Pro football, by far, is the most popular sport in the United States.
Pro football, by far, has also the shortest season of any of the four major-league team sports in North America, which leaves plenty of time for speculation.
That’s exactly what the writers who cover teams in the NFC West for ESPN.com did Friday — projecting which of the four teams will win the competitive division in 2016.
The Arizona Cardinals got half of the four votes, with the arch-rival Seattle Seahawks garnering the other two tallies.
Here’s how the panel voted:
Josh Weinfuss, Arizona Cardinals reporter – Cardinals
The Seahawks will be good again this year, but it might take them a few games to find their footing rushing the ball and blocking up front. While that happens, however, the Cardinals will run to an insurmountable division lead.
Nick Wagoner, Los Angeles Rams reporter – Seahawks
Deciding between those two teams as the winner of the NFC West is a difficult proposition. Football Outsiders projects Arizona to win it in part because the Cardinals get to face New England without Tom Brady (assuming his suspension holds up) and Seattle doesn’t. That one game could make the difference. But I’m going to go the other direction and pick Seattle. As always, injuries play a huge part in these projections, but the Seahawks, with Jimmy Graham and some key defenders back healthy, look ready to reclaim the NFC West crown in 2016.
Michael Wagaman, San Francisco 49ers reporter – Cardinals
The Cardinals knocked the Seahawks from their perch atop the division last season, and although they flamed out in the postseason, there’s a good chance they’ll return. Seattle has improved and will be in the running for a wild card but Arizona has plenty of talent and a solid defense to keep in front of the Seahawks.
Sheil Kapadia, Seattle Seahawks reporter – Seahawks
It will come down to the Seahawks and the Cardinals. Both teams have impressive talent on both sides of the ball, defined identities and proven, veteran quarterbacks. Look for both squads to be among the NFC’s elite in 2016. The Seahawks win the NFC West, but the Cardinals get in as a dangerous wild card.
No real surprises in the voting — it’s not like anyone picked the 49ers to sit atop the NFC West.
This is indicative of just how close the Cardinals and Seahawks are. Either the Cardinals or Seahawks have appeared in the NFC title game in each of the last three seasons.
In that span, the Seahawks have won four of six meetings between the teams, including all three contests staged in Glendale.
In case you’re wondering, the Seahawks play the Cardinals in Arizona in Week 7 on Oct. 23 and the two teams will meet again in Seattle in a Week 16 showdown on Christmas Eve.
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