2013 NFC West Predictions

This was the best division in the NFL last year and this season shouldn’t disappoint. Lets face it,either the Seattle Seahawks or the San Francisco 49ers should make it to the NFC Championship Game and in many circles, have these two fighting it out for a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII in New York. How do we see it here at Taylor Blitz??

2013 NFC West Predictions

Seattle Seahawks alternate logo.

Seattle Seahawks alternate logo.

1. Seattle Seahawks 13-3 #

2. San Francisco 49ers 11-5 *

3. Arizona Cardinals 7-9

4. St Louis Rams 5-11

Sure the Rams did great within the division last year but that was with Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola powering the offense. Bradford will have growing pains again this year as the offense will struggle to find their identity. Expect to see many wasted defensive efforts this season.

For the last month, The Chancellor has been able to watch the Cardinals defense up close. They could use a little more pass rush but this might be the best defense in the NFL going into 2013. They return with runner up Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year in LB Daryl Washington. Patrick Peterson is entering his prime and should be in the running for defensive player of the year himself. We’re just not sold on Carson Palmer as a leader but they will win some games in 2013.

The Seahawks will be the class of the division. No one plays with the speed, spirit, and tenacity of this team. They were undefeated at home last year and the wins were more lopsided as the season commenced. Forty niner fans point to DE Bruce Irvin missing the first four games due to suspension and Percy Harvin the first half of the season due to injury. These guys are luxuries and will be there when the Seahawks make the stretch run. The only question is will they get home field advantage?? If they do…don’t forget San Fran lost 42-13 in week 15 up in Qwest Field.

San Francisco will be a high scoring team this year and they need to be. The defense is still one of the best in the NFL but their secondary started to slide last year. In fact the secondary is the reason they lost Super Bowl XLVII to the Baltimore Ravens and now they have to replace Dashon Goldson. No easy task. Colin Kaepernick will stay ahead of defenses the first half of the season, but they will catch up to the 49er offense in the second half. Without Michael Crabtree, this team needs to implement some young talent on the outside. The saving grace for this offense is the front line and fleet of running backs to go with Kaepernick. They’ll also miss 2nd TE Delanie Walker, who lined up as an H-Back and was the lead blocker on many of Frank Gore’s power rushing plays.

Both Seattle and San Francisco will be there until the end but it will be Seattle and that swarming defense that captures the division.

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NFL Week 14: NFC West – Not The Sole Province of the 49ers

Lynch and the Seahawks have been coming on as the season has progressed.

Lynch and the Seahawks have been coming on as the season has progressed.

Back in week 3, we tried to warn you of this, and now it’s coming close to the end of the season and this division looks like it is about to turnover. Have the Seattle Seahawks ever played with more force and purpose than they have this year?? With all due respect to their Super Bowl XL team, this group has grown and come forward to challenge a San Francisco team that thought they had this division all to themselves. The verve and spirit they have displayed all year has been infectious. Yet with a win against Buffalo and a loss by the 49ers, who travel to New England, they will be within half a game of the NFC West lead. Then guess who a Seahawk team that is undefeated hosts the following week??

Considering the non explosion that was supposed to happen for the 49ers when they switched quarterbacks, a win in New England doesn’t seem likely. San Francisco brings a defense but they have to travel cross country and take on a Patriot offense that is averaging 42 points per game in the last 5 weeks. They are going to slow a Tom Brady who has completed 64.4% of his passes while throwing for 29TDs to only 4 interceptions?? They’re mission should they choose to accept it…

Let’s take a look at the standings…

West Division

W

L

T

PCT

PF

PA

HOME

ROAD

DIV

CONF

STRK

LAST5

San Francisco 49ers 49ers 9 3 1 .731 316 184 5-1 4-2 2-1 6-3 W1 3-1
Seattle Seahawks Seahawks 8 5 0 .615 300 202 6-0 2-5 1-3 6-4 W2 4-1
St. Louis Rams Rams 6 6 1 .500 236 279 4-3 2-3 4-0 5-3 W3 3-1
Arizona Cardinals Cardinals 4 9 0 .308 186 292 3-3 1-6 1-4 2-7 L9 0-5

Now our CEO has been very opinionated about the 49ers turning the quarterbacking duty to Colin Kaepernick and think they sabotaged a possible Super Bowl run. Coach Harbaugh should take a look at the teams Alex Smith had to take on right before he got injured. Do you realize that in defensive rankings the Seahawks are 3rd, the Rams are 10th, and the Cardinals rank 12th. Who would have sustained offense against that many top flight defenses?? Consequently, facing the Saints (32nd) and the Dolphins (19th) haven’t really improved Kaepernick’s numbers. He is still completing a smaller percent of his passes (70%-67.4%), in four games he has only thrown 3 touchdowns. Smith’s touchdown percentage per pass was even higher.

