NFC West: NFC West

NFL Nation: 4 Downs -- NFC West

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
10:00
AM ET
video
Catch us if you can.

That’s a message the Seattle Seahawks could send out to the rest of the NFC West.

It is also something the San Francisco 49ers might say to the Arizona Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams. But the Cardinals and Rams might have a statement of their own: We’re coming for you.

By almost everyone’s estimation, the NFC West is the best division in the NFL. It includes a Super Bowl champion in Seattle along with a team in San Francisco that, arguably, came up one play short of reaching its second consecutive Super Bowl.

It also includes a team in Arizona that won 10 games, one of which was a victory at Seattle -- the Seahawks' only home loss in 2013. And there's a team in St. Louis that won two of its last three games to finish 7-9 while playing most of the season without starting quarterback Sam Bradford.

So the question heading into 2014 is whether the Cardinals and Rams are in position to catch the Seahawks and 49ers. Have Arizona and St. Louis closed the gap on what might be the NFL’s two best teams?

The Cardinals have been active in free agency, signing cornerback Antonio Cromartie, offensive tackle Jared Veldheer, tight end John Carlson, receiver/kick returner Ted Ginn, running back Jonathan Dwyer and offensive lineman Ted Larsen.

Clearly, the competition in this division keeps getting better.

The four writers who cover the division for ESPN.com’s NFL Nation -- Terry Blount in Seattle, Bill Williamson in San Francisco, Josh Weinfuss in Arizona and Nick Wagoner in St. Louis -- take a look at where things stand in the NFC West on four key topics. We also polled our Twitter followers to find how they viewed the issues.

First Down

The Cardinals have made significant moves in free agency. The Rams, aside from keeping Rodger Saffold, have mostly stood pat. Which is closer to the playoffs?


Terry Blount: This is a no-brainer for me. The Cardinals are a team on the rise with one of the NFL's best coaches in Bruce Arians. He took a 5-11 team and transformed it to 10-6 in one season. He was 9-3 at Indianapolis in 2012 while filling in for Chuck Pagano. Arizona was 7-2 in its last nine games and won three of the last four, with the only loss being 23-20 to the 49ers in the season finale. The Cardinals could become a serious challenger to the two-team stronghold of Seattle and San Francisco. However, I do believe the Rams will have a winning season if they can hold their own in the division games.

Nick Wagoner: It's hard to evaluate this without seeing what happens in the draft, especially with the Rams having two premium picks. Even then it would be unfair to judge right away. Still, I have to go with the Cardinals. They were trending up at the end of the season and patched a big hole with offensive tackle Jared Veldheer. Losing Karlos Dansby was a blow, but adding cornerback Antonio Cromartie to a talented stable at the position makes them better. The Rams, meanwhile, are clearly counting on a whole lot of in-house improvement and a big draft. Keeping Saffold was important (and lucky), but it seems risky to pin all hopes on a leap to the playoffs on a group of young players all making a jump at the same time.

Josh Weinfuss: Arizona is the easy answer, and that's not because I cover them. The Cardinals were 10-6 last season and the first team kept out of the postseason. All the Cardinals have done this offseason is fix deficiencies and plug holes. Their offensive line got markedly better with the addition of left tackle Jared Veldheer. Their wide receiver corps and kick return game were solidified with Ted Ginn, and they now have one of the best cornerback tandems in the league with Antonio Cromartie coming on board. General manager Steve Keim looked at what went wrong in 2013 and went to work on fixes. It should put the Cardinals over the playoff hump.

Bill Williamson: It has to be Arizona. The Cardinals were so close to making the playoffs last season. They would have likely been dangerous in the postseason too. I like the way this franchise is shaping up. It seems like it is well run and well coached. The roster is also getting deep. Carson Palmer will have to be replaced sooner or later, but the Cardinals are on to something. The Rams certainly have some nice pieces and are probably the best fourth-place team in the NFL, but they aren't close to matching what Arizona has going for it.


Second Down

The Seahawks and 49ers played for the NFC title in January. Any reason to believe either won't return to the postseason?


