Previewing the 2011 foes: The NFC West

Previewing the 2011 foes: The NFC West
January 24, 2011, 3:56 pm
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Monday, January 24, 2011 11:00 AM

By Rich Tandler
Redskins Blogger
CSNwashington.com

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While the NFL schedule will not come out until sometime in April, each teams 2011 opponents are known as are the stadiums where the games will be played. Over the next week, we will take a look at the Redskins opponents next year, a look at the history of the series, and a quick assessment of the Redskins chances. We started last week with the four teams in the AFC East. Today its the teams in the NFC West and later this week well wrap it up with the Redskins division foes and the other two NFC teams that will be on the schedule. Overview In an age where we are prone to making overstatements involving recent events, it is not hyperbole to say that the NFC West was the worst division in the history of the NFL. Seattle won the division at 7-9, winning a tiebreaker over the Rams based on a better record in that pathetic division. The 49ers were the subject of much preseason hype but they stumbled to a 6-10 record and fired coach Mike Singletary. The Cardinals brought up the rear with at 5-11. As bad as those records were, it could have been worse. They were matched up against the AFC West in the schedule rotation and that was the second-worst division in the NFL. The four teams combined to go 7-9 against its AFC counterpart. This was countered by the 1-11 record the NFC West had against the Falcons, Saints, and Bucs, the top three teams in the NFC South. The divisions lone playoff representative, the Seahawks, stunned the Saints at home before going on the road and falling to the Bears. San Francisco 49ers at FedEx Field The 49ers replaced Singletary with Jim Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback whose most recent resume enhancement came when he turned around the Stanford program and developed a top draft pick in waiting in quarterback Andrew Luck. The Redskins are 9-24-1 all-time against San Francisco. The last time the two teams met at FedEx Field, however, the Redskins rolled. In Week 7 of the 2005 season, Clinton Portis rushed for 102 yards and three touchdowns, while Ladell Betts kicked in 92 yards on the ground. It was 35-7 at halftime and the Redskins emptied their bench starting in the third quarter. That game marked the second start for rookie quarterback Alex Smith, who the Niners had chosen over Aaron Rodgers as their quarterback of the future. The top overall pick in the 2005 draft has been a disappointment to say the least. Smiths contract is up and they are likely to be looking for a replacement, possibly with their top pick in the upcoming draft, the seventh overall selection. Going against a rookie quarterback might sound good but for the Redskins, it hasnt been. Rookie quarterbacks have won their last six starts against the Redskins going back to 2006. Most recently, Matthew Stafford (2009) and Sam Bradford (2010) posted their first career wins against Washington. Arizona Cardinals at FedEx Field The Redskins and Cardinals have played 119 times, going back to 1932 when the Boston Braves lost to the Chicago Cardinals 9-0. The team now in Washington holds a firm 73-44-2 advantage in the series. With the exception of 1967-1969, the Redskins and Cardinals (in Chicago until 1959 and in St. Louis from 1960-1987) met twice a year every season from 1951 through 2001. The Redskins have faced the Cardinals more often than any other NFL team except the Giants and Eagles. The teams last met in Week 3 of 2008, early in Jim Zorns tenure as head coach. Things were going well then as the Redskins won 24-17 on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Jason Campbell to Santana Moss. The win moved the Redskins to 2-1 on their way to a 6-2 record at the halfway point. The readers here know the rest of that story. Arizona is another team that may well be breaking in a rookie quarterback in 2011. After former first-round pick Matt Leinart was released just before the regular season started, they tried Derrick Anderson (65.9 QB rating), undrafted rookies John Skelton (62.3) and Max Hall (35.7), and former Redskins third-stringer Richard Bartel (57.1). They may draft a quarterback or go for a veteran free agent but it appears that the solution is not currently on their roster. vs. St. Louis Rams at Edward Jones Dome The Redskins-Rams series goes back to 1937, the year the Boston Braves moved to Washington. The two teams met for the 1946 NFL championship with the Cleveland Rams eking out at 16-15 win over Sammy Baughs Redskins. That game would start a drought of 26 years in between NFL title games for the Redskins. They would not play for all the marbles again until the faced the Dolphins in Super Bowl VII following the 1972 season. Washington leads the all-time series 21-9-1. The Redskins traveled to St. Louis in Week 3 of 2010 and fell behind 14-0 seemingly before they got off of the team plane. Washington did rally to take a 16-14 lead early in the third quarter but the rally fizzled and the Rams outscored them 16-0 the rest of the way. The loss turned out to be not quite as embarrassing as it seemed to be at the time. The Rams, who won just one game in 2009, went 7-9 and were in playoff contention until the final game of the season, albeit in the historically-weak NFC West. If Sam Bradford, the rookie quarterback who Mike Shanahan desperately wanted to draft, continues his improvement, the Rams will be a tough opponent against any team in any stadium. vs. Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field Although the Seahawks have been around since 1976 they havent played the Redskins very often as Seattle played in the AFC until 2002. Washington holds a 10-6 lead in the series, including a 2-0 playoff advantage for the team from the state of Washington. When the Redskins played Seattle in Week 12 in 2008, the Seahawks were 2-8, a shell of the team that had defeated the Redskins in the playoffs the previous season. The Redskins temporarily interrupted their second half of the season free fall with a 20-17 win in Jim Zorns return to Seattle, where he had starred as a quarterback and later served as quarterbacks coach before taking the job with the Redskins. Clinton Portis rushed for 143 yards and Jason Campbell went 20 of 33 for 206 yards and an eight-yard touchdown pass to Antwaan Randle El. Pete Carroll has his team headed in the right direction. All of the jokes about making the playoffs with a losing record aside, they were 5-11 in 2009. Still, they had issues being competitive at times as all nine of their losses were by 15 points or more. You can reach Rich Tandler by email at RTandlerCSN@comcast.net and follow him on Twitter @RealRedskins. Rich also writes about the Skins at www.RealRedskins.com.