Now you send a quarterback starting his 5th game to face the defending AFC Champions and the master of situation defense in Bill Belichick. The last time we saw Kaepernick on the road it was his huge miscue (safety) that turned a game San Fran was winning, into a loss to the Rams. The Patriots have a faster defense and will keep him tracked. In this game he’s going to have to sustain real technical offense even if the 49er defense starts off well. Relying on scrambles or gimmick plays won’t get it done. Eventually, the Patriots will score. This isn’t the team that Arizona beat in week 3 and Seattle beat in week 6. Right now the Patriots are averaging 36.3 points per game. If they can sustain that pace they will score 582 points or 7 short of the NFL all time record of 589 scored by the 2007 Patriots. Kaepernick is going to keep pace?? No way… a rout could be looming. All it takes is a few miscues on the road, let momentum get away from you and…

Isn’t that what happened last week in Seattle?? Goodness that game was over with before the Cardinals knew what hit them. FIFTY EIGHT to nothing?? That is a 1980’s college football score when a big school would clobber a smaller one. Once they jumped on the Cardinals 17-0 and the 12th man got into it, the turnovers came in bunches. If you haven’t seen this team play they swarm like bees on defense and special teams. This week their Pro Bowl bound running back Marshawn Lynch gets a crack at the Buffalo Bills, which is the team that drafted him. The Seahawks get a break in the fact that they will play the Bills up in Toronto and not in an outdoor Ralph Wilson Stadium. They will need Lynch (1266 yards /9TDs) to keep the Bills offense on the sideline by running it 30 times or more. They need to ease Russell Wilson into this game. The Bills are 5th against the pass and the Seahawks have to minimize turnovers. Let their defense force the action.

Speaking of which, in 2 of their last 4 games, they have given up less than 200 yards of offense and are currently ranked #3 in total defense. Linebackers Bobby Wagner (108 tackles), KJ Wright (77 tackles) have 8 passes and 2 sacks between them but only have 1 fumble forced. This team is just a few turnovers forced from being one of the best in the business. In fact their lack of forcing turnovers on the road has been there achille’s heel as they have gone 2-5 on the road. However they did beat Chicago in overtime a few weeks ago   to wrest wild card tie break benefits from the Bears. They also beat the Vikings 6 weeks ago for further wildcard tie breakers there. However this team is looking further ahead.

russellwilsonWith a San Francisco loss and a Seattle win this week, the 49ers will have to travel to Seattle with the division lead on the line. Our CEO has the Seahawks winning that game and taking the NFC West championship away from Jim Harbaugh’s boys in a head knocker. They are 6-0 at home and play with reckless abandon in Qwest Field. You remember how loud it was when they knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion Saints in the playoffs 2 years ago. It will be the first match-up between Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, who quietly has to be considered for NFL Rookie of The Year. His 208 of 330 for 2,492 yards and 20 touchdowns isn’t that spectacular, but his 9 interceptions is low enough to keep them in games. In fact he’s only thrown 1 interception at home all season.

Seattle will be in the playoffs this year and they should make the NFC Championship with what The Chancellor has seen. Think about their run this year against playoff hopefuls. They hold tie breaker advantages over Green Bay, Dallas, Minnesota, Chicago, and with a win by more than 7 next week, San Francisco. The 49ers will regret giving that game up in St Louis… sure we’re getting ahead of ourselves but this is what we do.

Well an NFC West heavyweight fight looms next week… we’re picking Seattle

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NFL Week 3: NFC West – Not Just The Province of The 49ers

Cardinals reaction to Gostkowski’s blown field goal in their 20-18 upset of New England

Last year the San Francisco 49ers ran away with the division and it seemed a forgone conclusion they would repeat that performance this year. So far San Francisco has proven to be the vanguard of the NFC with convincing wins in Lambeau over the Packers, then the Lions. However there is more than a pulse being generated by fellow NFC West teams.

