Good News/Bad News (2013 NFC West)

By Russell S. Baxter

Pro Football Guru

It may technically still be the offseason, but there’s never a bad time when it comes to reminiscing NFL-style.

Here’s the first of our eight divisional reviews of the 2013 season, in which we look at the positives and negatives for all 32 teams, with a twinge of recent history and trends as well.

First on the list (and with good reason): the NFC West.

Seattle Seahawks (13-3)

Good News: In 2013, the Seahawks became the 19th different franchise to hoist the Lombardi Trophy courtesy of a 43-8 thrashing of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. Remember, this was a team that started 6-5 in 2012 and since that mediocre 11-game run, has been quite imposing. Including the playoffs, Pete Carroll’s club is an imposing 22-4 in its last 26 games…

Need more proof of Seattle’s impressive two-year run? Carroll’s team is 24-8 in the regular season and 4-1 in the postseason since 2012, a total combined record of 28-9. Those victories have come by a total of 451 points, a solid 16.1 points per game average. Meanwhile, the ‘Hawks nine losses have been by a combined 41 points and all of them by seven points or less…

Bad News: You can’t be much more consistent than quarterback Russell Wilson has been his first two seasons in the NFL, leading the team to the playoffs and winning a Super Bowl. As a rookie, he threw 26 touchdown passes and committed only 13 turnovers in 16 regular-season games. In 2013, Wilson threw for 26 scores and coughed up the ball just 14 times in the same amount of outings. But what had to concern Carroll was pass protection, which had its issues due to injuries along the offensive front. In 37 games (including playoffs), Wilson has been sacked a grand total of 91 times in two seasons, including 51 times in 19 contests this past season…

San Francisco 49ers (12-4)

Good News: Do you think head coach Jim Harbaugh has stressed ball security in his first three seasons with the franchise? In 2013, the Niners committed only 18 turnovers in 16 regular-season outings. Back in 2011, San Francisco tied the NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season by a team (10) and one year later, coughed up the football just 16 times. That mean in their last 48 regular-season contests, Harbaugh’s club has given away the football just 44 times--the same amount of miscues committed by the New York Giants in 2013…

It’s been so far, pretty good when it comes to the Harbaugh Era in San Francisco, which has seen the team in the NFC title game each of those years while making an appearance in Super Bowl XLVIII. The 49ers’ regular-season record under their current head coach is 36-11-1. In the eight seasons prior to Harbaugh’s rivals (2002-12), the franchise failed to post a winning record or make a playoff appearance over that span while compiling a 46-82 mark…

Bad News: When the Niners were on their game last season, they were pretty impressive. But when quarterback Colin Kaepernick and company had their issues, there were some dismal offensive outings. Including their three-game playoff run in 2013, the team totaled 413 points in their 14 victories, an average of 29.5 points per contest. But in their five setbacks this past season, San Francisco totaled a mere 56 points…

Arizona Cardinals (10-6)

Good News: Who was a happier wide receiver in 2013 than veteran Larry Fitzgerald? A year earlier during the team’s 5-11 campaign, the perennial Pro Bowler played with four different starting quarterbacks and snared a career-low four touchdown passes despite leading the team with 71 catches. This past season, Fitzgerald once again led the club with 82 receptions and with quarterback Carson Palmer the team’s lone starting quarterback, the talented pass-catcher pulled down 10 of Palmer’s 24 touchdown throws…

For the first time during the merger (1970-2013), the Cardinals led the NFL in rushing defense. It was also the team’s highest rating in this department since 1994, when the club was fourth in the league vs. the run under head coach Buddy Ryan…

Bad News: Although Palmer was certainly an upgrade compared to the team’s quarterbacking situation in 2012, the veteran signal-caller did throw 24 touchdown passes while committing 25 turnovers. Since 2010, the Cardinals have had eight different men play quarterback for the club. The group has combined to throw 66 touchdown passes but also gave up the football a disturbing 104 times. And those eight signal-callers have been sacked a whopping 205 times in 64 games dating back to 2010…

St. Louis Rams (7-9)

Good News: Jeff Fisher’s team totaled 348 points this past season, ranking 21st in the league in scoring in 2013. While that’s hardly awe-inspiring, it marked the first time since 2006 that the Rams averaged at least 20 points per game during an entire season. It wasn’t really that long ago (1999-2001) that the team was the first in NFL history to score at least 500 points in three consecutive campaigns…

In 2012, St. Louis tied for the league lead with 52 sacks, led by defensive ends Chris Long (11.5) and Robert Quinn (10.5). This past season, the team fell short of leading the NFL in this category for a second straight year. However, Fisher’s squad actually upped its total via 53 sacks, led by Quinn, who finished second in the league with 19.0 sacks…

Bad News: Despite a pair of consecutive seven-win seasons, the fact remains that the Rams haven’t gotten that winning cigar in quite a while. The franchise hasn’t enjoyed a winning campaign since finishing 12-4 in 2003 and hasn’t been to the playoffs since ’04 when they were an 8-8 wild card team…

What had to be most disappointing for Fisher and company was not the fact that the team finished in last place but the fact that their play within the division dropped off dramatically. After finishing with a 4-1-1 record vs. their NFC West rivals in 2012, St. Louis defeated the Cardinals in Week 1 only to lose their last five divisional encounters in 2013…