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In a little over nine weeks, the greatest sport and the best sport to gamble on returns. People have started to break down who will be on their fantasy team, and fans have convinced themselves that this will be their year, even though their team missed the playoffs last year. This is the time when fans are the most hopeful, no injuries are happening in training camp, and your heart isn’t broken because you haven’t yet realized that your team sucks.
Today we look at the NFC West. In my opinion, this is the best division in the NFC. Every team believes that not only should they make the playoffs, but they have a chance to win the entire thing. Since 2010, the Seahawks have won the NFC West 5 times, the 49ers 3 times, the Rams 2 times, and the Cardinals once. The division seems to go on runs where one team will dominate for a couple of years and then be replaced. San Francisco won in 2011 and 2012; Seattle won in 2013 and 2014; then the Rams won in 2017 and 2018. Will the Rams’ quarterback change be enough to win the NFC West? Will the 49ers finally be healthy enough? Will Russell Wilson lead the Seahawks again for back-to-back division wins? Or will the young Cardinals take the next step?
Last year, the 49ers were rattled with injuries and finished the season 6-10. Jimmy Garoppolo played only 6 games, Nick Bosa 2 games, Dee Ford 1 game, George Kittle 8 games, and Richard Sherman 5 games. It was only two years ago when San Francisco lost in the Super Bowl versus the Chiefs. They were dominant in the NFC Conference Title game when they defeated the Packers 37-20. Last year was a huge fall for the NFC Conference winners since they finished last in the NFC West.
In the offseason, the 49ers made some huge changes to their roster. They traded up in the draft, and people wondered if they were looking to add another stud defensive player to go with Nick Bosa, or maybe they would add a star-wide receiver to team up with George Kittle. Instead, they drafted QB Trey Lance. Supposedly Jimmy G is still the starter for Week One, but the fact that the 49ers traded up for Lance doesn’t look good for Jimmy G’s future. They also drafted OG Aaron Banks, added RB Wayne Gallman, and EDGE Samson Ebukam. They lost two running backs, RB Jerick McKinnon and RB Tevin Coleman.
Even with all of the injuries to star players, the 49ers were still middle of the pack in both offense and defense last year. They finished with the 19th overall offense, 19th points, 12th passing yards, 19th passing touchdowns, and 10th in rushing touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, they finished with the 15th overall defense, 5th yards allowed, 17th points allowed, 4th passing yards allowed, 7th rushing yards allowed, and 4th rushing touchdowns allowed. Will the addition of Trey Lance make San Francisco a better offense, or do they need a healthy Jimmy G and George Kittle?
The 49ers were gifted games against the Lions, Jaguars, Falcons, Bengals, and Texans; those five games should be an easy win for San Fran. They should be the favorite against the Eagles, Colts, Bears, and Vikings. Say they go 3-1 against those four teams and win the five easy games that brings them to eight wins. They would need only 3 more wins to get them to their over, and they could easily sneak out wins against the Cardinals, Vikings, or the Titans. When healthy, this team is great, and I believe regardless of who the starting quarterback is, they can win over 10.5 games. For the division winner, I’m torn between two teams. I think that the Rams and 49ers will finish with the same record, and whoever wins the tiebreakers will win the division.
Another team in the NFC West made major offseason moves that drastically changed their roster. Sean McVay realized what the ceiling was with Jared Goff as the starter and decided enough was enough. They traded Goff to the Lions for maybe future Hall of Famer Matthew Stafford. It was only three years ago when the Rams lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl in an extremely boring game that the Patriots won 13-3. Is the addition of Stafford going to be enough for the Rams to win the NFC West?
Last year, Goff had a 67% completion percentage, 3,952 yards, 20 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and a 58.5 QBR. That was with the offensive genius Sean McVay as his coach and a great wide receiver corps led by Cooper Kupp. Last year, Stafford had a 64.2% competition percentage, 4,084 yards, 26 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a 68.4 QBR. This was with Matthew Patricia as the head coach, who was a fail, and a wide receiver corps mainly consisting of Kenny Golladay. Goff led the Rams to the 14th best offense, 23rd points, 11th yards, 13th passing yards, 26th passing touchdowns, and 10th rushing yards. Their defense led them to the playoffs since finishing 2nd best defense, 1st points allowed, 1st yards allowed, 1st passing yards allowed, 1st passing touchdowns allowed, and 4th rushing touchdowns allowed.