The biggest upset of the season so far was the dominant defensive performance put on by the Cardinals in New England. With a 20-18 victory the Cardinals proved they’re a force to be reckoned with. All day they made Tom Brady uncomfortable with an array of blitzes and crisp tackling once he checked down to backs and receivers. A performance for the ages when you consider the offense needed Kevin Kolb to come off the bench for an offense that was outgained 387 to 245 in the game.  They came up with timely stops and played a physical brand of football that kept Gillette Stadium quiet from the beginning of the game. This week they face Michael Vick and the NFL’s #1 offense at home. So far they haven’t given up more than 20 points in a game. If they can come up with another defensive gem and come out of this 3-0, look out. On top of that Kevin Kolb gets a shot at the team that traded him away. Our CEO thinks they’ll get it in this week’s upset special. Cardinals should beat the Eagles.

Lets take a look at the NFC West Standings:

West Division

W

L

T

PCT

PF

PA

HOME

ROAD

DIV

CONF

STRK

LAST5

Arizona Cardinals Cardinals 2 0 0 1.000 40 34 1-0 1-0 1-0 1-0 W2 2-0
San Francisco 49ers 49ers 2 0 0 1.000 57 41 1-0 1-0 0-0 2-0 W2 2-0
St. Louis Rams Rams 1 1 0 .500 54 55 1-0 0-1 0-0 1-1 W1 1-1
Seattle Seahawks Seahawks 1 1 0 .500 43 27 1-0 0-1 0-1 1-1 W1 1-1

Seahawks score on special teams to get the Seattle crowd fired up to a fevered pitch.

So after two weeks who has the best defense in the NFC West?? A surprising look at the statistics will show you the Seattle Seahawks are 6th in the NFL in total defense. The highest ranking in the division. On Sunday they punched the Dallas Cowboys square in the mouth as they held the Cowboys to under 300 yards of offense in winning 27-7. You saw a team flying to the football when they burst out of the locker room. The special teams got into the act blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown and got the 12th man into the game.

For all the talk of Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, its time to give fellow rookie QB Russell Wilson some credit. He’s looked comfortable and hasn’t turned the football over. Did you know he has a 1.9% interception ration after two games?? Sure he has only thrown for 304 yards in two games but he has Marshawn Lynch (207 yards in 2 games) to do the heavy lifting. He will improve as the season goes on and has big play WR Sidney Rice right there to help with that development. This week is a true test as they host the Green Bay Packers. If they play with emotion and can get an early lead they could pull off another shocker. Again they need to put themselves in position to run the football at the Packers 27th against the run defense. Can they do it again?? If they do it again, how serious does the rest of the NFL have to take them?? Pete Carroll has a sneaky fast, aggressive team.

The Rams got off the canvas after a week 1 narrow defeat in Detroit and outlasted the Redskins 31-28. They had a huge game from WR Danny Amendola (the new Wes Welker) who torched the Skins for 15 rec. for 160 yards and a touchdown. However the Rams have allowed way too many yards and points per game. In week 1 they were opportunistic with 3 interceptions, including two near the goal line. Yet last week Griffin III torched them going 20 for 29 206 yards and a touchdown. His rushing for 82 yards and another 2 touchdowns kept the Rams off balance all day. Had the Redskins not incurred a dumb unsportsmanlike conduct foul, Billy Cundiff would have had a more reasonable field goal attempt. Jeff Fisher has to get his defense playing more stout and he has to get the football to RB Steven Jackson. Right now Sam Bradford is completing 71% of his passes (508 yds / 4TDs/1int) in what has become a bounce back season for him. Can they beat the Chicago Bears (with 10 days off) this week?? Not sure about that one but they better bring a defense.

Frank Gore gashed the Lions on the ground Sunday Night.

