Brandon Williams.

There is a way out of this dilemma for Arizona, it has to be a running and ball-control team. They certainly have the personnel to do it with their backfield and a pair of stud road-graders in Mike Iupati and Evan Mathis up front. Whether Bruce Arians can embrace caveman football is the question. My guess is by November, it will be apparent to all that they have to find a quarterback either in the draft or via free agency.

Los Angeles Rams (5-11):This is not a 7-9 football team,” Jeff Fisher barked at his players in the debut episode of “Hard Knocks,” a documentary (mockumentary?) series chronicling the Rams’ training camp which concluded -spoiler alert- with them cutting everyone but Todd Gurley and the defensive line, and William Hayes refusing to believe in dinosaurs even as he’s being disemboweled by a raptor. Real graphic stuff, buy hey, that’s why it’s not TV, it’s HBO.

Anyway, It’s is easy to agree with the well-tenured Rams skipper. They’re not a 7-9 team. At least, they shouldn’t be, if they know what’s good for them. They can float around the periphery of .500 with Case Keenum under center but in the immortal words of Ricky Watters, “For who? For what?”

The sooner they drop the pretense of being a darkhorse contender, the sooner they can start being serious about their future by giving Jared Goff meaningful reps. Yeah, he’ll probably be awful early on. Maybe he’ll never develop beyond awful, but Fisher owes it to his bosses and to the fans to find out, one way or the other. Otherwise, you’re just treading water and wasting everyone’s time.

San Francisco 49ers (3-13): It could be worse, though. It could always be worse. The 49ers are still trying to convince themselves that Blaine Gabbert is salvageable -though if they really wanted to help the lad they might’ve wanted to, I don’t know, bring in some receivers anyone’s heard of, maybe?- and Colin Kaepernick continues to be on the roster because “sunk cost” is a philosophy the front office only believes in for its coaches, apparently. There is next to nothing at the skill positions, and just when there seemed to be a glimmer of hope on the offensive line, it’s come out that

There is next to nothing at the skill positions, and just when there seemed to be a glimmer of hope on the offensive line, it’s come out that Anthony Davis is threatening to retire again, two days before the opener. The defensive line is the Oregon alumni association, and there is a dearth of playmakers anywhere outside of NaVorro Bowman.

It’s hard to imagine the 49ers ever mounting a serious drive, ever converting a 3rd-and-8 or ever creating a turnover on purpose. They will be bad and make you feel bad about yourself for watching them. Oh, and maybe the new coach isn’t a wizard after all.

There you have it. Please save this NFC West preview and send it back with artfully chosen compliments when Palmer wins MVP and leads the Cardinals to the Super Bowl, and your two wild-cards in the conference are the 49ers and Rams.

One man’s NFC West regular season preview

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