1. San Francisco 49ers
It’s a make or break year for this team with the unveiling of their new stadium.
2. Seattle Seahawks
Everything has to go right for them to have a chance of defending their title.
3. Arizona Cardinals
An improved offensive line could do wonders for a 10-win team that didn’t make the playoffs last year.
4. St. Louis Rams
With Sam Bradford injured again, it could be a down year at the worst possible time.
Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh
Key Position: Quarterback – All anyone could think about with the 49ers this offseason was how Colin Kaepernick would bounce back from the NFC Championship game. He has his contract extension in place and being given the title as the franchise quarterback. Now the pressure will be even higher to deliver a Super Bowl title to the bay area. He has come close once already, but with this amount of talent around him this is a perfect time to do it.
Key Acquisitions: S Antoine Bethea (Indianapolis Colts), CB Chris Cook (Minnesota Vikings), QB Blaine Gabbert (Jacksonville Jaguars), WR Stevie Johnson (Buffalo Bills), WR Brandon Lloyd (New England Patriots-2012), T Jonathan Martin (Miami Dolphins)
Key Rookies: S Jimmie Ward, RB Carlos Hyde, LB Chris Borland
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
Key Position: Wide Receivers – Losing Golden Tate might not hurt as much if Percy Harvin is completely healthy from start to finish this season. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse were surprisingly effective as well, but now they must produce week in and week out with Tate no longer around for that crucial third down conversion. He was a solid punt returner also. Seattle should start to utilize their tight ends more too, but they are a bigger part of the run blocking scheme.
Key Acquisitions: DT Kevin Williams (Minnesota Vikings)
Key Rookies: WR Paul Richardson, T Justin Britt
Head Coach: Bruce Arians
Key Position: Offensive Line – Ever since their lone Super Bowl appearance the Cardinals have had one of the worst offensive lines in the league. They instantly got better with the signing of Jared Veldheer once free agency began. If former 1st round pick Jonathan Cooper is healthy both he and Veldheer solidify the left side for the Cardinals offense. The right side isn’t as prolific, but it will benefit from the work the left side does in an entire season.
Key Acquisitions: LB Desmond Bishop (Minnesota Vikings), TE John Carlson (Minnesota Vikings), CB Antonio Cromartie (New York Jets), LB Larry Foote (Pittsburgh Steelers), WR Ted Ginn (Carolina Panthers), DL Tommy Kelly (New England Patriots), T Jared Veldheer (Oakland Raiders)
Key Rookies: S Deone Bucannon, TE Troy Niklas, DE Kareem Martin, WR John Brown
Head Coach: Jeff Fisher
Key Position: Quarterback – Sadly it happened again with QB Sam Bradford tearing his ACL in a preseason game. The news is deflating for a team that had some reasonable expectations this season to get at least 8 wins. With the absence of Bradford the reigns will fall to Shaun Hill who has had plenty of experience starting in the NFL, but hasn’t had much success. Jeff Fisher changed the Rams philosophy last year when Bradford went down. Being a run first team and letting his defense run wild. That won’t change this year, but the results won’t be any different.
Key Acquisitions: WR Kenny Britt (Tennessee Titans), DT Alex Carrington (Buffalo Bills), QB Shaun Hill (Detroit Lions), G Davin Joseph (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Key Rookies: T Greg Robinson, DT Aaron Donald, CB Lamarcus Joyner, RB Tre Mason