Which brings us back to last week’s marquee matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions. In a 27-19 win again showed a penchant for smash mouth straight ahead football. With teams rushing themselves in exotic 4 receiver sets, this team lines up with H-Backs, multiple tight end sets and comes off the ball like a team of yesteryear. They have a battering ram in Frank Gore (89 yards / 1TD against Detroit) and Kendall Hunter (23 yards) to keep him fresh. Understand the old axiom: Rushing the football with power wears down the defense late in games. They impose their will on their opponent.

Do you realize we have to go back 9 games (incl. playoffs) to find the last time Alex Smith threw an interception?? That’s going back to November 24th against the Ravens. How about the fact Smith has only thrown 6 interceptions in his last twenty three games?? That is a phenomenal number. His stat line is 40 of 57 (70.2%) for 437 yards and 4 touchdowns on the new season. Can you say Pro Bowl quarterback?? The Chancellor can. There are some pessimistic fans who are waiting for the old Alex Smith to show up but they need to wake up. The team still hasn’t really worked LaMichael James and Randy Moss totally in the mix yet. It’s scary as to how good this San Francisco team can be. Right now the league is playing right into their hands from a tactical standpoint. If everyone keeps lining up and passing, passing, passing…this team will continue to come off the ball and beat teams that are playing too high. Better get your pad level low.  The second you do, Smith is popping up and off play action is getting the ball downfield to one of the best tight ends in football.

Right now this is the best team in the NFL. Looking ahead, they go to Minnesota then off to the New York Jets. Unless they lose a game where they’re weary from travel, it’s hard to find a spot on their schedule where you can see a loss coming. However it looks like some of the best competition surprisingly may come from inside their own division. Arizona is looking the strongest and split with the Niners last year and don’t look now but the season finale has these two playing it out in Candlestick. Could be a big one brewing there.

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NFL Week 4 NFC West: Welcome To Bizarro World

Coach Jim Harbaugh and the much beleaguered Alex Smith have enjoyed a good first quarter of the 2011 season.

What else would you expect from the NFC West?? After all this is the division that had a worst to first scenario in sending the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl. They had the worst record ever to qualify for that game and came within 3 minutes of winning it. Then you had the worst to first 2010 division champion Seattle Seahaws. They became the first team in NFL history with a losing record and make the playoffs. What did they do for an encore?? Promptly upset the Super Bowl champion Saints in a wild wild card game 41-36. Why are we bringing it up?? This wacky division is at it again.

Enter the San Francisco 49ers. A team that struggled to find itself under Coach Singletary is suddenly, the scrourge of the division under new commander Jim Harbaugh.  A division where many pundits pointed to St Louis as the best the NFC West had to offer are having to reevaluate. At 3-1 this team has shown flash in being able to move the football.  Alex Smith…who?? Alex Smith has completed 67.7% of his passes for 795 yards  4TDs and only 1 interception. Serious get off the floor those are his real stats. In Harbaugh he got what he desperately needed, a quarterback coach.

The cavalcade of Alex Smith detractors have fallen silent. Of course the season is still young however this team is moving in a direction and a purpose not seen by the bay since Steve Marriucci.

Funny how once you start drinking a winning elixir everyone starts to fly right. Haven’t heard a peep out of Frank Gore about being traded now have we??  He’s rushed for 275 yards so far but his 3.7 yard average needs to improve. They just upset the “Dream Team’ Eagles, who were desperate for a win, 24-23 last Sunday, to move to a 3-1 record. Many folks scoffed that they didn’t play anyone after a week 3 13-8 win in Cincinnati. Until you realize that the number 1 defense in the NFL belongs to those Bengals. Yet what is important is San Fran has been packing a defense also. Right now they are in the middle of the pack at #17, and this team is scrappy and not beating itself. They take on an aspiring heavyweight contender when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week. Two 3-1 teams putting the recent past behind them…who ya’ got??  OK, reserve giving your answer for the end of the week. As for the standings…

NFC WEST W L T PCT HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK
San Francisco 3 1 0 .750 1-1-0 2-0-0 1-0-0 2-1-0 94 75 +19 Won 2
Seattle 1 3 0 .250 1-1-0 0-2-0 1-1-0 1-2-0 58 97 -39 Lost 1
Arizona 1 3 0 .250 1-1-0 0-2-0 0-1-0 1-3-0 86 87 -1 Lost 3
St. Louis 0 4 0 .000 0-3-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 0-3-0 46 113 -67 Lost 4

Cardinal signal caller has had a moderate start, yet 3/4ths of the season left, he could get hot.

