NFL Offseason: Good News And Bad News For NFC West
Pro football guru Russell Baxter looks at a different NFL division each week. You can also see his fact-filled reports from the AFC East, NFC East, AFC North, NFC North, AFC South, NFC South and AFC West.
By Russell S. Baxter
Cold Hard Football Facts Wicked Statistical Witch Of The West (@baxfootballguru)
I guess eight will be enough.
It has to be.
Here is the final installment of our “Good News, Bad News” series regarding the NFL’s eight division and we wrap it up with the NFC West.
It was just two years ago (2010) that the Seattle Seahawks captured the top spot with a 7-9 record. Last season, Pete Carroll’s team finished 11-5 and wound up in second place.
Of course, there are also the defending division and conference champion San Francisco 49ers as well as the much-improved St. Louis Rams, who were a victory away last season from a winning mark as well.
Arizona? After a good start in 2012, it just wasn’t in the cards.
So here we go one more time. Be it recently or historically, there’s always some interesting numbers that we all find fascinating in terms of trends, one of the many aspects that makes the National Football League the game we all love.
San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)
The Good News: Do you think head coach Jim Harbaugh has stressed ball security in his first two seasons in San Francisco?
Last season, the Niners turned over the football just 16 times, tied for the second-fewest in the league. A year earlier during Harbaugh’s debut season with the club, the 49ers tied the NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season by a team (10).
That means 26 turnovers in 32 regular-season games. In 2010, San Francisco coughed up the football 23 times in 16 contests …
So far so good for the Harbaugh Era, which has seen the 49ers in the NFC title game and the Super Bowl the last two years.
The last time the Niners reached the postseason in consecutive years was a decade ago (2001-02)…
The Bad News: Although the 49ers reached Super Bowl XLVII, the team’s defense continued to be an issue following a strong start.
And be it injuries or just poor play, it was one reason the club came up short in terms of winning a title, at least for now. Including their three-game postseason run, the Niners allowed 19 offensive touchdowns in their final six outings, compared to allowing only 16 offensive touchdowns in their first 13 games in 2012.
Hence, Harbaugh’s club gave up 178 points in those final half-dozen outings (29.7 points per game) compare to giving up 184 points in their first 13 games (14.2 points per game) last season …
With Harbaugh at the helm, the teams in the AFC have had their hands full with the 49ers, with the exception of one. Including the postseason, San Francisco is 7-2 in interconference games dating back to 2011, with both of those losses to older brother John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens, including Super Bowl XLVII…
Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
The Good News: Talk about getting better as the season wore on?
If you include the playoff split with the Redskins and Falcons, Pete Carroll’s team totaled 348 points in its last 11 games (20-plus points in each of those contests).
That was in stark comparison to the Seahawks’ first seven games in 2012, when the team was limited to 16 points or less five times and totaled just 116 points in those outings …
Lost a bit in the tremendous season-long performance of quarterback Russell Wilson (who tied the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season for a rookie by throwing for 26 scores) was the consistency of running back Marshawn Lynch, who totaled 100-plus yards rushing in 11 of the team’s 18 games (including playoffs) in 2012…
The Bad News: It proved to be a bittersweet finish to the season for the Seahawks, whose defense gave up the fourth-fewest yards in the league a year ago.
More significantly, Carroll and company allowed a league-low 245 points, marking the first time in the franchise’s history (dating back to 1976) that the team had given up the fewest points in the NFL.
But after limiting every one of its 16 regular-season opponents to under 30 points and holding the Redskins to just 14 points in the Wild Card victory, the ‘Hawks fell to Atlanta, 30-28, in the NFC Divisional Playoffs at the Georgia Dome …
St. Louis Rams (7-8-1)
The Good News: Despite the fact that the Rams still haven’t enjoyed a winning season since 2003 (12-4) and haven’t been to the playoffs since ’04 (8-8), it was a successful debut campaign for new head coach Jeff Fisher in the Gateway City.
The team’s record included an NFC West-best 4-1-1 mark within the division, including a 1-0-1 slate vs. the San Francisco 49ers and a season split with the Seattle Seahawks …
It was a nice bounce back season for quarterback Sam Bradford, who threw just as many touchdown passes as interceptions (6) in 10 games in 2011.
The former number-one overall pick threw for a career high 21 scores and was picked off only 13 times in 16 games this past season …
Led by their talented front four of defensive ends Chris Long (11.5) and Robert Quinn (10.5), a pair of former first-round selections, the Rams tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks.
It marked the first time since 1999 (when they were tied with the Jaguars) that the club could be found at the top of the league in this category…
The Bad News: Scoring points continues to be an issue for a team that was once known as the “Greatest Show on Turf.”
From 1999-2001, the Rams put at least 500 points on the board in each season, a NFL mark matched by the New England Patriots the last three years (2010-12).
But amazingly, St. Louis has totaled fewer than 300 points in each of the last six seasons dating back to 2007. And in those 96 contests over that span, the Rams have scored 17 or fewer points in 64 of those contests ...
Dating back to 2008, no team in the league owns a worst record than St. Louis, a combined 19-60-1 over the last five seasons. To try and put that in perspective, the 2007 New England Patriots didn’t win up perfect. But including their playoff run to Super Bowl XLII, Bill Belichick’s club won 18 games that season alone…
Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
The Good News: One can only imagine how truly bad things could have been if not for a very respectful showing by the Arizona defense in 2012.
The aggressive Cardinals forced 33 turnovers and totaled 38 sacks, hence the team’s defensive unit only surrendered 32 offensive touchdowns …
For a number of different reasons not all his fault, it was a bit of a down year for wideout Larry Fitzgerald as the perennial Pro Bowler caught a career-low four touchdown passes.
But Fitzgerald did pull down a team-high 71 receptions, meaning the talented receiver has caught at least 50 passes in each of his nine NFL seasons…
The Bad News: Since finishing a combined 19-13 from 2008-09, winning back to back NFC West titles and reaching Super Bowl XLIII, the Cards are just 18-30 since 2010 and have finished last in the division in two of the last three seasons …
Think it’s been a long three years for Cardinals’ quarterbacks? Last year alone, the team had four different starters at the position and since 2010, seven men have played quarterback for the team.
The group has combined 42 touchdown passes and nearly twice as many turnovers (79). And those seven quarterbacks have been sacked a whopping 162 times in 48 games dating back to 2010…A year ago, Arizona finished dead last in the NFL in rushing offense, the team running for a total of 1,204 yards. It should be noted that 10 individual players rushed for more than 1,204 yards in 2012…
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