To get us ready for the year here is my NFC West preview, awards style.
Best Player - Arizona Cardinals Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald
I don't think what Fitz pulled off last year is appreciated enough. The All-Pro wide receiver had the second most receiving yards of his career and the highest average per reception with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton as his quarterback. Imagine what his numbers would look like if he was able to play with a consistent QB.
Best Unit -- San Francisco 49ers Defense
The best defense in the NFL this past season returns fully intact. Pretty insane considering the amount of turnover on team's from year to year nowadays.
Biggest Question Mark - Arizona Cardinals Offensive Line
Despite the concerns about the Cards quarterback position I think the offensive line is an even bigger issue. Tackles Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges have both been lost for the season. Bobby Massie, a rookie fourth round pick, is starting at right tackle and D'Anthony Batiste is starting at left tackle. Right guard Adam Snyder is a liability in pass protection. A unit that was mediocre at best when fully healthy is now also short on depth.
Potential Fantasy Sleeper - Seattle Seahawks Wide Receiver Braylon Edwards
People forget that Braylon had almost 1300 yards receiving and caught 16 touchdown passes with Derek Anderson as his QB. He had two productive years with the New York Jets that didn't translate to huge numbers because of a conservative offense and last year he was banged up the entire season. During the preseason Edwards showed chemistry with rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. The former Michigan product should see the field a ton with the Seahawks inexperienced receiving crew. 49ers running back Kendall Hunter and Cards RB Ryan Williams were other possibilities here, but it would take an injury for both to get the necessary touches.
Best Offense -- ummmmmmmmmmmmmmm *scratching head*
Best Quarterback - ummmmmmmmmmmm *still scratching head*
Best Offensive Line -- San Francisco 49ers
There really was no other choice; the other three teams in the division all have huge question marks in the offensive trenches.
Best Wide Receivers - Arizona Cardinals
We already discussed Fitz, but the Cards have solid depth with Andre Roberts, Early Doucet and first round pick Michael Floyd. The 49ers have the most upside, but it's still an unknown how the additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham will fit within the San Francisco offense.
Best Running Backs - Seattle Seahawks
Marshawn Lynch finally lived up to the hype last year running for 1200 yards after two disappointing seasons. Rookie Robert Turbin adds another power back and Leon Washington is an effective change of pace player, who can also be a weapon in the passing game.
Best Defense - San Francisco 49ers
Is there any doubt after last season?
Best Defensive Line - Seattle Seahawks
It might not be flashy or have big names, but Seattle has the ability to make teams one dimensional by shutting down the run led by defensive end Red Bryant.
Best Linebackers - San Francisco 49ers
Patrick Willis headlines the group, but Ahmad Brooks and NaVorro Bowman can't be overlooked.
Best Secondary - Seattle Seahawks
Brandon Browner was one of the biggest surprised in the NFL last season at cornerback. He and Richard Sherman are 6'3" and 6'4", respectively, which gives the Seahawks a talented and impressively large cornerback tandem. If Earl Thomas continues to improve and progress at safety this becomes an incredibly dangerous unit.
Most Exciting Player - Arizona Cardinals Cornerback Patrick Peterson
While the second year corner got a little ahead of himself early in training camp thinking he could be the second best cover corner in the league, there is no denying that Peterson has already claimed the title of NFL's best punt returner. With the freedom he is given to field punts that most returners wouldn't dare the opportunity to see spectacular plays that normally can't occur is special.
Best Head Coach - Ken Whisenhunt
I know everyone is on the Jim Harbaugh bandwagon, but he still has only one successful season under his belt. I need to see more from him before he is anointed. Ken Whisenhunt has four seasons of a .500 record or better with a franchise that not to long ago was the laughing stock of the league. Let's not forget that Super Bowl appearance either.
Team That Hasn't Been Mentioned At All So I Need To Write About Them - St. Louis Rams
After the draft I was leaning towards picking the Rams to win the division. I have since changed my mind. I still like the direction they're going, but the offensive line is a mess. Also the receiving core and defense are still a year or two away from being where they need to be. I still do expect St. Louis to be improved from last year under new head coach Jeff Fisher.
Get more Cardinals coverage at Revenge of the Birds.