Now why was this division article entitled bizarro world?? Well most of us so called experts had the complete inverse of these standings as our final predictions. Kolb in Arizona was going to bring the long ball back to the desert. He and Larry Fitzgerald were going to bring the offense the glory left behind in the 2008  & 2009 seasons. Now if only Beanie Wells could stay healthy…uh see what we mean?? Right now Chris “Beanie” Wells has rushed for 321 yards and 5 TDs and is averaging a robust 5.4 yards per carry. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/crd/2011.htm Its not that Kolb has underwhelmed, teams are covering his only legitimate threat in Fitzgerald. He’s had to check down or throw the ball away. His stats look just like those that got him “Wally Pipp-ed” by Vick in Philadelphia. That withstanding he is still over 200 yards per game with 1,049 yet he’s thrown 5TDs and 4 ints.

Right now this team is suffering from glaring losses in Steve Breaston and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Breaston to help stretch the field and Cromartie to help out their 24th against the pass rating. Asking rookie CB Patrick Peterson to come in and be a Deion clone was foolish without a mentor. Right now he has 1 int, only 3 passes defensed yet leads the team in tackles with 18. What does that mean?? He’s getting burnt as a rookie yet makes sure to tackle the receiver once the ball is caught. Right now they aren’t forcing any turnovers out of their opponents and are a -6 in the turnover ratio or they might be 3-1 or 2-2. With their upcoming game with the Minnesota Vikings, this could be just what the doctor ordered for a tired pass defense. Funny that’s what Minnesota is saying about Arizona’s pass defense for the betterment of their team’s offensive psyche. If they can get to their bye week at 2-3 they can get back in the race.

The St Louis Rams have been sabotaged by injuries with Stephen Jackson missing several games and thrusting all the pressure on Sam Bradford. With the threat of the run, defenses underestimated Bradford last year and he lit them up. This year he’s been under fire with Cadillac Williams unable to sustain a consistent ground game. Williams is the type of back who’ll gain 0, -1, 1, then a 10 yard burst. So the average looks good but 3 drives like that and they don’t score yet it seems like he’s effective stat wise. However with Jackson back, they fell behind 17-0 to the Redskins and tried to play catch up with an an undermanned receiving corp. The Rams defense isn’t getting any rest during games and they’re getting pushed around. Last week they got shoved off the ball from the get go as the Redskins amassed 196 yards rushing. Not the recipe when you have a big back and downhill runner in Jackson. They need this bye week as they take on the champion Packers upon they’re return. Their season could teeter on that one football game. An upset there to build their confidence could fuel a resurgence. They haven’t played any of their division rivals yet either. We know they are 0-4, yet we remember when an 0-3 Buffalo Bills team in ’98 made the playoffs that same year. The ’92 Chargers started out 0-4 and won a division title back when there was a 5 team division. So it can be done. Can they summon up the strength for that game against Aaron Rodgers & company with two weeks rest??

See what we mean?? If the Rams can turn the tide and get back in the NFC West race, it’s Bizarro World all over again measuring against the first quarter of the season.

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2011 NFC West Previews & Predictions

In the NFL, all divisions are not created equally. The NFC West has been in flux for the last decade without a clear cut champion. Even the 2008 Arizona Cardinals run to Super Bowl XLIII was a season where they were 9-7, and lost a late season game 47-7 to Matt Cassel and the Patriots. Last year’s 7-9 division champion Seahawks was more of a product of a young St. Louis Rams team that came up short in the end than brilliant Seattle play.  As we march into 2011, it looks like the Rams will rise from the ashes in this division.

2011 NFC WEST PREDICTION

St Louis Rams        9-7  *

Seattle Seahawks  6-10

Arizona Cardinals 5-11

San Fran 49ers       3-13

St Louis Rams have the best young quarterback in Sam Bradford and another solid season with Stephen Jackson at running back.  Last year, Coach Spagnuolo’s team had to learn how to win and did so with a 5 game improvement in the win total. If they can get a significant contribution from WR Austin Pettis, drafted from Boise St to help Bradford further develop. Folks seem to forget that Sam Bradford is only a few years removed from a Heisman trophy season that saw him throw for nearly 50 TDs as a junior. This is no fluke. Now that Chris Long is coming on (last season 8.5 sacks) and James Laurinitis leadership at linebacker, this team is on the rise and should rule the NFC West for the next few years. They have a murderous early schedule but starting with week 9, should run the table the rest of the way. The only notable game to show that they have grown up is the week 16 matchup in Pittsburgh on Christmas Eve. Just don’t be thrown off when they start out slow.

