Cards to win NFC West? One man says so

Fourteen of 16 ESPN.com analysts are picking the San Francisco 49ers to repeat as NFC West champions.

That makes sense. The 49ers were 13-3 last season. They brought back nearly all of their important players. They upgraded other spots on their roster.

Why, then, would AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley pick the Arizona Cardinals to win the West? I asked him that question and got the following response:

"Obviously, the choice for the NFC West winner would've been different if the 49ers had lured Peyton Manning to San Francisco. And one of the big reasons why I chose Arizona is my lack of confidence in Alex Smith repeating last year's success.

"The Cardinals, in my opinion, are the team flying under the radar in that division. All of the focus has been on the quarterback battle. But the attention should be on an underrated Cardinals defense that is playoff ready.

"Don't get me wrong. There is concern at the quarterback position and the offensive line. I just think their talent at the skill positions on offense, namely Larry Fitzgerald, is good enough to offset those question marks. Plus, coach Ken Whisenhunt is undervalued as a coach in his ability to get the most out of his teams.

The Cardinals did build a double-digit lead at Baltimore last season. They did win seven of their final nine games. It is possible some of us have gone too far in embracing offseason storylines focusing on quarterback and offensive line questions. Those two areas do seem highly important, however. I'll be surprised if the Cardinals overcome them well enough to win the division.

Back in a bit with Matt Williamson's thoughts on why he thinks Seattle will win the West.