The Pi-Rate Ratings

September 1, 2013

2013 NFC West Division Preview

2013 N F C West Preview

Do you remember how the season began for the four NFC West teams last year?  After four weeks, who was in first place?  Was it NFC Champion-to-be San Francisco?  Was it the Seattle Seahawks thanks to their gift of a win at home over the Packers on Monday Night Football?  Or, maybe it was the St. Louis Rams with new coach Jeff Fisher?

 

Wrong on all three guesses.  Future last place team Arizona led at 4-0, with three wins over teams expected to be really good.  The Cardinals topped Seattle in week one, then won at New England in week two.  When they defeated Philly in week three, it was meaningful since the Eagles were supposed to challenge for the NFC East crown.  Even an overtime win over Miami in week four looked impressive.  At 4-0, pundits believed this was a much better team than the one that went to the Super Bowl a few years earlier.

 

St. Louis stood at 2-2 after four weeks with wins over two teams that would make the playoffs.  Seattle was also 2-2, but everybody knew they should have been 1-3 and would have been 1-3 had the real referees been there on that fateful Monday night.

 

The San Francisco 49ers were 3-1, with the loss coming to a Minnesota team that nobody believed could go 8-8 much less the 10-6 that they eventually would achieve.

 

That, my friends, is just one example why the NFL is so hard to predict.  Who could believe that the mighty Cardinals of September 2012 would turn into the lowly Cardinals of December 2012.  Nine consecutive losses followed that 4-0 start, and the first eight of those were rather close games.  The ninth loss was a 58-0 pasting at Seattle, who by this time was looking like the best team in the NFL.

 

The swoon cost highly competent head coach Ken Whisenhunt his job.  Whis ended up at San Diego as the new offensive coordinator.  In his place comes the hot offensive coordinator of 2012.  Bruce Arians took over at Indianapolis after Chuck Pagano had to take medical leave, and he merely guided the surprising Colts to a playoff spot.  We believe Arians knows his stuff.  The former offensive assistant at Alabama under Bear Bryant has just one head coaching position on his resume.  He guided Temple to two winning seasons in the 1980’s at a time when winning seasons at Temple were as hard to come by as winning seasons with the Houston Astros.  Arians will get everything possible out of the Cardinal offense, and the team has improved its defense through the draft.  Quarterback Carson Palmer will bring the vertical passing game to the desert, and Larry Fitzgerald should rebound with a 1,000+ yard receiving year.  Michael Floyd showed flashes of brilliance last year even with the Cardinals shuffling quarterbacks like a deck of cards.  He will command enough attention to keep defenses honest, and he will also help the tight ends find more open spaces in the shorter zones.

 

In our opinion, the key to the offense this year is Rashard Mendenhall.  If the former Steeler star can rebound after suffering through an ACL injury last year, then this offense will move the ball and score more points this year.  If he is just a mere shell of his former self, then Palmer will be forced to throw the ball down the field too many times.  It will lead to inconsistency and predictability—failure!

 

St. Louis actually won the division last year if you go by division standings alone.  The Rams swept Arizona, went 1-0-1 against San Francisco, and split with Seattle.  Losses to lowly Detroit and Miami kept the Rams out of the playoffs.  The Rams may see the most benefit from their draft and free agent pickup of anybody.  First round picks Tavon Austin and Alec Ogletree will start from the beginning.  Third round pick T. J. McDonald has cracked the starting lineup as well.  Free agent acquisitions Jared Cook and Jake Long will have big impacts.  Cook could be the steal of the free agent signees this year, as he never developed at Tennessee.  He has looked like the star he was pegged to become under offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.  Fisher’s offenses in the past have relied heavily on throwing to the tight end to convert third down situations.  Having a third place schedule could help bump the Rams up to the plus side of .500, but it might be asking too much to expect this team to make the playoffs.

 

Seattle closed the season looking like the 2007 New England Patriots, at least on the scoreboard.  Those five wins that pushed them into the playoffs came by an average score of 39-12!  Russell Wilson proved to be the best of a great crop of new quarterbacks, and there is no reason to doubt that he won’t continue to flourish in the great Northwest.  He came close to averaging eight yards per pass attempt, a mark equivalent to batting .350 in the Major Leagues.  Receivers Golden Tate and Sidney Rice are capable of having better seasons than they did last year, and if Marshawn Lynch can replicate his 2012 season this year, the Seahawks will contend for the conference championship.  If they can get home field advantage, it will be tough to keep this team out of the Super Bowl.

