Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 7:00 PM
We pick back up again with our NFL divisional previews as Preseason action returns to the schedule Thursday Night. It’s the ideal time to look at the NFC West because both superpowers from that division take the field on the first multi-game night of 2014.
*San Francisco visits Baltimore live on the NFL Network at 7:30 p.m. ET
*Seattle visits Denver in an immediate Super Bowl rematch at 9 p.m. ET
That’s the last two Super Bowls being replayed on the first full night of the Preseason! St. Louis of the NFC West joins the fun Friday at home against New Orleans. Arizona is in the final game of the weekend Sunday at 8:30 p.m. against Houston.
Let’s refresh your memories about what went down in 2013 with the toughest division in football…
2013 NFC WEST STANDINGS
Seattle: 13-3 (+22 turnovers, #7 rated schedule)
San Francisco: 12-4 (+12 turnovers, #4 rated schedule)
Arizona: 10-6 (-1 turnover, #3 rated schedule)
St. Louis: 7-9 (+8 turnovers, #1 rated schedule)
Notebook: The division went 42-22, which is 36-16 if you take out the games they played against each other! Seattle was a truly fantastic team last year, managing a 13-3 record against a very tough schedule…followed by a 3-0 sweep in the playoffs that was also tough. Some pundits consider turnovers to be a reflection of “luck.” There’s certainly some luck involved. But, the Seahawks and many top NFL defenses place a priority on aggressively trying to take the ball away on one side…while intelligently avoiding risk on the other. Both Seattle and San Francisco have had great success with that model. Important for handicappers to notice that Arizona had a playoff caliber record vs. a brutal schedule…and that St. Louis just missed reaching the .500 mark against the toughest slate in the NFL. Great division!
Seattle: 5.6 on offense, 4.4 on defense
San Francisco: 5.4 on offense, 5.0 on defense
Arizona: 5.3 on offense, 4.9 on defense
St. Louis: 5.0 on offense, 5.4 on defense
Notebook: It’s not like Seattle needed that big turnover differential to win! There were a whopping +1.2 in yards-per-play differential…which was best in the NFL. They were the best point of attack team in pro football while playing a difficult schedule. Truly elite. Solid numbers from San Francisco and Arizona given their schedules. Only Philadelphia and New Orleans were better than +0.4 in the NFC. Only Denver and Cincinnati topped that in the AFC. So much quality in this division.
2013 THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
Seattle: 37% on offense, 35% on defense
San Francisco: 36% on offense, 34% on defense
Arizona: 35% on offense, 35% on defense
St. Louis: 34% on offense, 39% on defense
Notebook: It’s very interesting that we have a full division of teams who play fairly conservatively when trying to convert third downs. They’d rather punt and trust their defense than make a bad mistake that might mess up the field position battle. To the degree there’s a weakness at quarterback for Seattle and San Francisco, it’s that those guys haven’t yet figured out how to move the chains consistently. Scary to think that those two teams could become even more lethal.
2014 PROJECTED WIN TOTALS IN LAS VEGAS
Seattle 11 wins
San Francisco 10.5 wins
Arizona 8 wins
St. Louis 7.5 wins
It’s very tough to assume everyone stays healthy…and that everyone will build off last year’s standards. Seattle is in a letdown year off their Super Bowl. Arizona made a big step forward in 2013, and it’s tough to do that two seasons in a row. Those totals are a bit low based on the true talent in this division. Can you trust all the true talent to stay healthy and focused?
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This week’s look at the NFC continues Friday and Saturday with the last two divisions. Then, we’ll close out the weekend with a big TV game from baseball’s pennant races. The weekend schedule…
Friday: NFC South Preview…to get you ready for Saints vs. Rams on NFLN
Saturday: NFC North Preview to get you ready for Lions vs. Browns on NFLN
Sunday: MLB TV Preview: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves
We’ll cover the AFC next Thursday-through-Sunday through the second full week of NFL Preseason action.
FULL TILT FOOTBALL is finally back. Be sure you GET ALL THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!