Blount: They were the two best teams in the NFL last season, and there's no legitimate reason to think they won't be among the best in 2014. Seattle has lost 10 players who were on the Super Bowl roster, but other than wide receiver Golden Tate, none of them were on the team's priority list to keep. The 49ers move into a shiny new stadium. The only question for San Francisco is the precarious relationship between coach Jim Harbaugh and team executives. Who knows what the future holds there, but it shouldn't matter on game day.

Wagoner: Aside from some debilitating injuries, it's hard to see how either team has taken a major step back. The Seahawks have lost some good players in free agency, but even those players seemingly already had replacements in place. Nobody does a better job of developing talent than Seattle. The Seahawks still have holes to patch on the offensive line and losing receiver Golden Tate is a blow, so there could be some hope the offense will regress. But the defense makes it all go, and it doesn't look like it's going to lose any of its most prized components. As for the Niners, they are the more likely of the two to take a step back, but it's hard to see them taking enough of one to fall out of the postseason. For most of their key free-agent losses they were able to quickly come up with a replacement as good or better than the player lost, and retaining Anquan Boldin says they are looking to make another run at the Super Bowl. Plus, they will have a fully healthy Michael Crabtree ready for the season. Until proven otherwise, these two teams remain the class of the NFC and probably the NFL.

Weinfuss: The only reason either of them won't make the playoffs in 2014 is because the Cardinals or Rams will take their place. The gap between the top and bottom of the NFC West has closed significantly this offseason, making the West much like the Southeastern Conference in college football; everybody will beat up on each other. It's likely the West, if it's anything like last season, can see three teams in the playoffs -- its champion and the two wild cards. If one of the teams between Seattle and San Francisco were not to make it, it's tough, but I think Seattle might slip. The Seahawks lost a significant part of their defensive line and will be going through a Super Bowl hangover. That's risky to deal with and still make the playoffs. On the other hand, San Francisco will be hungry from losing to Seattle in the NFC Championship Game.

Williamson: I believe these are the two best teams in the NFL. So it's difficult to fathom that either team won't find its way into the playoffs, barring major injuries. Arizona, though, could create an issue for the Seahawks and 49ers. The Cardinals are going to win a lot of games, so both Seattle and San Francisco have to be careful or things could get tricky. In the end, I can see all three teams making the playoffs. This is the reason this division is so intriguing and so fun: Every game is critical. There is just not much room for error. Look at the 49ers last year. They went 12-4, but a 1-2 start hamstrung them. They could never fully recover despite having a great overall regular season. The same intensity will be a factor in 2014 in the NFC West.


Third Down

Will Rams quarterback Sam Bradford come back strong from an ACL injury, and what effect will he have on St. Louis having its coveted breakthrough year?


Blount: I think Bradford will be fine as far as the ACL goes, but this is a make-or-break year for him in my view. Bradford was playing pretty well before his injury last year, but the verdict still is out whether he can be an elite quarterback. He enters this season with the best supporting cast he's ever had, but playing in this division with teams that emphasize physical defensive play makes it difficult to show improvement.

Wagoner: All indications from the Rams are that Bradford's rehab is coming along well and he's on schedule to make his return in plenty of time for the start of the regular season. He apparently had a clean tear of the ACL, but he has been rehabbing for a handful of months and should resume throwing soon. Bradford's healthy return means everything to the Rams' chances in 2014. Believe it or not, this is his fifth season in the NFL and, much like the team, this is the time to make some noise. The Rams attempted to open up the offense in the first quarter of 2013 with Bradford to miserable results. They switched to a more run-oriented attack in Week 5 and the offense performed better. Bradford also played better as the run game opened up play-action opportunities in the passing game. It will be interesting to see if the Rams choose to go a bit more balanced with Bradford at the controls or if they continue at the same run-heavy pace they played with backup Kellen Clemens. Either way, Bradford's contract has two years left on it. If he wants a lucrative extension, this is the time to prove he's worth it.

