By: Cory Vest
The NFC West doesn’t exactly demand your attention. There was a day when these four teams had their turn in the spotlight. While one of them is currently riding waves of success in a nice yacht, one is trying to make do with a pontoon boat, the other two are left without a boat and are fending for themselves in shark infested waters. The Seattle Seahawks own this division at the moment. Seattle is the jewel of the NFC West’s crown. Playing second fiddle to the Seahawks are the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers bring up the rear.
1. Seattle Seahawks – Over/Under 10.5
The Seahawks have more going for them than sweet uniforms. Whether it be the Legion of Boom, the Twelfth Man, or Pete Carroll’s gum chewing, the Seahawks are effective at what they do. Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy, and C.J. Prosise each bring their skill set to what should be a rotating backfield. Three running backs all capable of handling RB1 duties present difficulties not only to fantasy football participants, but to opposing defenses as well. If the running game isn’t producing to the standards necessary then Russell Wilson can take over. Wilson will have Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham as his top targets. Graham showed signs of his New Orleans days last season and should continue to rise; 1,000 yards and 8 TDs are a real possibility. T.J. Lockett’s athleticism adds a valuable commodity.
The defense does not need much of an analysis. They have been good, they are good, and they will continue to be good. As the saying goes, defense wins championships. It is hard to bet against a team that can shut down the best on offense. Because of this defensive unit, the Seahawks fight their way to a well-earned spot in the NFC Conference Championship game.
A 10-6 record is good enough to take the NFC West and punch their playoff ticket. The 10 wins does put them under the Vegas win mark though. As stated the Seahawks make it to the NFC Conference Championship, they fall however in a game that is sure to entertain.
2. Arizona Cardinals – Over/Under 8.0
An aging Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald will be able to rely on their shot of youthfulness thanks to one of the best running backs in the NFL, David Johnson. Johnson is explosive, agile, reliable in the passing game, and an overall game changer. Johnson elevates this offense to a very competitive level. Palmer will still find Fitzgerald and Fitzgerald will still display dependable hands. What Fitz no longer possesses in speed is covered by J.J. Nelson and John Brown. Jaron Brown rounds out a group of receivers that could prove to be deadly.
The defense presents a challenge with names like Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu patrolling the secondary. The defensive line has height to it which could obstruct the quarterback’s field of view. A tough stretch after their week 9 bye last year saw the defense surrender an inexcusable amount of points. If the injury bug stays out of the Cardinals’ locker room, this defensive unit could be the x-factor for this team.
Although potential and effectiveness was displayed when the Cardinals finished the 2015 season with a 13-3 record, this season will see 8 wins to go along with a matching 8 loses. The Cardinals drop games they should win, causing them to miss the playoffs.
3. Los Angeles Rams – Over/Under 5.5
The drop off in the division occurs here as the Rams and 49ers will claw and fight for the division’s scraps. Inexperience and young age come together to create a shaky offensive unit. Led by Jared Goff, who underwhelmed in his rookie season, the Rams’ offense last season was compared to that of a middle school’s offense by Rams’ very own Todd Gurley. An increase in production has to occur for when you hit rock bottom the only direction is up. Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods join the Rams from Buffalo and offer a bit more upside than the Rams’ previous receiving options. Toddy Gurley was a disappointment at running back last season. Some blame can be given to a spotty offensive line, while the rest appears to land on Gurley. Gurley needs to improve on finding the holes and being patient; a linear running style and bull rush approach have a very low success rate.
The LA defense did their best to support their helpless offensive teammates and their best was impressive for a good chunk of the season. The dead weight of the offense took its toll however and the defense became very beatable as the season waned on. Aaron Donald continues his hold-out, which leaves a huge hole on the defensive line. The Rams also lost E.J. Gaines in the trade for Watkins. If anybody can solve these problems it is Wade Phillips, the Rams’ new Defensive Coordinator.
The Rams will suffer from costly penalties, dropped passes, poor decisions, and unlucky breaks. Young gun Sean McVay will try to fill the mediocre shoes of Jeff Fisher at head coach. The team will show signs of improvement and may end the season with some hope for the future. The playoffs are out of the question this year as the Rams finish just under the 5.5 wins and post a 5-11 record.
4. San Francisco 49ers – Over/Under 4.5
Niners Nation has been filled with disappointment and despair. Success has surely been a stranger for a few years now. The San Francisco 49ers are trying to turn things around with new faces among the franchise. Starting from the top, John Lynch is the new Niner general manager and Kyle Shanahan takes over head coaching duties. Several other names joined the 49er roster with the top names being wide receiver Pierre Garcon, and pass rusher Elvis Dumervil. At the helm of the offense will be quarterback Brian Hoyer. Hoyer has made his way around the league in his 9-year tenure but does not have a lot of success to show for it. Although Hoyer is capable, he is not an ideal QB1. Hoyer’s options in the passing game seem to be limited with Garcon being the top dog. Carlos Hyde showed talent and ability last season but not enough to change the game. A mediocre offense will find productivity against weaker defenses but will sputter and stall against the stronger defenses in the league.
The defense features a few bright spots but not enough to put fear into opposing offenses. Mediocracy is going to be the best description for this defensive unit making it tough for them to compete against top offenses.
The 49ers are not going to shock or surprise. A tough schedule offers very little hope for a win total higher than 5. San Fran comes in at 4 wins and 12 loses; just shy of the 4.5-win mark. The 49ers will play better ball than what their 4-12 record will reflect. It will be another tight battle for last place in the division between the Rams and 49ers.