In the sixth of eight daily divisional NFL debates, we argue about the NFC West. In this division you have one clear favorite (49ers) one underdog who could surprise everyone and come out on top (Seahawks) and two teams that don’t stand much of a chance (Cardinals and Rams). With an improving rookie quarterback, a top running back and an amazing defense, the Seahawks are looking good coming into this season. But will they be able to beat out the reigning divisional champ 49ers? Read below to find out.
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[one_half] By: Matt Smith 49ers
It remains to be seen whether last year’s second seed team can do just that, but the 49ers are locked, loaded and ready to win the NFC West.
The biggest reason the 49ers will win the NFC West is that their MO is defense. While they may not have the greatest offense, the saying “defense wins championships” isn’t popular for nothing. Last season, the 49ers had the second ranked defense in terms of points allowed and first overall in run defense.
The keys to the 49ers’ defense lies in their front seven.
The 49ers start a pare of All-Pro caliber inside linebackers in Patrick Willis and the underrated NaVorro Bowman.
Both Bowman and Willis excel in run defense and have the capability to do whatever else the coaching staff asks of them.
The linebackers are free to roam the field and seek out the ball so easily only because the 49ers are able to win battles in the trenches.
DT Isaac Sopoaga eats space in the middle, and the 49ers have perhaps the most underrated player in all of football in Justin Smith, the best 3-4 DE in the league.
OLB Aldon Smith, a pass-rushing specialist last year, will be one to watch as he takes on full-time duties after only playing on passing downs last season.
To top off their defense, the 49ers have great depth in the secondary.
On offense, the 49ers look to grind out games with a ground-and-pound approach.
Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs and rookie LaMichael James are all capable backs who let the offensive line clear holes while they take advantage of them.
The passing game is where things get a little sour.
QB Alex Smith is nothing more than a game-manager, although he is surrounded by a number of weapons in TE Vernon Davis and WRs Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and Randy Moss.
It’s not an overly effective part of their game, but they don’t need it to be. The 49ers are above average in every aspect of the game besides passing offense. [polldaddy poll=6523170]
[one_half_last] By: Pranav Tadikonda
The season was highlighted by wins against the eventual Super Bowl champions New York Giants and the very talented Baltimore Ravens. However, the Seahawks also suffered puzzling losses to the Cleveland Browns and the Arizona Cardinals.
This year, after numerous offseason moves, the Seahawks will look to lead a more consistent, successful campaign. Here’s why the ‘Hawks will win the NFC West.
Improved Quarterback Play
The Seahawks had a tough year with quarterback last year. Tavaris Jackson was thought to be a sufficient replacement for Matt Hasselbeck, for at least one year. Jackson proceeded to throw nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns, with 14 TDs and 13 INTs. Jackson ranked 21st out of 34 eligible quarterbacks in passer rating last year.
Seattle realized that they had a problem at quarterback, so they signed highly-touted quarterback Matt Flynn in free agency and drafted college standout Russell Wilson in the 2012 NFL Draft. Jackson was traded to Buffalo midway through the preseason.
Wilson won the starting job over Flynn, but the Seahawks have two solid QBs on their roster. The play from signal-callers in Seattle will have a drastic effect on the Seahawks offense.
An Elite Defense
Even though the Seahawks defense is made up of several relatively unknown players, the Seattle unit is one of the best in the league.
The defensive squad has four very capable starters in cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. The Seattle secondary is one of the best in the league, if not the best.
The linebackers aren’t anything special, but they can get the job done. LeRoy Hill, Barrett Ruud and K.J. Wright round out an average linebacker group. Wright has a high ceiling and could end up being a stud in 2012.
The defensive line isn’t as good as the secondary, but it is still above-average. Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Jason Jones and Brandon Mebane are the primary contributors, but the Seahawks will look to develop first-round pick Bruce Irvin at defensive end.
Seattle will remain a great defense in 2012; in fact, their defense will end up being the deciding factor in close games.