Weinfuss: Short answer, yes, Bradford will come back strong. Just look at how he started in 2013. He was on pace for a massive year statistically before he got hurt. If he can pick up where he left off, Bradford will return with a bang and show he's still one of the better quarterbacks in the league. As we've seen, a top-tier quarterback can be the difference between sitting idle in the standings and having a breakthrough year. With the talent that surrounds the Rams, with tight end Jared Cook, running back Zac Stacy and wide receivers Tavon Austin, Chris Givens and Austin Pettis, among others, Bradford may singlehandedly help close the gap between the Rams and the top of the NFC West.

Williamson: I have to be honest: I'm not a big Sam Bradford guy. I think he's just OK. Just OK doesn't cut it in this division, especially considering the defenses he has to play six times a season in the NFC West. He's serviceable, but he's not the answer. Given the state of this division, I cannot envision a scenario where Bradford is the reason the Rams become the class of the NFC West. I think they can get by with Bradford for the short term, but the Rams are going to have to start thinking about the future at this position much earlier than expected when Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 draft.


Fourth Down

If you had to start a team with either Seahawks QB Russell Wilson or 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, whom would you choose?


Blount: You must be kidding. Give me Wilson every time, every day in every situation. Yes, Kaepernick is 5 inches taller than Wilson. Is there really anyone left who thinks Wilson's lack of height matters? Wilson also is at his best in pressure situations. He lives for it. And he is a more polished person on the field, and off it, than Kaepernick. That's not an observation. It's a fact. But this isn't a rip on Kaepernick. You would be hard-pressed to find any 25-year-old as polished as Wilson. The 49ers can win a Super Bowl with Kaepernick, and probably will soon. But if I'm starting a team, whether it is in football or almost any other life endeavor, I'll take Wilson without a doubt.

Wagoner: Wilson. For those of us covering other teams in the division, it's hard not to admire what he brings to the table. He presents himself as the consummate professional, and even opponents praise him for his work habits, intelligence and ability. He's already got the Super Bowl ring, and it's easy to see how he could add a few more. He's not all the way there in terms of his potential either, and it's probably safe to assume he's just going to keep getting better as his career goes along. That's nothing against Kaepernick, who is a unique talent in his own right, but there aren't many young quarterbacks in the league worth choosing over Wilson.

Weinfuss: Russell Wilson would be my pick, mainly because of his poise and maturity behind center. Colin Kaepernick is undoubtedly talented, but I get the sense he still has a lot of growing to do as a quarterback. He's tough to bring down, especially in the open field, but when he's pressured in the pocket, Kaepernick seems to panic and I wouldn't want that in a quarterback. I also think Wilson, despite his physical stature, is built to last. He's heady enough to stay out of harm's way, and his poise in the huddle will go a long way in leading a team.

Williamson: I'd take Kaepernick. I know it's a tough sell right now, since Wilson's team has beaten Kaepernick and the 49ers three of the past four times they've met, including the NFC title game, and the fact that Wilson has won a Super Bowl. I respect the value of Super Bowl wins and believe quarterback is the most critical position in sports. I'm sure I will smell like a homer with the Kaepernick pick. But moving forward, I just think Kaepernick has a higher ceiling. I think he can take over games more than Wilson can at a higher rate. Players built like Kaepernick and as athletic as Kaepernick just don't exist. He is special. He works extremely hard at his craft and is well coached. I'd take him, and I wouldn't look back. This isn't a knock on Wilson. He is proven and is going to be great. But if I'm starting a team, I'm taking Kaepernick, and I bet more general managers would agree than would disagree.

 

Morning Ram-blings: NFC Best

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
8:00
AM ET
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Should the St. Louis Rams find a way to win their final two games against Tampa Bay at home and on the road against Seattle, they will finish 8-8 for the first time since 2006.

A .500 finish would be a positive step forward for the Rams heading into 2014. Of course, any positive traction gained from that record would have to be tempered by the fact that an 8-8 finish would land the Rams squarely in last place in the NFC West division.

That's right, the same division which Seattle won in 2010 with a 7-9 record could theoretically have a last place finisher with eight victories. We already know the Rams will finish last, a development clinched by Arizona's win against Tennessee last week.