The Seahawks will look like a totally retooled team in the early part of this season and will revert  back to the enigmatic bunch we saw through much of last season. Only this time it’s going to be growing pains through breaking in Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback once sorry Tavarris Jackson underwhelms again. The second time is a charm, he helped collapse Minnesota when they kept him and let Sage Rosenfels go. So once Favre got injured…they crash landed with Jackson at the controls and that was a team with the same offensive co-ordinator and new wideout Sidney Rice there as well.  Same story, different channel.

They also have to find a leader to take over for Lofa Tatupu who was released. Aaron Curry has to move into that role and now needs to develop into the elite linebacker his draft status calls for. Will Marshawn Lynch blossom into the running back that emerged with the great run in last year’s playoff or will he revert back to the on again, off again runner he was in Buffalo?? This team will win a few games early but will descend to search mode as they need to find out who they are. They still don’t have an identity and the second half of the season will be a struggle for Coach Carroll and his team.

As for the Arizona Cardinals, congratulations on finding a quarterback in Kevin Kolb but you spent too much for him. Should have kept Rodgers-Cromartie and had the division’s best cornerback tandem with he and Patrick Peterson. Yes go ahead and start the rookie and let him take his lumps.  The Cardinals are still anemic rushing the football and teams can gang up on Larry Fitzgerald now that Steve Breaston is gone to Kansas City. Early Doucet and Andre Roberts have to have early success at receiver on the other side or this team will have a long season on offense. Kolb will be out to prove that he is a top flight quarterback and he should have kept his job in Philadelphia. Truth is, he played like he was given the job and not one that he earned. Both Mike Vick and Kafka from Northwestern had better statistics in last year’s pre-season.

Yet Kolb will solidify this franchise’s quarterback situation for the first time since Neil Lomax. Yes Kurt Warner was outstanding for 2 years, we mean a quarterback to build a franchise around for a 5-7 year run. He needs one of his other receivers to emerge to begin the process. On defense this team is in a little bit of flux so they need to break out on offense to win games. They just don’t have enough horses to do that at this point.

San Francisco needs to blow the team up and start from scratch. You have Colin Kaepernick as a quarterback, who isn’t ready, and busts Alex Smith and Troy Smith to man the position until he is. The first item up for bids is to trade Frank Gore for several draft picks to an AFC team. The Browns, Bengals, Patriots, Bills, Colts, all need a marquee running back. Several of those teams want to get over the hump and think they are a running back away, capitalize on it and get some draft picks.  Especially a team you can expect to underwhelm and get even higher draft picks from the resultant record. With an anemic offense and an underachieving receiving corp in Michael Crabtree and Ted Ginn Jr, expect 8 man fronts to limit Gore’s effectiveness anyway. He wants to be traded and won’t run hard once the team dips out of contention, so alleviate that problem.

Right now go with Vernon Davis as your leader on offense and Patrick Willis on defense. Treat the 2011 campaign as a prolonged preseason and see who will fit Coach Harbaugh’s future roster. Don’t be surprised if former Stanford Cardinal Toby Gerhart doesn’t find his way to the bay to join next year’s draft pick Andrew Luck (Stanford) if the 49ers finish 3-13 as we think they will. The rebirth of the 49ers could just be in it’s beginning phases and this is a glimpse into next year for 49er fans to get excited about.

Next up: NFC South

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Marshall Faulk Makes The Hall of Fame

You can still hear Chris Berman saying “Marshall! Marshall! Marshall!” on NFL Primetime. Can’t you? When we think of great players we tend to think of them at their zenith. For Marshall Faulk it was definitely the years of “The Greatest Show on Turf” where he played his way into the Hall of Fame in just three years. The earlier years were just a harbinger of things to come.