Last year, the Rams finished 10-6 and were second in the NFC West. They upset the Seahawks in the Wild Card round, winning 30-20. The defense gave up 20 points but was great in that game. In the Divisional Round, they lost 18-32 versus the Packers, and maybe that game was where Jared Goff officially booked his ticket to Detroit. Goff wasn’t the only one to leave LA, but S John Johnson also left. They added WR DeSean Jackson and drafted WR Tutu Atwell, LB Ernest Jones, and DT Bobby Brown III.
The Rams’ schedule is more difficult than the 49ers’ with games against the Ravens and the Bucs. They are gifted with easy games against the Lions, Texans, and Jaguars. Even though they play in a great division and face difficult games against the Ravens and Bucs, I’m still taking their over. The Rams’ defense is great, and I think that adding Matthew Stafford will take the Rams over the edge. Stafford has wasted away in Detroit for years and is ready to show the world why he belongs to be in the Hall of Fame one day. Like I said before, I think the division will be tied between the Rams and 49ers, and whoever wins those tiebreakers will win the division. If I had to put money on it, I like the addition of Matthew Stafford more than the addition of Trey Lance, so I’m picking the Rams to win the division.
For the time being, the Seahawks still have the same starting quarterback. There was drama near the beginning of free agency when Russell Wilson requested a trade without officially requesting a trade. He is in talks for a contract extension, but those talks have been very quiet. Last year, Wilson led Seattle to a 12-4 record and won the NFC West. Will Wilson and Seattle have the same success as last year?
Last year, the Seahawks had an amazing offense, and at the beginning of the year, Pete Carroll let Russ throw. Seattle finished with 459 total points, the most in franchise history, for 28.7 points per game. Seattle finished with the 9th overall offense, 8th points, 17th yards, 3rd passing touchdowns, 12th rushing yards, and 19th rushing touchdowns. It wasn’t the offense that failed the Seahawks in the Wild Card round, but their defense. The defense allowed 23.2 points per game and finished with the 23rd overall defense. Seattle was 13th in points allowed, 22nd in yards allowed, 31st in passing yards allowed, 9th in passing touchdowns allowed, 22nd in rushing touchdowns allowed.
The Seahawks lost CB Shaquill Griffin to the Jaguars, but that wasn’t the only player they lost to free agency. They lost WR David Moore and TE Jacob Hollister. They added TE Gerald Everett, RG Gabe Jackson, CB Ahkello Witherspoon in free agency. They drafted WR D’Wayne Eskridge, CB Tre Brown, and OT Stone Forsythe.
The Seahawks are gifted with the Jaguars, Texans, and Lions. I know how great Russell Wilson is, but I don’t trust the Seahawks’ defense. I can see many games where the Seahawks are down going into the 4th quarter, and the entire game will rely on Wilson. This defense was bad last year. This is why I’m taking the under in their wins and not taking them to win the division.
The Cardinals are on the up and up and are led by Kyler Murray. Last year, Arizona went 8-8 and lost a tiebreaker to the Bears for the final Wild Card spot. The Cardinals haven’t made the playoffs for five straight years. During that time, they went 31-47-2, and hopefully, the next five years are much better for Arizona.
Arizona added some big-time players who cause big splashes in free agency but aren’t in their primes anymore. They added IDL J.J. Watt and WR A.J. Green. If Green can stay healthy, he’ll be a great addition to the Cardinals wide receiver corps, which superstar DeAndre Hopkins led. The Cardinals drafted LB Zaven Collins, WR Rondale Moore, and CB Marco Wilson. They lost DB Patrick Peterson, TE Dan Arnold, and RB Kenyan Drake. Drake was great for Arizona, but if you have Kyler Murray’s legs, that’s the only running back you really need.
The Cardinals finished with the 6th overall offense, 13th points, 6th yards, 17th passing yards, 7th rushing yards, and 4th rushing touchdowns. The addition of A.J. Green, if healthy, will help with their passing yards. Drake leaving shouldn’t hurt their rushing yards and touchdowns since they have Kyler Murray. Their offense might’ve been top 10, but their defense wasn’t close. Arizona finished with the 19th overall defense, 13th points allowed, 13th yards allowed, 14th passing touchdowns allowed, and 22nd rushing yards allowed.
Once again, another NFC West team was graciously given games against the Jaguars, Texans, and Lions. I’m not worried about the Cardinals’ offense, but I don’t have much faith in their defense. Will their defense keep them in games against the Titans, Browns, Packers, Vikings, Cowboys, and Colts? Those six games will be huge for this team. I think that the Cardinals will sit at 3rd in the NFC West. So I’m not taking them to win the division, but I will take the over in games won.