NFC West

Story lines

1. Will any team in this division challenge Seattle? It doesn’t look as if that will happen this season. With Coach Mike Holmgren on his way out after the season, the Seahawks look primed to make another playoff run. A good first step was cutting ties with Shaun Alexander; the former league most valuable player just couldn’t get the hard yards that his replacement, Julius Jones, will get.

2. It has been a rough summer for quarterback Matt Leinart, who’s facing a make-or-break season in Arizona. The Cardinals are going with Kurt Warner as their starter after Leinart has looked shaky and erratic in his exhibition appearances. Can the former USC star regain his poise and his position in the lineup?

3. After an unbelievably bad showing on offense last season, San Francisco brought in Mike Martz to rework its scheme. Martz thinks he has another out-of-nowhere star in quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan -- whom he coached in Detroit -- but where are the receivers?


How they’ll finish

1. Seattle: Ready to again run away with this weak division.

2. Arizona: Warner played well last season, and the Cardinals are loaded with talent at other spots.

3. St. Louis: Look for rookie Chris Long to make a big impact for the Rams. Dad Howie will certainly be watching.


4. San Francisco: Tough break for former No. 1 pick Alex Smith, who has had to learn four offenses in four years.