It's safe to say the division once derided as the "NFC Worst" can now be called the "NFC Best." Through 14 weeks, the NFC West is 37-19 overall, the best performance of any division in football. That record is even more impressive when you look at the performance of the Rams, Cardinals, 49ers and Seahawks outside of the division. The NFC West is 28-10 in those games with Seattle (9-1) and Arizona (8-2) leading the way.

As Seahawks reporter Terry Blount pointed out Wednesday, the number of division games left means the NFC West can fare no worse than 40-24 (excluding possible ties).

The AFC West is the only division even sniffing what the NFC West has done so far this year with a record of 33-23.

Like with most things in the NFL, divisional upticks are a cyclical thing that fluctuate from year to year. But given the relative youth and talent piling up in all four NFC West cities, it looks like a good bet the NFC West will maintain its position for at least the next few years.

I.C.Y.M.I.

A roundup of Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com Wednesday. ... In yesterday's Ram-blings, we looked at the Rams' loss of defensive end Gerald Rivers on waivers to Jacksonville. ... This week's buzz provided a video look at what the Rams have in front of them in the final two weeks. ... We then reacted to ESPN draft expert Todd McShay's selection of Jake Matthews for the Rams at No. 2. ... We then evaluated the actual chances of end Robert Quinn winning the defensive player of the year award. ... Finally, we finished the day with an update on the status of injured receiver Tavon Austin.

Elsewhere:

Over at Grantland, Bill Barnwell offers his process for making the Rams into contenders.

At stltoday.com, Jim Thomas explores the efforts of tight end/fullback Cory Harkey.

Thomas also participated in his weekly chat with readers.

Turf Show Times discusses some of the early draft options for the Rams with about five months to spare.

CBSSports.com speculates on the Rams and quarterback Sam Bradford. Well, sort of.

NFC West is best in 2013

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
8:00
AM ET
Go west young man, if you want to be where the best teams are in the NFL. Specifically, the NFC West.

The 12-2 Seahawks lead the best division in the league with two weeks remaining in the regular season. The combined record for the four NFC West teams is 37-19, a .661 winning percentage.

The NFC West is the only division that has three teams with at least nine victories -- Seattle, San Francisco (10-4) and Arizona (9-5). It's also the only division where the worst team has six wins. The St. Louis Rams are 6-8.

And the NFC West is going to stay on top this season. Factoring in games against each other, the worst the division can do is 40-24. No other division can reach that win total.

It's quite a turnaround in three years. The Seahawks won the division in 2010 with a 7-9 record. The combined record of the NFC West that season was 25-39, a .390 winning percentage.

Second best on that division list in 2013 is the AFC West, thanks to the top two teams at 11-3 -- Denver and Kansas City. San Diego is 7-7, and Oakland has the only losing record in the division at 4-10. But the AFC West is 33-23, a .589 winning percentage.

No other division in the NFL is better than two games over .500 entering this weekend's games. The AFC East is 29-27 and the NFC South is 28-28.
RENTON, Wash. -- The Seahawks are a 3-point underdog Sunday at San Francisco, the first time this season Seattle hasn't been favored.

However, statistically speaking, the 11-1 Seahawks are better than the 8-4 49ers in most categories, as the table shows:

A few other tidbits entering Sunday's game:

  • Over the last four games, the Seahawks have the best third-down conversion percentage in the NFL at 53.8 percent.
  • Seattle also has the best points differential in the league at 154 points. The 49ers are fourth at 100 points.
  • The Seahawks believe in spreading the wealth on offense. Seattle has four players with four TD receptions each -- receivers Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse and tight end Zach Miller.
  • The 49ers have two receivers that account for all 15 of their TD receptions -- 10 for tight end Vernon Davis and five for receiver Anquan Boldin, but receiver Michael Crabtree missed the first 11 games of the season.
  • Seahawks can clinch at Candlestick

    December, 3, 2013
    12/03/13
    2:15
    PM ET
    RENTON, Wash. -- Who would have thought it?

