Dec 23, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21) carries the ball against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated San Francisco 42-13. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Division Predictions: NFC West


Each week, Rishi Pochiraju will predict the placement of teams in an NFL division. He has predicted the results of the AFC North, NFC North, and the AFC West. Today: the NFC West.

One of the main stories of the 2013 offseason has been the arms race between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks, with both teams attempting to gain as much of an advantage over the other. Last year, the division was decided by half a game (San Francisco was 11-4-1, Seattle was 11-5).

San Francisco brought in receiver Anquan Boldin from Baltimore, who torched them in the NFL’s most recent game. They also drafted one of the hottest names on the board in Marcus Lattimore. It’ll be interesting to see whether he is able to get on the field this year.

Meanwhile, Seattle traded for speedy receiver/kick returner Percy Harvin and signed Cliff Avril and Antoine Winfield as undrafted free agents, to name a few significant signings.

Let the race for the division crown begin. Actually, it has already begun.

1st Place:  San Francisco 49ers

Arguably the best team in the league, I expect the 49ers to repeat as division champions. Yes, I know all about what Seattle’s done. However, I believe San Francisco has the better situational defense, quarterback, running game, offensive scheme, and most importantly, coaching staff. Yes, I said it – Jim Harbaugh > Pete Carroll.

Trading for Boldin makes the front office look even smarter with number 1 receiver Michael Crabtree possibly done for the season (torn Achilles tendon). The rushing attack will continue to thrive behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. Harbaugh will continue to grind on veterans Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, second-year pro LaMichael James, and, hopefully for the fans, rookie Marcus Lattimore.

It won’t be easy for the ‘Niners, but they’ll get the job done with the pieces they have in place. The only obstacle in the team’s way is the Seahawks, but San Francisco, in my mind, is the better team and plays the best situational football of the two. This will carry them to a third straight division crown under Jim Harbaugh.

2nd Place:  Seattle Seahawks

As I said above, Seattle has brought in a number of weapons who should contribute largely to the football club. Many consider Seattle to be the best team in the league. I believe they may very well be the second-best, just behind San Francisco. Well, too bad the 49ers are in the division.

We know about Seattle’s defense, but the key to major success for the team is the development of the offense, especially the way Russell Wilson makes use of his receivers. Seattle didn’t have many offensive weapons in the passing game last season, but the team hopes the addition of Percy Harvin will give them one.

Although I don’t believe Seattle will win the division, I do think they will have a very successful regular season, finishing around 12-4. In the playoffs, it’s up to them in terms of how far they want to go, possibly facing NFC powerhouses such as Green Bay, Atlanta, or division rival San Francisco.

3rd Place:  St. Louis Rams

St. Louis was arguably the most improved team last year under new head coach Jeff Fisher. Now, the team looks to improve even more and build chemistry, perhaps pushing for the final wild-card spot in the NFC playoffs (I expect Seattle to get the no. 5 seed if they don’t win the division).

Sam Bradford overcame his cabin fever last year, and led the team to a five-and-a-half-game improvement (they tied in one game) in one season. I love the draft pick of Tavon Austin – the defense is already good under Fisher’s lead, so why not give Sam Bradford some playmakers?

Austin should be better than Danny Amendola was. Some question his durability at that height, but the man has never missed any game or practice in his life. No injuries of any kind were ever recorded, so I’m not concerned. St. Louis should be ready to compete in 2013.

4th Place:  Arizona Cardinals

Kevin Kolb is gone and Carson Palmer is in. Palmer is underrated as a passer, having thrown for over 4,000 yards. Palmer should be able to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, something Kolb was not able to do. Bruce Arians will certainly aid the offense, but Arizona still has a lot to work on.

Rashard Mendenhall can be questioned as a 1st team running back. The offensive line was horrible last year. I mean horrible. That was part of the reason Kolb did not succeed, but the protection has to be better this year. It can only improve, and that goes for the team as well.

In a tough division, Arizona will be much improved, but not enough to compete. The team is capable of being a .500 or better team, but I don’t think they can finish above even St. Louis, who is also much improved.

Tags: 49ers Arizona Cardinals Cardinals FanSided Fansided Network Fansided Nfl Featured Frank Gore Jim Harbaugh Kevin Kolb Marcus Lattimore Pete Carroll Popular Rams Sam Bradford San Francisco 49ers Seahawks Seattle Seahawks St. Louis Rams

  • loverpoint

    I agree with your standings prediction. St. Louis beat both the 49ers and Seahawks, There has been a bunch of hype about the 49ers vs Seattle rivalry, if I were Seattle I would be more worried about St. Louis sneaking up and bypassing you than I would be about trying to catch the 49ers.

    Maybe some of the Seattle trash talking and bravado should be directed at St. Louis?

    The 49ers got their wake-up call from St. Louis last season. This season the 49ers will not fall for special teams gimmickry, Kaepernick will not be called for another safety, they will not run a stupid lateral to Ted Ginn in the end zone , and will hopefully have a more reliable kicker.