 

San Francisco is our mystery team for 2013.  How can we say that out of the NFC Champion?  First, we are worried that Frank Gore is about to hit that wall that most running backs in their 30’s smash into when their legs refuse to respond as quickly to the signals sent to it from the brain.  He could still lead the team in rushing, but we suspect his average per carry is going to head south this year.  That could force Colin Kaepernick to try to make up for the decline by running a few too many times.  This new trend of quarterbacks running the ball as part of the offensive game plan is still very risky.  Just one hit could turn the fate of the team over to Colt McCoy, and we do not see McCoy as the type that can lead this team back to the Super Bowl.  So, we have a mystery here this year.

 

If Kaepernick can stay healthy for 16 games, and if Gore can get one more big year out of his legs, then this team is by far the best in the NFC.  However, the fall down the pack could be brutal if either star cannot perform up to their 2012 standards.  Add to this uncertainty the fact that this team must start the year without Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, and their draft class has more wounded players than healthy players, and 2013 could be a rough beginning with the first five games coming against Green Bay, Seattle, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Houston.  We would not be surprised if the 49ers are just 2-3 at this point and no better than 3-2.  At that point, if the team is healthy, they could almost run the table, but we believe they will fall a couple times after their week nine bye.eH

 

We have added a new wrinkle to our coverage this year.  In the past, friends of ours have asked us if we knew how to recreate the exact colors of their favorite team so that they could print those colors on their computer.  We have found this information from multiple sites in the last couple of months, and we are going to show you the RGB numbers so you can replicate those colors.  These can be used in graphics programs, but it can easily be used in MS-Word and MS-Excel.

 

Here are the official colors for the NFC West.

West

Color

Red

Green

Blue

Arizona Cardinals

Cardinal

151

35

63

 

Black

17

28

36

 

White

255

255

255

St. Louis Rams

Millenium Blue

0

33

71

 

New Century Gold

149

119

77

 

White

255

255

255

San Francisco 49ers

Cardinal

151

35

63

 

Metallic Gold

142

110

77

 

Black

17

28

36

Seattle Seahawks

Royal Blue

0

51

141

 

Green

0

133

66

 

Silver

133

136

139

 

 

2012 Final Standings & PiRate Ratings

NFC West

PiRate

Mean

Biased

W-L-T

Pts

Opp

Seattle Seahawks

112.2

110.7

109.7

11-5-0

412

245

San Francisco 49ers

108.4

107.9

107.5

11-4-1

397

273

St. Louis Rams

98.6

98.6

98.5

7-8-1

299

348

Arizona Cardinals

95.0

94.6

94.3

5-11-0

250

357

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013 Preseason PiRate Ratings

West

PiRate

Mean

Biased

San Francisco 49ers

108.4

107.9

108.6

Seattle Seahawks

105.6

105.6

105.5

St. Louis Rams

98.7

99.9

98.0

Arizona Cardinals

95.0

97.5

94.7

 

PiRate Previews

 

Team

Arizona Cardinals

               
Head Coach

Bruce Arians

O-Coord.

Harold Goodwin

D-Coord.

Todd Bowles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Projected Starting Lineup

Position

Player

 

Offense

Quarterback

Carson Palmer

Running Back

Rashard Mendenhall

Wide Receiver

Larry Fitzgerald

Wide Receiver

Michael Floyd

Tight End

Rob Housler

Tight End

Kory Sperry

Left Tackle

Levi Brown

Left Guard

Daryn Colledge

Center

Lyle Sendlein

Right Guard

Paul Fanaika

Right Tackle

Eric Winston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defense

Left End

Calais Campbell

Nose Tackle

Dan Williams

Right Tackle

Darnell Dockett

Left OLB

Sam Acho

Left ILB

Jasper Brinkley

Right ILB

Karlos Dansby

Right OLB

Lorenzo Alexander

Left CB

Patrick Peterson

Right CB

Jerraud Powers

Strong Safety

Yeremiah Bell

Free Safety

Rashad Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special Teams

Kicker

Jay Feely

Punter

Dave Zastudil

K-Return

Javier Arenas

P-Return

Patrick Peterson

 

 

Predictions

 

Record

5-11

Division

4th

Team

St. Louis Rams

               
Head Coach

Jeff Fisher

O-Coord.