    In only the 13th game of the season, the Seahawks will go to San Francisco this weekend with a chance to clinch in the NFC West title at Candlestick Park against their bitter rivals. And the 49ers are just trying to stay in the playoff picture.

    "This is fun for everybody," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Monday on his 710 ESPN Seattle radio show. "We've been preparing for this moment the whole time.”

    Most fans of both teams thought this game would have title implications, but only the most optimistic Seahawks fans envisioned this game would have a clinch scenario for 11-1 Seattle and title elimination for the 8-4 49ers.

    But it won't be easy. Seattle has lost the last four times it has played in San Francisco. And the 49ers feel like they have something to prove after losing 29-3 at Seattle in the second game of the season.

    It's extra special for Carroll, who grew up in the Bay Area. This will be the last time he will be involved in a game at Candlestick. The 49ers move to their new stadium in Santa Clara next year.

    "It's a big deal for me, growing up there and going to all those games there," Carroll said. "I go all the way back Seals Stadium and Kezar Stadium, so I can't believe [the 49ers] are going to play in Santa Clara."

    Rapid Reaction: Rams 27, Cardinals 24

    September, 8, 2013
    9/08/13
    7:44
    PM ET

    ST. LOUIS -- Quick thoughts on the St. Louis Rams’ 27-24 season-opening win against the Arizona Cardinals at the Edward Jones Dome:

    What it means: Those expecting a big offensive explosion from the Rams didn’t exactly get what they wanted, though the Rams did do most of their offensive damage through the air. Still, quarterback Sam Bradford got the job done with a late scoring drive and started an important season for him by leading his team to a comeback victory. This team is his team without Steven Jackson, and Bradford led it when it needed him most.

    Stock Watch: Up -- tight end Jared Cook had a tough start with his early fumble on what looked like it would have been a touchdown, but he bounced back and gave the Cardinals fits all day. He was the one weapon the Rams had been waiting to “unleash” who actually was unveiled Sunday. He finished with seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns.

    Down -- cornerback Cortland Finnegan is supposed to be the reliable, veteran linchpin of the Rams secondary, but he had a rough day at the office. Larry Fitzgerald makes plenty of corners look bad, and he did it to Finnegan on a third-quarter touchdown. But Finnegan also racked up a pair of costly unnecessary roughness penalties.

    Something’s “off”: The Rams spent large chunks of last season playing soft coverage with their outside corners. Many believed it was a product of having young corners like Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson playing a lot of snaps. Not much changed in Week 1, though. Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer got the ball out quickly and efficiently for most of the day.

    Quinn’s big day: Rams defensive end Robert Quinn made life miserable for Arizona left tackle Levi Brown by beating him for three sacks and forcing two fumbles, one of which the Rams recovered late before tying it up. Chris Long is the more established of the two ends but Quinn’s upside is that of an elite pass rusher.

    What’s next: The Rams will be off for the next two days to regroup from a dramatic win before beginning a difficult stretch of schedule with back-to-back road trips to Atlanta and Dallas.

    With 49ers' help, West can pull rare sweep

    September, 16, 2012
    9/16/12
    10:12
    PM ET
    SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco 49ers are one half away from giving the NFC West a 4-0 record in the same week for the second time since the NFL realigned its divisions in 2002.

    How odd would it be if the 49ers were the one team failing to hold up its end? They hold a 14-6 halftime lead and are controlling the game overall, but they haven't been as crisp as they were against Green Bay last week.

    All four NFC West teams won in Week 10 last season. St. Louis defeated Cleveland, 13-12; Arizona defeated Philadelphia, 21-17; Seattle defeated Baltimore, 22-17; and the 49ers defeated the New York Giants, 27-20.

    So far Sunday, Arizona has defeated New England, St. Louis has defeated Washington and Seattle has defeated Dallas. All three of those opponents had been 1-0 entering Week 2. The Lions were 1-0 entering this game at San Francisco.

    Enjoy the second half.

    Note: Some apparently thought I was kidding earlier Sunday when I suggested all four NFC West teams would win. In retrospect, I've decided I was serious at the time.

