Major Additions:
DE Grant Wistrom, DT Marcus Tubbs, CB Bobby Taylor, S Michael Boulware.
Major Subtractions:
DT Chad Eaton, DT John Randle, DT Norman Hand, CB Shawn Springs, S Reggie Tongue.

September 1st Update:
Seattle has looked sharp in the pre-season, but they suffered a loss, as Chad Brown is out until late October with a broken leg.

Offense This Year: The emergence of Matt Hasselbeck has enabled the Seahawks to become one of the most explosive teams in the NFL. Just short of 4,000 passing yards in 2003, Hasselbeck has solidified himself as a perennial Pro Bowler over the next decade. Assisting him are the elite duo of receivers in the NFC, Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson. Shaun Alexander, who rushed for 1,435 yards and 14 touchdowns is also a Pro Bowl caliber player. He has the luxury of running behind one of the best offensive lines in professional football.
Defense This Year: Seattle boosted their run defense from last in 2002, to 12th in 2003. However, they will take a step back in that department, because their top three defensive tackles, Norman Hand, Chad Eaton and John Randle are no longer with the team. Marcus Tubbs will attempt to fill the void, but he is merely a rookie. The Seahawks also have not fixed their dilemma at middle linebacker; a position that has plagued them for years. At least Seattle's pass defense has been upgraded. Failing to apply constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks, the Seahawks have acquired the services of Grant Wistrom, who played for rival St. Louis last season. Two new defensive backs will ensure that Seattle has a top ten pass defense. Michael Boulware will start at strong safety, but the most significant acquisition was Bobby Taylor, who will combine with Marcus Trufant and Ken Lucas to create a very formidable group of cornerbacks.
Schedule and Intangibles: The Seahawks were 8-0 at home in 2003. If they can recreate their home field advantage again this season, they could finish with the NFC's best record. Winning on the road was an issue for Seattle last year, but their week 17 victory at San Francisco should carry over into this year's campaign. As one of the best teams in the NFL, the Seahawks will be able to handle almost any opponent, but there will be a few difficult ones this season, such as New England, Carolina, Miami, Buffalo and the New York Jets.

Analysis: Seattle's offense and pass defense will take them far into the playoffs, but a pedestrian run defense will be their demise.

Projection: 12-4 (1st in the NFC West).

St. Louis Rams (Last Year: 12-4).
Major Additions:
RB Steven Jackson, DE Sean Moran.
Major Subtractions:
OT John St. Clair, DE Grant Wistrom, DT Brian Young, LB Jamie Duncan, FS Tim Herring.

September 1st Update:
As expected, St. Louis has some major problems on their offensive and defensive lines. Their 2004 campaign could be a mirror image of their horrible 2002 season.

Offense This Year: As long as Orlando Pace is healthy, the Rams will have one of the best offenses in the NFL. Known as the Greatest Show on Turf, St. Louis puts up points in a hurry, whenever they play at home. Marc Bulger is emerging as one of the elite quarterbacks in professional football. Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Marshall Faulk are all Pro Bowl players that surround the young signal caller. Bulger also enjoys the blocking of a premium offensive line. Rookie Steven Jackson will provide the Rams with his effective rushing between the tackles.
Defense This Year: The Greatest Show on Turf is paired with what could be considered the worst defense on Earth. The Rams' defensive line is pathetic; Grant Wistrom has joined the Seahawks, Brian Young is now a Saint and Leonard Little may not play due to legal issues. No player on St. Louis' front four is worthy of starting in the NFL. The linebacking corps is in better condition, but they are the reason why the Rams were ranked 30th against the run in 2003. If their defense has a strength, it is in their secondary. Travis Fisher and Adam Archuleta are budding stars, while Aeneas Williams brings experience to the table. Consequently, the Rams were 9th against the pass. However, without Little and Wistrom, the Rams will apply less pressure on opposing quarterbacks, thus, decreasing their efficiency against the aerial attacks.
Schedule and Intangibles: During the regular season, St. Louis was 8-0 at home. However, they've had trouble winning on the road for years, because grass and harsh weather conditions make it tedious for the Rams skill players to run quickly. Unlike their schedule in 2003, St. Louis' schedule will prove to be very taxing. Non-conference foes include Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Miami, New England, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Green Bay and the New York Jets.

Analysis: Almost every single contest this upcoming season will be a shootout, due to the Rams' poor defense. Combining their defense with a difficult schedule is a recipe for disaster. A mirror image of a horrific 2002 season could be in order.

Projection: 7-9 (2nd in the NFC West).

Arizona Cardinals (Last Year: 4-12).
Major Additions:
WR Larry Fitzgerald, DE Bert Berry, DT Darnell Dockett, CB David Macklin.
Major Subtractions:
QB Jeff Blake, C Pete Kendall, DT Marcus Bell, DT Barron Tanner, CB Justin Lucas, CB David Barrett.

September 1st Update:
Anquan Boldin is out until late October, which is a huge blow for this potential upstart team.

