Today's question: What is the No. 1 thing your team needed to do to catch the Seahawks in the NFC West, and do you believe they addressed that need?
Josh Weinfuss, Arizona Cardinals: There were two areas Arizona needed to address in order to catch the Seahawks: improve the pass rush and figure out how to contain Marshawn Lynch. A constant pass rush was what helped the Cardinals beat Seattle at the end of the 2013 season, but they couldn’t get to Russell Wilson in 2014 and lost both meetings. The pass rush was addressed during the offseason and draft. Arizona drafted three pass-rushers and signed three more. The best way to contain Lynch was keeping an inside linebacker on him one-on-one and making sure the outside linebacker keeps him from getting to the edge. The Cardinals signed Sean Weatherspoon, who might be the answer if he can stay healthy, but the Cardinals are inexperienced defending the end with Alex Okafor on one side and Kareem Martin on the other.
Nick Wagoner, St. Louis Rams: The Rams have made it abundantly clear they’re not intimidated by the Seahawks. There’s evidence of that in the slugfests the sides have played since coach Jeff Fisher arrived in 2012. But the Rams lost four of those six games in part because they’ve tried to engage the Seahawks in their own style of game and haven’t been able to duplicate it. Namely, the Rams haven’t been able to consistently run the ball to keep the offense moving. In those six games, the Rams have averaged just 3.48 yards per carry. That’s not good enough and that number even includes the 5.41 yards per carry they had in a Monday Night Football loss to Seattle in 2013. The Rams absolutely went about trying to get better in this area, drafting four offensive linemen and running back Todd Gurley in an effort to bolster the run game. Whether that turns into results or not, though, remains to be seen.
Paul Gutierrez, San Francisco 49ers: The Seahawks have won five of the last six, including the NFC title game in January 2014, in this series. Staying relatively healthy would help the Niners, who ended last year’s 8-8 season with 18 players on injured reserve. But in terms of on-field talent that could help them catch the two-time defending NFC champs, the Niners needed a deep threat. And they got that with the free-agent signing of Torrey Smith, who has 51 receptions on targets of at least 20 yards from 2011 through last season, including the postseason, per Pro Football Focus. He also has 44 catches of at least 25 yards in his career, averaging a Baltimore Ravens-record 16.9 yards per catch. But while the Seahawks' secondary was banged up at the end of the season, the Legion of Boom was stingy when it came to surrendering big plays. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the 14 pass plays of at least 25 yards allowed were fewest in the NFL. So the addition of Smith might not make much of a difference at all for the Niners.