    Sando chat scheduled for 1 p.m. ET

    October, 6, 2011
    10/06/11
    11:10
    AM ET
    The link to our next NFC West chat entitles the bearer to discuss all things relating to the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams.

    Offer expires 60 minutes after 1 p.m. ET. Those using the terms Seahawks, Rams, Cardinals and 49ers in their comments/questions could get priority treatment based on Sando in-chat search optimization tactics.

    Video: Countdown Daily Huddle

    November, 4, 2009
    11/04/09
    12:49
    AM ET

    John Clayton gives you the latest news from each team in the NFC West.

    How NFC West teams spend politically

    September, 19, 2009
    9/19/09
    1:15
    PM ET
    NFC West Team Political Contributions Since 1989 To Democrats To Republicans
    Rams (St. Louis) $234,800 98% 2%
    Rams (L.A.) $52,250 90% 10%
    49ers $111,121 84% 16%
    Seahawks $24,402 53% 47%
    Cardinals $337,096 25% 75%
    Total $759,669 61.8% 38.2%
    Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

    Dave Levinthal of OpenSecrets.org has the skinny on how NFL teams have allocated their political contributions since 1989. The chart breaks down the contributions for NFC West teams, including the Rams before and after they moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis.

    Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

    A few quick NFC West-related notes from the recently completed 2009 NFL draft, based on information I tracked during the draft:

    • The 49ers were among four teams that did not select an offensive lineman, along with the Raiders, Redskins and Saints.
    • Twelve teams drafted quarterbacks, including every NFC West team but Arizona.
    • The Cardinals were among three teams to draft two running backs. The Seahawks were one of 12 teams not to select one, a bit of a surprise to me.
    • Every NFC West team but Arizona drafted one receiver and one linebacker.
    • The Cardinals were among nine teams to draft two defensive backs. Seven teams drafted three. The Jets and Jaguars did not draft one.
    • The Seahawks and Rams were among 14 teams to draft an offensive lineman in the first three rounds. The Jaguars and Bills drafted two apiece.
    • The Cardinals and 49ers were among six teams to draft a running back in the first three rounds.
    • The Seahawks and 49ers were among 13 teams to draft a receiver in the first three rounds. The Browns and Eagles drafted two. The other 11 teams drafted one apiece.
    • The NFC West held three of the top 10 overall choices, but a league-low 16 in the first two-thirds of the draft (top 170 choices). Every other division had at least 20. The AFC East, AFC North, AFC South and AFC West each had 23.

    Thanks for coming along for the ride this weekend. A special thanks to Damon for relaying all first-round picks in real time on my Facebook page so Darren and others away from their TVs could follow the first round on their cell phones. Much appreciated.

    On The Clock: Arizona Cardinals

    March, 16, 2009
    3/16/09
    9:30
    AM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

    Team needs: Running back, outside linebacker, offensive line, tight end

     
      Charles LeClaire/Getty Images
      If available, it would be difficult for the Cardinals to pass on Pittsburgh running back LeSean McCoy.

    Dream scenario: The Cardinals need a franchise running back. Finding one with the 31st overall choice would help Arizona at quarterback, along the offensive line and on defense. Ohio State's Chris Wells, Georgia's Knowshon Moreno or Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy would be logical candidates if they remained available at No. 31. The Cardinals are undergoing a makeover at the position. Edgerrin James appears on his way out. J.J. Arrington is already gone. Tim Hightower showed some ability as a rookie, but he did not distinguish himself as the answer. A renewed commitment to the ground game helped the Cardinals advance through the NFC playoffs last season. A more dynamic threat in the backfield would take that running game to a higher level.

    Plan B: The Cardinals are in good position to help their roster even if one of the top running backs isn't available to them in the first round. They could use a young outside linebacker. This draft appears strong in that area. They could use help at tight end, another position considered to have depth. And if one of the top centers is on the board -- California's Alex Mack comes to mind -- Arizona could always go in that direction.

