The biggest turnaround for any team last year came from the San Francisco 49ers, who took the NFC West and were an amazing 6-2 on the road. They were one botched punt return away from the Super Bowl, and San Francisco has returned most of their starters from the top ranked rushing defense from last season.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh (R) and quarterback Alex Smith went 13-3 with one of the best defenses in the NFL last season.
They also splurged on offense, bringing in wide receivers Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, to help quarterback Alex Smith improve a passing game that ranked 29th in the league.
The below predictions take each NFC West team's schedule and last year's performance under consideration. This year the division is matched up with the AFC East.
The Cardinals struggled on both sides of the ball last year, especially rushing offense, but have done little to improve. Still they finished 8-8 last season, but both Seattle and San Francisco improved, while they remained stagnant. In their first three weeks Arizona faces Seattle, at New England, then Philadelphia, which could make them 0-3 to start. They also face the 49ers twice in the final eight weeks, and travel to Atlanta and the New York Jets.
2011 Record: 8-8
2012 Predicted Record: 6-10
St. Louis Rams
The Rams traded down in the draft for a plethora of picks, and also had the biggest turnover of any roster in the league. Now they have the fourth toughest schedule of 2012, including a four game stretch where they host Green Bay and New England, then after their bye are at San Francisco and host the New York Jets.
If their secondary can play as well as last season, head coach Jeff Fischer can help them to a five game improvement.
2011 Record: 2-14
2012 Predicted Record: 7-9
The Seahawks opted for rookie quarterback Russell Wilson instead of free agent Matt Flynn. Wilson will play just two of the top 10 passing defenses from last season in St. Louis and the New York Jets. Three roads games could be a concern: at Chicago in Week 2, at San Francisco in Week 7, and at Detroit in Week 8.
2011 Record: 7-9
2012 Predicted Record: 9-7
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco's schedule is back-loaded, with four of their final six games on the road. But their toughest games before their Week 9 bye are at Green Bay, and home against the New York Giants. They could be 6-2 before that long road stretch.
2011 Record: 13-3
2012 Predicted Record: 12-4
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