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Steve Madden Brown

Steve Madden Brown

Dwayne Bryant 2006 NFC West Preview …

Bullseye-Sports.com 's Dwayne Bryant provides his thoughts and predictions on the NFL's National Conference Division West in 2006. Teams are listed in order of expected final.

1. Seattle Seahawks

Offense: The Champion of Champions Conference National took an important step toward repeating as league MVP was re-signed Shaun Alexander. Alexander set an NFL record by scoring 28 touchdowns. Also led the league with 1,880 yards rushing in his career with 370 carries. That is a huge workload. Believe in the Madden cover bad luck? Alexander is on the cover of this year. His offensive line took a hit when free agency Pro-Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson signed with Minnesota. QB Matt Hasselbeck Mike Holmgren has dominated offense. Hasselbeck threw 24 touchdown passes in 2005 and had only nine interceptions while compiling a number of stellar 98.2 quarterback. Darrell Jackson is a favorite target Hasselbeck. D-Jack needs to stay healthy this season. Bobby Engram will occupy the slot this season. Jurevicius left for Cleveland, but his replacement, Nate Burleson, should do pretty well against Jackson. TE Jeramy Stevens eventually became a threat last season and should continue to produce in 2006. This offense led the NFL in 2005 with an average 28.3 points per game and should be close to that number again in 2006.

Defense: This unit was seventh in the league in 2005, allowing only 16.9 points per game. His defense in the red zone was second in the NFL behind only Chicago. He also led the league with 50 catches. End Grant Wistrom and Bryce Fisher and Chartric Darby & deals Rocky Bernard Seattle to give a solid front four. Perhaps the biggest surprise in 2005 was the play of the LB corps, led by rookie Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill. Addition of Julian Peterson into the fold should give the 'Hawks one of the best front sevens in the league. The secondary is also solid with Michael Boulware and Ken Hamlin, who is returning a head injury.

Special teams: The return game needs improvement. Josh Scobey averaged only 22.5 yards on kickoff returns. Kicker Josh FG Brown did not practice much last season thanks to the Seattle league high 57 touchdowns. Connected on 18 of his 25 FG attempts. Look up numbers slightly, especially their success rate.

Prediction: The offense must produce more, provided replacement of Hutchinson is appropriate and avoids the evil eye Alexander Madden cover. Super Bowl losers usually do not fare too well the next season, but Seattle is clearly the class of this division and should waltz into the playoffs. Other Super Bowl is certainly not misplaced.

2. Arizona Cardinals

Offense: One of the biggest offseason move was RB Edgerrin James more ahead of the Colts. With receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald that require a much more defensive attention, plus the addition of rookie TE Leonard Pope as an option receive, "Edge" should not see the eight-man fronts over. James will not benefit from the line he had in Indy, but has yet to find a decent margin running here. He is also a solid receiver that QB Kurt Warner gives another weapon and a great safety valve when the pressure is – and what will. Opponents know this line can be had and also know Warner durability issues. However, the letters drafted QB Matt Leinart (USC), who was the person attracting more sign of the NFL-ready in the project. I could put into service sooner rather than later. This must be one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL in 2006.

Defense: The good news is, Arizona ranked eighth in the league in yards allowed in 2005. The bad news is, they also ranked 26th in the league in points allowed. The biggest improvement came from the run defense, which rose from 27 in 2004 to tenth in 2005. If the Cards hope to fight for a playoff spot, which will to improve their red zone defense in a big way. This unit lost its sack leader, master, Bertrand Berry, half of the season. Berry recorded six sacks in the first eight season games before suffering a knee injury this season. Karlos Dansby led the group with two touchdowns LB INT return. CB Antrel Rolle missed 11 games in his 2005 rookie season. Roll has the potential closure of the corner, which will become even more evident this season. Safety Adrian Wilson provides the school with big plays skill.

Special teams: Neil Rackers had a monster 2005 season, reaching an amazing 40 of 42 FG attempts. Reggie Swinton handled punt and kick-return duties in 2005 with minimal results.

Prediction: This team is full of promise. Improvement is inevitable with a proven winner Dennis Green at the controls. The offensive line remains a problem and the defense must show some improvement, too. A season 8-8 sounds about right for this group. Eliminations will have to wait at least another year.

