Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Crystal Balls: 49ers topple Seahawks out west

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St. Louis makes big strides in 2014, but the 49ers are once again top dog as Seattle stumbles. The NFL Crystal Balls hit the NFC West as Dan Salem and Todd Salem debate in part one of this week’s TD Sports Debate. Two brothers from New York yell, scream and debate the NFL and sports.

 

DAN:

Last season the NFC West was the strongest and most competitive in the conference and there’s little indication that will change in 2014. After predicting three other uber competitive divisions, it’s very obvious the NFC is stacked. But not every division will actually live up to the hype. Here’s a look at the West in 2013:

Seattle Seahawks 13-3 (division champ)(playoffs)
San Francisco 49ers 12-4 (playoffs)
Arizona Cardinals 10-6
St. Louis Rams 7-9

The offseason was reasonably quiet for the four NFC West squads, but that’s certainly a good thing. Why fix what wasn’t broken? But change is in fact on the horizon, and it does me no pleasure in predicting it.

The Seahawks will take a step back this season. It will be a small step, but a fall none the less. They were unbelievable last season. Their defense played at a level achieved once a decade and everything went right for them on offense. I think Seattle holds on to a wildcard playoff berth, but won’t win the west this season.

The Arizona Cardinals will also be taking a step back in 2014. They are a good team, but this division will brutalize them over the course of the season. Arizona finds itself in last place, with a similar record to what the Rams put up in 2013.

Speaking of St. Louis, I like them to take a major step forward. Double digit victories are not out of the question for the Rams. I’ve watched them improve season after season on both sides of the ball and Sam Bradford is due for a ‘breakout’ year. It won’t be enough to topple the Seahawks and 49ers, but they’ll make waves early on, enough to scare the self proclaimed ‘experts’ onto their bandwagon.

This leaves the 49ers. Damn if they are not a great team. I know I pointed at them back in the early spring as a team to fall this season, but I’m allowed to change my mind. Jim Harbaugh is a beast, as is Mr. Kaepernick. If its possible for a quarterback of his stature to be underrated, I think Colin fits the bill. Three straight NFC Championships is no fluke. The 49ers win this division.

 

TODD:

I thought we might actually agree for the first time in this extended exercise. It was not meant to be.

Your read on St. Louis is right there, but you get carried away. That defense, especially the front seven, is outstanding. I also think Janoris Jenkins is one of the best up-and-coming corners in the league. The only reason he fell in the draft when he came out was because of character issues. His talent and ability was never a concern for the next level.

Double-digit wins and grabbing experts onto their bandwagon? Have you seen this team’s offense? Sam Bradford is not breaking out. He’s already at where he’s going to be. This is his fifth season already. What else is there to learn? He’s an okay passer who is prone to injury and can’t complete passes down field. He’s a solid notch below the Andy Dalton types. Zac Stacy was a pleasant surprise last season; that might be his career high point. I don’t think he’s a bad player, but I’m not expecting multiple Pro Bowls out of him. And when Kenny Britt is heavily involved in a team’s starting wide receiving corps, fans should be worried.

Predicting steps back, whether big or small, for both Seattle and Arizona is spot on. I don’t think either team hits their win total from 2013. Arizona was a surprise last year despite Carson Palmer doing his normal 22-interception thing behind center. Actually, the buzz surrounding Palmer has gotten so negative that no one even realized his 22 picks last year were a career high. We just assumed it was business as usual.

Thanks to some very nice skill players on offense and wrecking crew defenders, Arizona hung with the NFC West big boys. While the offense should remain steady, the suspension of Daryl Washington on defense is huge. He was the catalyst for a lot of the things they did. Patrick Peterson and Calais Campbell may be in the top five in the NFL at their respective positions. It won’t be enough to see a repeat of the Cardinals’ top ten defensive performance.

As for the big boys up top, I agree Seattle stumbles just a bit and San Fran remains up there. However, their respective places in the standings aren’t any different in my mind.
 

[Part two - Seahawks soar past 49ers]

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Tags: 2014 NFL Predictions Arizona Cardinals NFC West NFL San Francisco 49ers Seattle Seahawks St. Louis Rams

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