After covering the AFC we’re going to spend a little more time out west by looking at the NFC West. For the better half of a decade NFC West has been by far the toughest division in the league. This season is no different as all four teams have legitimate reasons as to why they will win the division. If a division title wasn’t enough to wet their appetite then the idea that each one of them could win the Super Bowl will. This division will be tough to call and will almost certainly go differently than predicted, but we’ll try anyways.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers finished the season last year 6-10 which was dead last in the NFC West. The biggest reason for such a poor year was due to injuries. At one point over half of their total salary was out due to injuries which makes being competitive harder than it already is. That being said everyone is back healthy and are eager to lay down a marker. This team was in the Super Bowl just two years ago and a repeat is the mission. Jimmy G figures to start the season as the number 1 QB, but eventually give up the reigns to rookie Trey Lance. The Niners\’ spent a lot of draft capitol to get him and I doubt they let him sit out the year.
The Niners\’ defense took a massive hit last season with over half of their starters going down with injuries. The hope this year is that the injury bug doesn’t hit them as hard this go around. Nick Bosa will lead a defense that can at times absolutely smother opposing offenses. It will be quite interesting to see how they fare in the first few weeks as players haven’t played in a long time. If the Niners can come out of the gates hot then they easily can become Super Bowl contenders. The main worry would be that of the QB position. Can Jimmy G stay healthy and/or can Lance handle the pressure of Super Bowl expectations already?
The Seahawks, last year’s division winners, experienced quite the interesting offseason. Franchise QB Russell Wilson expressed his frustrations with the organization which of course led to a bunch of trade rumors. In the end everyone got along and he’s back for another season. The biggest question offensively will be how well that offensive line holds up. Wilson has already expressed frustrations with the lack of protection and it will be something to monitor throughout the year. As for the rest of the offense, Wilson certainly has some weapons to play with. Metcalf and Carson are just two players who can cause nightmares for opposing defenses.
Speaking of defense, the Seahawks defense last season was just about middle of the road. They have some elite talent in the form of Bobby Wagner, but a lack of pass rush really let them down. So far it appears that will yet again be a problem for this defense. That being said another elite defender by the name of Jamal Adams got a taste of Seattle last year and is hungry for more. There are some obvious holes with this team, but we’ve learned not to bet against Wilson. This team is definitely weaker than previous versions, but they still have the pedigree of a winner.
Los Angeles Rams
Perhaps the biggest move in the division this offseason was the change in QB for the Rams. Gone are the days of Jared Goff as he was traded to the Lions for Matthew Stafford. The organization had grown frustrated with Goff’s inconsistent play and decided to upgrade on the position. Now Stafford doesn’t come without question marks of his own. The biggest would be his lack of playoff wins especially considering the Rams title aspirations. Despite all that he’s poised to have a big year especially surrounded by the weapons now at his disposal. The loss of Cam Akers to injury is indeed a blow to this offense, but Darrel Henderson should be able to pick up the slack. Look for Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp to once again be main targets in the air.
Defensively the Rams had one of if not the best units last season. While it’s unlikely that they will once again be at the very top this still remains a very good defense. Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey will lead the charge as they once again hope to stifle opposing offenses. The onus might not be on them as much this season with the offense poised for improvement. However, another strong year from the defense could make for a deep playoff run. The Rams could easily be swapped with Seattle, but given that Seattle has Wilson, I’m giving them the edge. It however wouldn’t be a surprise if the Rams won the division either.
The Arizona Cardinals took a step forward last season fighting for the division title and a playoff spot before fading at the end. That being said this team is poised and hungry for better results this time around. Led by Kyler Murray the offense improved by leaps and bounds last season. Of course, the acquisition of a star receiver DeAndre Hopkins certainly helped with that improvement. As of right now it doesn’t appear that Larry Fitzgerald will play this season which is a blow, but the offense should be able to manage. Without Fitzgerald it will mean someone else will have to step up and fill the void. My eye will be on Christian Kirk, who showed flashes last season, to be the man for the job.
Arizona’s defense was just outside of the top 10 last season and a slight improvement in that area will go a long way. The team did lose Patrick Peterson, but on the bright side acquired JJ Watt. While Watt may be past his prime, he still has a lot to offer a team and it will be fun to watch him play for a competitive team. The fact that Arizona comes in at fourth is just a testament to the strength of this division. In any other division the Cardinals are at the very least a playoff team. Even in this division it may still ring true, but life in the NFC West is significantly harder.