NFC West Predictions
With the NFL kicking off in less than 10 days and no signs of the coronavirus causing any hassles for teams. I figure now is the time to drop my NFC West predictions.
Last year, the NFC West was one of the toughest divisions in all of football. The NFC representative in the Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers, won the division with a 13-3 record. In 2nd place, came the Seattle Seahawks led by Russell Wilson and company, finishing with an impressive 11-5 record. In third place, came the Los Angeles finishing with a 9-7 record. Coming off a super bowl loss against the New England Patriots, the Rams struggled to get their rhythm back, mainly due to the injuries that Todd Gurley was dealing with. In last place, came the young Arizona Cardinals; finishing with a 5-10-1 record.
All 4 of these teams improved in the offseason and will be better this year. Many sources claim that the Arizona Cardinals will be these years, “worse to first” team. Meaning that they will finish in 1st place in the NFC West after finishing in 4th place last year.
With Tom Brady going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, many argue that division will be the strongest. Certainly, it would be hard to argue with that since two future hall of famers are playing in that division. Tom Brady and Drew Brees, but the Carolina Panthers are in rebuild mode. I think they will struggle greatly with a new head coach and lots of turnover to their roster. The AFC West is another strong contender for the toughest division with the reigning super bowl champions, Kansas City Chiefs, the much-improved Denver Broncos, the Las Vegas Raiders, and the very talented Los Angeles Chargers.
With the new playoff rules intact for this upcoming season, in which one team will get a bye week and a 3rd wild card team will be added to the mix, I can see the AFC West having three teams in the playoffs. In the NFC, it could very well be the NFC South presenting the same dynamic, but the NFC West is just too darn good to vote against.
Here are my predictions for the NFC West 2020 standings:
Coming off their first super bowl appearance since 2013, the San Francisco 49ers will once again run the NFC West. Last year, the 49ers took the league by storm dominating their opponents and easing their way to the super bowl in Miami, Florida. They were even up 10 points with 5 minutes left in the super bowl. Although it didn’t end the way they wanted it too, they fixed their weaknesses during the offseason and improved overall as a team. It started with them acquiring one of the best-left tackles in the game, Trent Williams. Williams, sitting out last year for the Washington Football Team, was disgruntled with his team and wanted out. The 49ers traded a 5th round pick for him.
After trading away DeForest Buckner to the Colts, the Niners used their first-round pick on defensive tackle out of South Carolina, Javon Kinlaw. I expect Kinlaw to make an immediate on this team. One of the Niner’s strengths is their powerful front 7. Former defensive rookie of the year, Nick Bosa, will be wreaking havoc on the majority of the LT’s in the league. The Niners have one of the best defenses in the league and with their defensive coordinator, Robert Saleh, not getting a head coaching job, you can expect that defense to cause trouble for nearly all the offenses they face in 2020.
Strength: Coaching, Defense, Offensive Line | Weakness: WR Core, Aging Secondary | 2020 Record: 12-4
After an impressive 11-5 campaign last year, the Seattle Seahawks made vast improvements to one of their biggest weaknesses: the secondary. Coming into the 2019 season, many didn’t expect the Seahawks to make the playoffs. Once again, they underestimated the greatness of both head coach, Pete Carroll and star quarterback, Russell Wilson. The Seahawks almost completed a comeback in the divisional round against the Green Bay Packers, but ultimately fell short as the secondary let up too many big plays on crucial downs late in the game. If they did win, they would have put up a fight against the Niners as they struggled with mobile QB’s.
In the offseason, Seattle traded for CB Quinton Dunbar and All-Pro safety, Jamal Adams. They have revamped their secondary to reflect the Legion of Boom and hope they have the same effect. The Seahawks also signed TE Greg Olsen and HB Carlos Hyde to add to the weaponry that Russell Wilson asked for. Rumors around Seattle camp is that second-year wideout DK Metcalf has made significant improvements. Although the offensive line remains relatively weak in comparison to last year, the greatness of Russell Wilson will mask their struggles.
Strength: Coaching, Quarterback, Secondary | Weakness: Offensive Line, Defensive Line | 2020 Record: 11-5
Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams were overshadowed last year by their divisional opponents and rightfully so. After coming off a super bowl appearance against the New England Patriots. In which they suffered a defeat in a low scoring battle of 13-3, the Rams could never get quite right. Early on in the year, they had some offensive line struggles. Also, their backend on the defensive side of the ball was aging, which resulted in them trading cornerbacks, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. They did make a splash during the season trading for one of the best cornerbacks in the game, Jalen Ramsey. Although they gave up a handful of high draft picks, they feel Ramsey’s presence will alter the play of that backend.
The one constant though throughout the whole season was Todd Gurley struggling to get going. The Rams never fully disclosed what he was dealing with dating back to their super bowl run but decided to cut ties with their star running back this offseason by cutting him. In the 2nd round of the 2020 draft, they selected HB Cam Akers and WR Van Jefferson. Two players who they expect to have a direct impact on this offense. While the Rams are going to look different this year, they will be playing in their brand-new Sofi Stadium in Englewood, LA. They still have Coach McVay, and of course, the best defensive player in all the NFL, Aaron Donald. Although I do not see the Rams taking back the NFC West throne, I think they will still finish above .500.
Strength: Coaching, D-Line, Secondary | Weakness: Offensive Line, Running Game, Cap Space | Record: 9-7
The Arizona Cardinals definitely had their struggles last season with a young offensive line. First-year head coach, and rookie quarterback, but they showed promise. It was no secret that the Cardinals were going to struggle, but they always competed, played hard, and put up a fight against most of their opponents. The improvements of their young team were on full display as the season progressed.
The Cardinals made an immediate impact during the offseason by trading for superstar WR, DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins is arguably one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and will play a crucial role in the development of Kyler Murray as well as the rest of the youngsters on this team.
With Coach Kingsbury running a dynamic offense, that involves a lot of player movement and misdirection. Hopkins will be a primary target for Murray. He will also draw a lot of attention which will cause the younger wideouts to break open down the field. The Cardinals also made a splash in the draft by selecting one of the most versatile players in the rookie class, Isaiah Simmons. Simmons can line up at LB, he can match up with TE’s as a CB and he can even play the safety position. The Cardinals are going to cause a lot of problems for their opponents in 2020. Their front office has done a nice job in planting the seeds of a future super bowl contending team.
Strength: QB, WR, Young Defense | Weakness: O-Line, Experience, Coaching | Record: 7-9
NFC West Predictions
With each team improving, the NFC West should be fun to keep an eye and observe the standings as the season moves forward. Many of the key players on each team are young and can expect each team to get better as the years go by. This should be one of the best divisions in football for years to come. The predictions for the division are:
- San Francisco 49ers: 12-4
- Seattle Seahawks: 11-5
- Los Angeles Rams: 9-7
- Arizona Cardinals: 7-9
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