    Scouts Inc.'s take: "It all depends on what happens with Anquan Boldin. If they do deal him by draft day, that would yield a first-round pick or more. I think Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm deep down have their Steeler roots and they would love to be more balanced. They are good coaches. They realize their strengths. Their running backs are atrocious, so they go with what they do well. But if they deal Boldin, that might give them the resources to become a balanced offense. At the minimum, they are taking a back and they probably do that regardless. If you have more picks, you take a back and a center or tackle. Grimm is a great coach. Give him someone to mold. [Left tackle] Mike Gandy got destroyed in the Super Bowl and you are not going to have a power running game with Lyle Sendlein at center." -- Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.

    Who has final say: Team president Michael Bidwill and general manager Rod Graves make the call in consultation with Whisenhunt. Steve Keim heads the college scouting department.

    Now on the clock: The Tennessee Titans, March 17.

    Previous On the Clock: Pittsburgh Steelers. The team-by-team series.

    Power rankings: How the divisions fared

    October, 15, 2008
    10/15/08
    10:10
    AM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

    The power rankings released Tuesday weren't kind to the NFC West even though Arizona landed in the top 10. A quick look at average rankings for each division (and which voters favored or frowned upon which divisions):

    • NFC East (7.4 average ranking): Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. ranked this division's teams fifth on average, higher than any panelist. NFC East blogger Matt Mosley ranked them ninth on average, lower than any panelist.
    • AFC South (12.2): AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky and I ranked AFC South teams 9.5 on average, higher than anyone else. NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert ranked them 15.5 on average, more than two spots lower on average, than any voter.
    • NFC South (12.6): Seifert ranked NFC South teams ninth on average, higher than any voter. I ranked them 15.25 on average, lower than anyone else.
    • AFC East (15.1): AFC West blogger Bill Williamson ranked AFC East teams 12.25 on average, higher than any panelist. Kuharsky and Matt Williamson ranked them 17.75 on average, lower than anyone else.
    • AFC North (19.3): NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas ranked AFC North teams 18th overall on average, higher than anyone else. Seifert ranked them 20.25 on average (only .25 higher than Bill Williamson, John Clayton, Jeremy Green and Mosley).
    • AFC West (20.4): AFC North blogger James Walker ranked AFC West teams 19th overall on average, higher than any other voters. AFC East blogger Tim Graham ranked them 21.75 on average, lower than anyone else.
    • NFC North (22.1): Matt Williamson ranked NFC North teams 20.75 on average, higher than the others. Yasinskas provided the lowest average votes at 23.25.
    • NFC West (22.8): Mosley ranked NFC West teams 21.25 on average. Yasinskas provided the lowest rankings for the division at 25th on average.
    I'll provide a voter-by-voter average for NFC West teams here: Mosley 21.25, Graham 21.5, Sando 21.75, Kuharsky 22, Clayton 22, Jeff Chadiha 22.75, Seifert 22.75, Bill Williamson 22.75, Walker 23.25, Matt Williamson 24, Green 24 and Yasinskas 25.

    Seahawks log most miles in 2008

    August, 4, 2008
    8/04/08
    10:21
    AM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

    Geography is an unyielding opponent. The Seahawks know this better than any team in the league. The NFC West knows this better than any division.

    Seattle will log a league-high 34,766 air and ground miles over the course of two exhibition road games and eight regular-season road games. At the other end, Cleveland is scheduled to cover only 6,416 miles this season. The numbers come from the NFL's information guide for 2008.

    NFC West teams are scheduled to travel 114,616 miles, up from 113,620 last season. Both figures were league highs.

    The Seahawks are scheduled to travel more miles this season than AFC North teams combined. Seattle has traveled 68,622 miles over the last two seasons, most in the league. Pittsburgh has traveled a league-low 18,636 miles over the same period.

    The travel has seemed to catch up with Seattle during East Coast games that kick off at 10 a.m. PT. Coach Mike Holmgren has changed up travel plans to compensate, but body and mind can be tough to fool. Getting ready for an early kickoff means waking up around 5 in the morning Pacific time.

    Please stand by . . .

    July, 29, 2008
    7/29/08
    3:48
    PM ET
    Mike Sando will have a full report from 49ers camp pending resolution of technical difficulties.
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