Ill-Advised NFL Previews: NFC West

This is my choice for “Worst Division in Football” for 2008. You can argue that the NFL Worst is trying to repeat, but they had stiff competition from the NFC South last year.

1) Seattle Seahawks – Because two of the other three teams suck balls and I’m not gonna get suckered into jumping on the “Arizona’s gonna be good this year” bandwagon again.  Maurice Morris is a glorified change-of-pace back thrust into a starring role because Shaun Alexander caught a mental disease that caused numerous bouts of self-tackleization.  Julius Jones spent the last couple years of his time in Dallas listening to fans scream for Marion Barber. T.J. Duckett is, well, T.J. Duckett. This means Seattle will be no different than last year, and they may be worse, because Bobby Engram is hurt and out a couple months, which makes them thinner at WR. Esssentially, the Seahawks will win the division thanks to Matt Hasselbeck throwing in the range of 35-40 times a game and because the rest of their division stinks.  Always bet against this team if they have to travel further east than St. Louis for a game (the sole exception would be when they go to Miami). This team is no better than 10-6 and winning the division at .500 is a possibility.

2) Arizona Cardinals – Mediocre as opposed to hopelessly bad.  Barring injury or a surprise case of the clap, Matt Leinart will be starting under center, and if he can’t at least sweep the Rams and the 49ers with Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald as starting wideouts (we’d mention Edgerrin James, but are still waiting for him to show up in AZ), then he truly deserves to have Kurt Warner steal his snaps.  8-8 is an “at best” for this team.

3) San Francisco 49ers – When J.T. O’Sullivan has the inside track to be your starting QB, you’ve got problems. Mike Nolan should be fired after the season is done, when Mike Martz has burned through O’Sullivan, Alex Smith, and Shaun Hill in futile attempts to run his high-octane offense with old wide receivers and forgetting that Frank Gore exists (not that it would help with the Niners’ O-line.)  This is the team that threw $80 million + at Nate Clements yet the secondary is still a problem.

4) St. Louis Rams – This position is predicated upon the likely scenario that Steven Jackson will not be showing up for the regular season in an understandable holdout (RBs need to get paid before their coaches run them down into retirement), thus, defenses will be able to peg the team by double-covering Torry Holt the entire game and daring Marc Bulger to throw it to someone else. I have $50 sitting on a bet that Scott Linehan will be fired during the season. The defense will be better with Chris Long learning and Adam Carriker developing, but there won’t be enough points to be competitive.

The Red Zone, Week 3 Late Games.

Cowboys 34, Bears 10 – Let the Rex Grossman speculation intensify! The Sex Cannon threw three picks in the game as Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Terrell Owens, and Marion Barber III walked all over a depleted Bears defense in the second half after a first half ended in a very dull 3-3 tie. The Chicago faithful screamed “GRIESE! GRIESE! GRIESE!” after the second pick thrown to Cowboys corner Anthony Henry, and I have to note this as as a Bronco fan: Chicagoans, you really, really don’t want to go there, pinning your playoff hopes on Brian Griese. It can only end in tears. I know these things.

Raiders 26, Browns 24 – Lane Kiffin is a quick study. One week after getting the short end of the stick on the gamesmanship against the Broncos, he pulls the exact shame shit on Romeo Crennel, when he runs Phil Dawson out there for the game-winning field goal. Kick is up and good — whoops, time out! Dawson blows the second. Raiders break an epic losing streak. Also, despite throwing for 200+ again, Josh McCown gets cheered while limping off on a bad knee for Daunte Culpepper. You stay classy, Oakland.

Jaguars 20, Broncos 14 – As for Coach Rat Fink, he and the Horseheads eat a loss due to not being able to stop the rush and keep the defense off the field. There were more offensive fits and starts in Denver than necessary, and letting Fred Taylor run around doesn’t help. The worst part: Denver’s vaunted secondary couldn’t keep Jacksonville’s sorry receiving corps from getting open.

Giants 24, Redskins 17 – First half, all Washington. Second half, all Giants. Eli Manning led a comeback as the Giants D makes stop after stop in the second half, and were aided by Joe Gibbs and Al Saunders’ inexplicable play calling at the end of the game — rushing twice to Ladell Betts at the 1 while the line is stacked.

Seahawks 24, Bengals 21 – Shootout up north, with Carson Palmer throwing for 300+ and the Cincy defense stiffening up a bit — except when Matt Hasselbeck led the game winning drive with a touchdown pass to Nate Burleson.

Photo: AP/Nam Y. Huh