I would imagine that the 49ers winning the NFC West is a forgone conclusion, especially after San Francisco’s amazing season last year. That being said winning the NFC West this season will not be as easy as it was last season. The team that will be the most improved from last season will be the St.Louis Rams. I am not saying that they are going to win the division this coming year, I still think that the 49ers have simply too much defensive talent and a enough of an explosive offense to win again. However, an article about how a 13-3 team will repeat a division championship in an overall weak division is not very interesting, instead the focus will be on how the Rams will make the 49ers season much more difficult than last season’s campaign.
One of the first reasons that come to mind for why the Rams will be a vastly improved team from last season comes from Jeff Fisher, which is very ironic, being the new coach of the Rams. Jeff Fisher is a defensive minded coach, which is great news for the Rams because last season they had one of the worst run defenses in the league last season. Jeff Fisher also runs a traditional 4-3 defense, so there will not be much of a transitional period and with a 4-3 defense, the defensive line is the backbone of the defense. The Rams now have Chris Long, Robert Quinn, and Michael Brockers anchoring the line, so the run defense will be vastly improved.
Jeff Fisher also brings respect to the locker room with his history of success with the Oilers/Titans and being known as a coach that can turn a team around. Jeff Fisher was responsible for one of the best turnaround jobs in NFL history by being able to lead the Oilers through their transition from Houston to Nashville and in their first season in Nashville get them to a Super Bowl.
The Rams are also going to run a more traditional and balanced offense that will be much more suited for Sam Bradford’s abilities and with Stephen Jackson running the ball more, it will take the pressure off of Sam Bradford much more than in Josh McDaniels hyper speed offense. An offense that simply wasn’t built for a young team with few veterans. So expect the Rams to make a lot of noise this coming season, but the 49ers are still going to win the division.
There is one thing that the 49ers posses that the Rams currently don’t and that is a balance between veteren experience and youth. On offense the 49ers are even more dangerous with the additions of Randy Moss (who in my view can still play), LaMichael James, and A.J. Jenkins. With those offensive threats coupled with the power running of Frank Gore (assuming he can be healthy), the freakish ability of Vernon Davis, and the steady hands of Alex Smith at quarterback, the 49ers are if anything more dangerous on offense than last season.
On the Defensive side of the ball, the 49ers have all of their main playmakers on defense returning, I can only imagine that the 49ers will either play just as well as they did last season, or better. If there was one thing that Mike Singletary did right during his tenure in San Francisco and that was building one of the most feared defenses in the league. Jim Harbaugh was able to utilize all of the talent that the 49ers accumulated and developed during the Singletary era and win. Expect big things from the 49ers, including another NFC West championship this coming season. The Rams will at best be able to get a wild card appearance, which would be amazing given the fact that they were the second worst team by record last season.
I don’t expect much from the Cardinals or the Seahawks. The only two teams to pay attention to in the NFC West are the Rams and 49ers.