    • Matthew

      As a Seahawks fan I totally Agree. Jeff Fischer is an amazing coach and has changed the culture in St. Louis

  • skeletony

    ROTFLMAO! I stopped reading after ‘San Fran has the better “situational”(SIC)”, Qb, RUNNING GAME (REALLY?! You think an elderly Frank Gore who did not come close to Marshawn Lynch last ye3ar, is better than Lynch, Turbin and the rookies Seattle picked up in the draft?!), and coaching staff. Now it may turn out that Kaepernick is a better Qb than Wilson. Too early to tell right now but it is so close that I don’t see how either side could make a claim either way. Same goes for the coaching situation. Is Harbaugh better than Carroll? He might be but it is FAR from clear at this point. Seattle has the better defense and I don’t even think this one is that close with the additions Seattle made in the offseason.

    1. Seattle – Best running game in the division and maybe the league this year. Best receivers, maybe in the NFL with Harvin, Tate and Rice and a rookie TE who is turning a lot of heads already to add to Miller’s productive play and a top 3 defense.

    2. San Francisco – A top 5 defense probably and a top 5 running game only because of Karpernick. Middle of the pack WRs this year.

    3. St. Louis – They are coming. Time will tell how far but they are coming.

    4. Arizona – Flying under the radar right now. Last year they beat some good teams early on. Carson Palmer sucks but if he can just play half decent like last year then maybe they can have a winning record this season.

    And the St. Louis vs. Arizona thing is hardly settled either. We will see after the 2013 season is at least half over.

    • Rishi Pochiraju

      No, I don’t think Gore is better than Lynch. I didn’t say that. I said the running game of SF is better – Kaep, Gore, LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter, and Marcus Lattimore are collectively better as a unit than Wilson, Lynch, and Turbin.

      Not that “an elderly frank gore… is better than Lynch, Turbin, etc”.

      • skeletony

        Wilson, Lynch, Turbin and Christine Michael are collectively better than Kaep’, Gore, James and the other guys fighting for practice squad jobs. FAR better IMO. Kaep’ is a better runner than Wilson in terms of speed and agility but Wilson is a smarter runner which cancels that out. Gore will be lucky to get 1000 yards or make it through the season still able to walk upright. Turbin is a proven commodity for the Hawks so if Lynch needs to rest or gets injured they don’t lose a ton.

        But time will tell. I hope these threads are still online come January and February so I can either admit my being wrong or rub your noses in my being right ;).

  • rbc

    How can you say San Francisco plays the best situational football when in key situational splits last year (3rd down, red zone, when trailing, final 2 min. of half, etc.) Wilson owned Kaepernick? Do a little research and look it up. ESPN even did all the work breaking it down so all you have to do is spend three minutes to compare.

    What a joke. Just say you’re a Niners homer and don’t care about facts. Then we’ll have some honesty.

    • DMan

      Now, Now Rolling Bull Corkscrew or whatever RBC means……….The 49ers will be playing in the snow next February so go chill out and get a name.

      • skeletony

        49ers may not make the playoffs this year. Faith is a stupid basis for drawing conclusions about anything kiddo.

        • DMan

          Unscribe.

          Thank you

          • skeletony

            You don’t have to …”unscribe” (SIC). Just don’t type poorly informed, irrational BS.

      • skeletony

        LOL! Is ‘DMan’ telling others to “get a name”? How badly is your ironymeter blaring right now?

    • skeletony

      Actually he is a Redskins homer…who just happens to not like Seattle (like 80% of the NFL’s fan base.).

  • DMan

    SF
    STL
    SEA
    AZ

    and that’s that. SEA is roided out with more to come and Harvin’s headaches will continue to be a problem. Lastly Good ole Pete’s rah rah crap goes only so far, in this case, it goes to a third place finish in the west.

    • Gaven

      Roided out?

      That’s like calling someone with a coffee addiction a cocaine addict. Adderall does not make you faster, stronger, or bigger; tt makes you more alert and focused.

      As for your prediction…you might as well have picked AZ to be first and SF last.

      • skeletony

        Not too mention Seattle really has no more than the average number of ‘PED’ busts (the stats that people are running with include guys who were not even Seahawks when they were busted for ADDERAL (not “steroids”) and a guy who had a prescription and was thus legal but his attorney messed up the paperwork. I think the anti-Seattle contingent (the guys who cry anytime a Seattle team is getting attention at all) are preemptively setting up an excuse for why they are losing to Seattle this year.

      • DMan

        and thank you doctor Gaven (hopefully not mispelled Newsom).
        Does your medical expertise biologically identify the dung color of the Seattle team. Nice uni’s! They resemble the slop on the field at Candlestick after another Niner win. Have a great 4th!

        • Gaven

          Hey, how about an update, DMan…

          10-1 Seahawks
          7-4 Cardinals
          6-4 SF
          5-6 Rams

          Your guesswork sucks as bad as your “knowledge”.

  • DMan

    Time to calm down boys and girls Seattle will be dealt with in week #2 and this banter will then be academic. Can anyone suggest a good place to stay adjacent to the Super Bowl next February?