Yet when I think of Marshall Faulk, I think of a faster version of Thurman Thomas. Better yet, if we spliced Thurman Thomas with Barry Sanders, this is the hybrid that would have been created. In fact it was Sanders departure that swung the door wide open for this talent to finally get his acclaim on a world wide basis. When Barry retired, the NFL lost it’s instant highlight reel. We were spoiled as fans because week after week we saw something spectacular and weren’t sure if we’d see that again. Enter Marshall Faulk.

The NFL world was mourning the loss of John Elway and Barry Sanders to retirement. Then we were thrown for another loop when the Indianapolis Colts selected Edgerrin James ahead of Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams. Almost as an afterthought Marshall Faulk was traded by the Colts to the Rams to make way for James. Instantly, I remember saying this is the Football Gods reversing the Eric Dickerson trade. Referring to the Rams trading Dickerson, the greatest runner of his era, to the Colts in 1987.

No one was really paying attention to Marshall Faulk going to St Louis yet being in Anaheim at the time, I was still in the Rams television market. My response was a flippant comment and not a premonition but it turned out to be. History would judge this trade on what happened with both teams. I thought the Colts had made a mistake letting Faulk go. So who won the Marshall Faulk / Edgerrin James trade??

Marshall Faulk in Super Bowl XXXIV

Super Bowl XXXIV Ring

The St Louis Rams became “The Greatest Show on Turf” thanks to a forgotten running back who could play receiver, had moves and an effortless running style with a burst. In three seasons (1999-2001) he rushed for 4,122 yards averaging 5.4 yards per carry while scoring 59 touchdowns!! Won 2 NFL Offensive Player of the Year awards and an NFL Most Valuable Player Award while taking the Rams to 2 Super Bowls. They won Super Bowl XXXIV beating the Tennessee Titans 23-16. Before Faulk the Rams had not been league champion since 1951.

In the 1999 championship season alone, he joined Roger Craig as the only other back to gain 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. When Craig did it he had 1,050 yards rushing, 1,016 receiving. Faulk burst by that with 1,381 yards rushing and 1,048 yards receiving while sitting out most of the last 3 quarters of the finale against Philadelphia.

That game the Rams lost 38-31 and Faulk would have stretched his numbers further had he played that game and the 4th quarter of 4 other blowouts at home. Not factoring that in, Faulk still broke Barry Sanders record for total yards from scrimmage with 2,429 yards. Greatness. He was the impetus for one of the NFL’s greatest champions.

How do you follow up a season like that? How about narrowly missing another 1,000/1,000 season with 1,359 yards rushing and 830 receiving while setting a new record by breaking Emmitt Smith’s TD record with 26 TDs. In 2001 he led the league with yards from scrimmage for the 4th straight year tying the record of Thurman Thomas. Yet all four of Faulk’s seasons were over 2,000 combined yards where Thomas only had 3. Now when you look back and see that in 1998, in his last season with the Colts, he ran for 1,319 yards and caught passes for 908 yards. He had four consecutive seasons  where he flirted with 1,000/1,000.

He broke records and tied another of Hall of Fame running backs, how could he not be enshrined with them with numbers like that?? All this to lead the Rams in becoming the first team to score over 500 points in multiple seasons with 3 (1999-2001). The Rams also averaged 32.6 points per game for those 3 seasons which was the best in history narrowly beating their 1951 predecessors with just under 31 points.

Marshall Faulk on Saturday’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Marshall went on to finish his career with 12,279 yards rushing with another 6,875 receiving and 136 overall touchdowns. Yet it was this amazing 3 year run that catapulted him to the halls of Canton. Now its interesting to note that while Faulk was doing all this, Edgerrin James (The U) twice led the league in rushing.

Yet the Rams were participating in Super Bowls and became one of the most memorable teams in league history. Another irony is they each went to the Super Bowl while teaming with Kurt Warner when….wait for it…..the Colts let James go via free agency. *In all due respect, the Colts gave Edgerrin a Super Bowl XLI ring for all that he had done for them up to that point.*  Jim Irsay don’t let any more running backs go because the one you let out of town in 1998 was one of the best in history. The Rams won that trade plain and simple. His induction speech was eloquent and he’s been the best analyst on the NFL Network. Congratulations Marshall Faulk…Hall of Famer

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