'Madden NFL 15' division ratings: NFC West

Today, my tour around the NFL divisions in "Madden NFL 15" continues with a stop in what many believe is the toughest division in football: the NFC West. Nestled inside this brutal division are the reigning world champion Seattle Seahawks, the NFC runner-up San Francisco 49ers, the "we went 10-6 and still couldn't make the (expletive) playoffs" Arizona Cardinals and the stoutly defensive St. Louis Rams. Yet, it appears that the Madden rating gods disagree to some extent with this being the NFL's toughest division, as the team ratings differ by a whopping 14 points between the top and bottom team. That's the second largest gap in a division after the AFC West, where 18 points separate the top and bottom team (but you won't need more than one guess to figure out which teams those are). Still, the NFC West does have the highest combined rating of any division (338) by a solid margin of 10 points over yesterday's division, the NFC North. Anyway, onto our look at the NFC West.

Arizona Cardinals -- 80

As a fan of Calais Campbell both on and off the field, I was glad to see him get his due with a OVR rating of 96. Larry Fitzgerald has earned every point of his 93 OVR rating, and those who think he's on the decline should go ahead and rewatch his preseason tape. He's still got it. He also has his best supporting cast in years, with running mates Michael Floyd (83 OVR) and rookie John Brown (65 OVR), who are both underrated if you ask me or anyone who's watched them in the preseason (or last year for Floyd). Andre Ellington and his 80 OVR could be on the rise if he gets as many touches as Bruce Arians has been promising. Had Daryl Washington not been suspended for the season, his 89 OVR rating (what it is in the game, not the old image to the right) would have been very useful for this defense. However, Patrick Peterson (93 OVR), Antonio Cromartie (87 OVR) and Tyrann Mathieu (84 OVR) should be able to lock things down on the backend. Personally, I feel this team is a tad underrated at just an 80, but that could change once the regular season rolls around.

San Francisco 49ers -- 90

The 49ers are a fantastic football team -- three straight NFC Championship Game appearances speaks to that -- but given the injuries and other troubles swirling around this team, 90 feels just a touch high. An 88 or 89 feels more right, and here's why. They're going to be without two 96 OVR linebackers for significant portions of the season as NaVorro Bowman returns from a gruesome knee injury and Aldon Smith awaits a verdict on his potential suspension for repeated off-field issues. That's not to say losing these two leaves the cupboards bare, as the defense still bosts Patrick Willis (96 OVR), Justin Smith (92 OVR), Eric Reid (81 OVR) and Ahmad Brooks (84 OVR). That group will do work in real life and in Madden. Offensively, Colin Kaepernick sits at an 89 OVR, and unless he evens out his performance once the regular season rolls around, he could be in an up-and-down limbo as he was much of last year. Thankfully, he has a fully-healthy trio of targets in Vernon Davis (94 OVR), Anquan Boldin (90 OVR), Michael Crabtree (89 OVR) as well as Frank "I'll never get old" Gore (90 OVR). Lastly, it's worth noting that Andy Lee, the punter, is rated a 95 OVR, showing just how talented this roster is. Overrated or not, this team has talent, and is a force in Madden.

Seattle Seahawks -- 91

Speaking of forces, no team forces their will upon opponents on the field or in Madden quite like the Seahawks. The self-proclaimed "Legion of Boom" boasts three players with a 90-plus rating in Richard Sherman (99), Earl Thomas (95) and Kam Chancellor (93), which is completely justified in my opinion given how they manhandled the Broncos offense in the Super Bowl, and most other offenses during the season. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner continues to be underrated, as an 88 OVR rating is less than he deserves. I love Russell Wilson, but a 93 OVR rating feels premature. I don't doubt that he'll get there, but let's see him put the team on his shoulders to win a few more games first. It will be fun watching him have Percy Harvin and his 90 OVR rating at his disposal for a whole season, though. Marshawn Lynch gets a 95 OVR, thanks in large part to his 99 Trucking and 99 Stiff arm ratings. Uh yeah, no problems with that. The Seahawks 91 team rating is the highest in the game. They're the only team with a rating over 90 (the 49ers are the second-highest rated team), and I don't think anyone would dispute that fact heading into the 2014 season.

St. Louis Rams -- 77

Now, keep in mind, this rating was made prior to Sam Bradford (85 OVR) being lost for the season, which makes me wonder what the Madden ratings gods will think of a Shaun Hill-led (76 OVR) offense. Two of the team's highest rated players are its pair of pass-rushing defensive ends in Robert Quinn (97 OVR) and Chris Long (87 OVR). I'm a little surprised James Laurinaitis (81 OVR) and Alec Ogletree (79 OVR) aren't a tad higher, but I guess that happens when you're on the Rams. Tavon Austin is rightfully a 79 OVR after an underwhelming rookie season, but it's a shame Zac Stacy (84 OVR) didn't get a little more love after carrying the offense in 2013. It's a bit sad that Johnny Hekker, the punter, is the fourth-highest rated player on this squad at an 87 OVR. I feel that has more to do with this unit being underrated than having a lack of talent, as prior to Bradford's injury some pundits were thinking this team could compete for a wild card spot. Now, those hopes have been dashed, along with any hopes for immediate returns in Madden. The pieces are there to build this unit up in franchise mode, but unless you're a die-hard fan, it'd be best to choose other options when playing online or with friends.

-- Alex writes fantasy and features pieces for NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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