August 11th Update:
A week ago, center Pete Kendall was released because he was complaining to the media that practices were too hard. Frank Garcia will be replacing him. A few days ago, the Cardinals learned that Marcel Shipp would be out for the year. That means Emmitt Smith will be Arizona's featured back. He will gain the majority of his yardage when opposing defenses are focused on the Cards' potent aerial attack. However, at this stage in his career, Emmitt is not the running back that Shipp is.

Offense This Year: Arizona's offense has been cadaverous since their playoff run in 1998, but new head coach Dennis Green will revitalize a unit that was ranked 27th in 2003. Rookie Larry Fitzgerald will join Anquan Boldin, Nathan Poole and Bryant Johnson to form a very formidable corps of wide receivers. Four explosive pass catchers will draw focus away from underrated Marcel Shipp, who is capable of accumulating 1,200 or more rushing yards. Of course, how much the Cardinals' offense improves falls on Josh McCown's shoulders. McCown showed some poise last season on the infamous 4th & 28, which put the Minnesota Vikings into their playoff graves. Dennis Green, who has a very keen eye for talent, speaks boldly of McCown. If Green's promises of a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback come to fruition, Arizona will have a top ten offense.
Defense This Year: Pathetic. One simple word to describe the Cardinals' defense over the past few years. They were ranked 30th against the pass, allowing opposing quarterbacks to maintain a 95.0 QB rating against them. The acquisitions of Bert Berry and David Macklin will improve Arizona's ranking, but they'll still be in the bottom half of the NFL. On the bright side, the Cardinals were an impressive 10th against the run. That statistic can only improve, thanks to the acquisition of Darnell Dockett via the draft. Dockett will be a mainstay on Arizona's defensive line for a decade.
Schedule and Intangibles: Arizona was 4-4 at home in 2003, defeating Minnesota, San Francisco, Cincinnati and Green Bay. Not bad. However, the Cardinals face a taxing schedule, with contests against non-divisional opponents that include New England, Buffalo, Miami, New Orleans, Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay.
Additional Reading: Can Josh McCown be successful as Arizona's starting quarterback?

Analysis: If Josh McCown plays as well as Dennis Green predicts, and Arizona maintains the homefield advantage they possessed in 2003, they could finish 8-8; a big step for the birds in red. A playoff season could arrive in 2005.

Projection: 5-11 (3rd in the NFC West).

San Francisco 49ers (Last Year: 7-9).
Major Additions:
WR Rashaun Woods, OT Greg Robinson-Randall, G Justin Smiley, DE Brandon Whiting, DT Isaac Sopoaga, CB Shawntae Spencer.
Major Subtractions:
QB Jeff Garcia, RB Garrison Hearst, WR Terrell Owens, WR Tai Streets, TE Jed Weaver, OT Derrick Deese, G Ron Stone, CB Jason Webster, S Zack Bronson.

September 1st Update:
Tim Rattay has returned from his torn groin. He will be the starter on opening day, which will commence a season of doom and gloom for the 49ers.

Offense This Year: Joe Montana and Steve Young are long gone. Jeff Garcia was allowed to leave as a free agent. Tim Rattay tore his groin and will miss a portion of the regular season. That leaves Ken Dorsey. Sure, Dorsey was a winner in college, but he lacks the arm strength to facilitate Dennis Erickson's vertical offense. The 49ers will also be without Terrell Owens, who was traded to Philadelphia. Unless either Rashaun Woods or Brandon Lloyd have a breakout campaign, Dorsey will not have reliable targets to throw to. Of course, he might not even have time to do so. San Francisco's offensive line is a unit in shambles; they might be the worst group in the NFL. Dorsey will have to depend heavily on Kevan Barlow. Barlow is capable of rushing for over 1,200 yards this season, but even a great running back like LaDainian Tomlinson could not carry his pathetic team to victory. Until Tim Rattay comes back, the 49ers will have problems scoring.
Defense This Year: San Francisco was ranked 17th and 16th against the run and the pass, respectively, in 2003. While most of their defensive corps have stayed intact, a huge loss this offseason was Jason Webster. The lackluster Mike Rumph will now start at corner. The 49ers have one Pro Bowl player at every level of their defense. Andre Carter anchors the line, Ahmed Plummer is a shutdown corner, and the best player they have is Julian Peterson. There is a possibility that Peterson may hold out. If that happens, the 49ers' defense will fall apart.
Schedule and Intangibles: Dennis Erickson is arguabely be the worst coach in the NFL. He hasn't and never will lead a team to the playoffs. San Francisco will have to traverse a very difficult schedule this season. Non-conference foes include Atlanta, New Orleans, Carolina, Tampa Bay, New York Jets, New England, Miami, Buffalo and Washington.
Additional Reading: The decline of the 49ers dynasty.

Analysis: The San Francisco 49ers are a franchise in decline. Owner John York is to blame. Matching their 7-9 record of 2003 would be a miracle.

Projection: 2-14 (4th in the NFC West).

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