Brian Schottenheimer

D-Coord.

Tim Walton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Projected Starting Lineup

Position

Player

 

Offense

Quarterback

Sam Bradford

Running Back

Daryl Richardson

Wide Receiver

Tavon Austin

Wide Receiver

Chris Givens

H-Back

Lance Kendricks

Tight End

Jared Cook

Left Tackle

Jake Long

Left Guard

Shelley Smith

Center

Scott Wells

Right Guard

Harvey Dahl

Right Tackle

Rodger Saffold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defense

Left End

Chris Long

Left Tackle

Kendall Langford

Right Tackle

Michael Brockers

Right End

Robert Quinn

Sam LB

Will Witherspoon

Mike LB

James Laurinaitis

Will LB

Alec Ogletree

Left CB

Cortland Finnegan

Right CB

Janoris Jenkins

Strong Safety

T. J. McDonald

Free Safety

Darian Stewart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special Teams

Kicker

Greg Zuerlein

Punter

Johnny Hekker

K-Return

Tavon Austin

P-Return

Tavon Austin

 

 

Predictions

 

Record

8-8

Division

3rd

Team

San Francisco 49ers

               
Head Coach

Jim Harbaugh

O-Coord.

Greg Roman

D-Coord.

Vic Fangio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Projected Starting Lineup

Position

Player

 

Offense

Quarterback

Colin Kaepernick

Running Back

Frank Gore

Fullback

Bruce Miller

Wide Receiver

Anquan Boldin

Wide Receiver

Kyle Williams

Tight End

Vernon Davis

Left Tackle

Joe Staley

Left Guard

Mike Iupati

Center

Jonathan Goodwin

Right Guard

Alex Boone

Right Tackle

Anthony Davis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defense

Left End

Ray McDonald

Nose Tackle

Ian Williams

Right End

Justin Smith

Left OLB

Ahmad Brooks

Left ILB

NaVorro Bowman

Right ILB

Patrick Willis

Right OLB

Aldon Smith

Left CB

Carlos Rogers

Right CB

Tarell Brown

Strong Safety

Donte Whitner

Free Safety

C. J. Spillman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special Teams

Kicker

Phil Dawson

Punter

Andy Lee

K-Return

LaMichael James

P-Return

LaMichael James

 

 

Predictions

 

Record

12-4

Division

1st

Team

Seattle Seahawks

               
Head Coach

Pete Carroll

O-Coord.

Darrell Bevell

D-Coord.

Dan Quinn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Projected Starting Lineup

Position

Player

 

Offense

Quarterback

Russell Wilson

Running Back

Marshawn Lynch

Fullback

Derrick Coleman

Wide Receiver

Golden Tate

Wide Receiver

Sydney Rice

Tight End

Zach Miller

Left Tackle

Russell Okung

Left Guard

Paul Mcquistan

Center

Max Unger

Right Guard

J. R. Sweezy

Right Tackle

Breno Giacomini

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defense

Left End

Red Bryant

Left Tackle

Tony McDaniel

Right Tackle

Brandon Mebane

Right End

Chris Clemons

Sam LB

K. J. Wright

Mike LB

Bobby Wagner

Will LB

Malcolm Smith

Left CB

Richard Sherman

Right CB

Brandon Browner

Strong Safety

Kam Chancellor

Free Safety

Earl Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special Teams

Kicker

Steven Hauschka

Punter

Jon Ryan

K-Return

Jermaine Kearse

P-Return

Golden Tate

 

 

Predictions

 

Record

11-5

Division

2nd

This concludes the PiRate Ratings Preseason Previews.  Coming Tuesday, we will debut our opening PiRate Ratings for NFL Week One.

 

On Wednesday, we will carry our college ratings for week two, and on Thursday, we will make our PiRate Picks for college and pro for the weekend.

 

Then, beginning the following week, we expect to release college ratings every Tuesday; NFL ratings every Wednesday; and our picks every Thursday.

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