3. ST. Louis Rams

Offense: Mike Martz is gone pass happy attack. Enter new coach Scott Linehan, who going to put more emphasis on the running game. That means an increased workload for the stud RB Steven Jackson. Jackson is young, strong, fast and has good hands. Linehan knows he has talent in the air and you will use this talent to make for a more balanced offense we're used to seeing in the Rams. QB Marc Clarin, who only played eight games in 2005, must stay healthy if this team has a chance of success. The Rams have three solid wide receivers Torry Holt star, aging, but still effective Isaac Bruce and Kevin Curtis emerging owner. Curtis had 60 catches and six touchdowns last season and could top Bruce in the lineup. The Rams picked TE Joe Klopfenstein and Dominique Byrd on the first day of the project which can only be the TE, will be involved in the system of Linehan.

Defense: Pathetic. Horrible. Just plain horrible. Say it however you want, this unit was an absolute disaster in 2005. They ranked 30th in the NFL in yards allowed and 31st in points allowed. Lacked of moves and the 2006 version will be without SS Adam Archuleta, who fled to Washington. The good news – there's nowhere to go but up. DT La'Roi brought Glover, of Dallas. Glover shine in a 4-3 scheme and help not only to stop the race, but also rush the passer. That will help the rest of the line including Leonard Little, rider passes the top. One of the problems that this group has is the absence of another established to take double teams away Little. They have added LB Will Witherspoon of Carolina. He gives an update LB corps. Archuleta vacancy is filled by veteran Corey Chavous. The Rams took Tye Hill CB with their first-round projects. Will compete for a starting job in a school that still has some holes to fill.

Special teams: The numbers say it all: 23 in kickoff returns, 29 punt returns, 29 on punt coverage and 30th in kickoff coverage. Obviously, the major improvement is needed. The only bright spot was special teams kicker Jeff Wilkins, who connected on 27 FG, 31 attempts.

Prediction: New coaches. New scheme. These things take time to run efficiently. And too many defensive holes will not help. They challenge Arizona for second in the division, but I see them falling short. 7-9 is about right.

4. San Francisco 49ers

Offense: quarterbacks go through growing pains in its first couple of seasons in the league, but rookie Alex Smith could not have gone much worse. Smith had a QB rating of 40.8, but he is not the only culprit. The 49ers had little or no gun to Smith. TE Vernon Davis was drafted, which has the potential to have an immediate impact. They still have TE Eric Johnson, which could make two TE sets very interesting. They brought in Antonio Bryant, a talented but temperamental WR. It looks like the top WR on the team, which is definitely not good. The Niners also brought the guard Larry Allen or to reinforce line, which should bode well for RBS Kevan Barlow and Frank Gore. Barlow has averaged only 3.4 and 3.3 yards per carry in the last two seasons. His poor play paved the way for Gore, who accounted for 608 yards in a solid 4.8 yards per carry. Based on these figures, Gore seems to be the favorite for the starting job, but would not surprise me see Barlow get significant playing time as well.

Defense: Mike Nolan changed this team to the 3-4 defense last season, mostly because there were two Talent OLBs Julian Peterson and Andre Carter. Both are past – Carter and Peterson in Washington at Seattle. Having two new starters at OLB in this scheme will be difficult. The secondary school holes, too, but welcomes CB Mike Rumph to a foot injury. This unit ranked 30th in points allowed and 32 (or last) in yards allowed in 2005. It seems to be a longer season of this defense in 2006.

Special teams: Otis Amey's 75-yard-punt return TD was the optimism in what was one unit poor return. Kicker Joe Nedney set a franchise record for FG percentage. Nedney made 26 of his 28 attempts for a stellar 92.86% FG success rate.

Prediction: New offensive coordinator Norv Turner has a history of success with his RBS. 49's fans better hope that continues because the defense can not afford to remain in the field for a long time. More growing pains for Smith along with the lack of weapons and a porous defense is like another long season in San Francisco. Everything will be better than 4-12 surprises me.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The Seahawks, with the exception of serious injury, will walk away with the division crown once again. Arizona is closing the gap and could sneak into a playoff spot with a little luck. The Rams need to further improve his defense before they can return to the playoffs. Y the 49's, with a young quarterback and porous defense, are a few years away from even sniffing a playoff.

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