The Wild, Wild West.
The NFC West is where you have two Super Bowl favorites and two teams in transition. Can the young superstar Todd Gurley lead the now Los Angeles Rams to better days? Will Chip Kelly bring the 49ers back to respectability or will their struggles continue? Are Pete Carroll and the Seahawks destined for their third Super Bowl appearance in four years? Or is this finally the year Carson Palmer shakes off his postseason struggles and leads the Cardinals to their first ever Super Bowl Championship? Let’s dive right in.
4. San Francisco 49ers
Key Personnel Additions: Zane Beadles
Key Personnel Losses: Alex Boone, Anquan Boldin, Reggie Bush
Let me say this upfront – the 49ers will not be a good team in 2016. With Blaine Gabbert as the starting quarterback, you are in for a long season. With very little on offense other than Carlos Hyde and Torrey Smith, this offense is projected to the finish near the bottom for most statistical categories. They just don’t have the weapons to compete. Chip Kelly will bring his up-tempo style offense, which may bring excitement, but without the right parts in play, it will mostly be a fail this season.
The Niners’ best defensive players of years past are long gone. NaVorro Bowman is still an elite linebacker who will lead this defense. While I think the secondary will be better than expected with Brock, Bethea and Reid, it doesn’t have the players to get to the quarterback fast enough. In addition, unless they hold their opponents to under 14 points, it will not be good enough to the get the win.
Forecast: 3-13 with the potential to get the first overall pick in the 2017 Draft.
3. Los Angeles Rams
Key Personnel Additions: Coty Sensabaugh
Key Personnel Losses: Janoris Jenkins, James Laurinaitis, Jared Cook, Chris Long
So Los Angeles… the Rams are finally returning back home to LA! Fresh off Hard Knocks and tons of press, the Rams will be playing football in the City of Angels once again. With the top pick Jared Goff as the future and a new stadium under construction, LA Rams fans should be excited. Well you should be, but don’t expect that excitement to turn into wins in 2016.
Jeff Fisher has one of the most exciting young players in all of football on his team with Todd Gurley. Many compare him to some of the greatest to ever play. He has the power of Marshawn Lynch, quickness of Barry Sanders, and the vision of Adrian Peterson. While all this may be true, defenses will look to stick eight to nine in the box at all times against the Rams, forcing them to throw the ball. While at quarterback it may be Keenum, Mannion or Goff, all three have major flaws that will be evident quickly. Tavon Austin has never lived up to the hype that came with his high early first round selection. He may make some big plays on special teams and a few long catches, but he still won’t be the number one receiver this season the Rams envisioned when they took him. As a whole, the offense will struggle throughout the season to put points on the board.
While the offense won’t be very good, the defense on the other hand should be quite good. With one of the best defense lines in all of football, a lot of pressure will be put on them to keep this team in games. Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald will continue to wreck havoc upfront, with Donald having the potential to surpass J.J. Watt as the premiere defensive lineman in all of football. This is a top 10 defense; just not sure it will be enough for a winning season in LA.
Forecast: 5-11. You can expect to see Goff starting at quarterback by week 8.
2. Arizona Cardinals
Key Personnel Additions: Tyvon Branch, Evan Mathis, Chandler Jones
Key Personnel Losses: Bobby Massie, Dwight Freeney
The Cardinals are built on all three phases of the ball to compete for a Super Bowl. A very sexy pick to win it all this season would not be debated by many. A high-octane offense with a defense that can make plays and cause turnovers, you would expect this team to finish in the top 10 on both sides of the ball. It is an exciting time to be an Arizona Cardinals fan.
Carson Palmer is the ideal quarterback for Bruce Arians’ offense. Arians loves to throw the ball downfield to his receivers, and that won’t change much this year. With a surplus of receivers in Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown, all three have the making of 1,000-yard seasons. David Johnson is a young back who’s poised to capitalize on his big second half last season. This kid is a stud who can pass, catch and block. A strong veteran offense line will only help this offense to dominate the league.
As good as this offense is, their defense may be better. I love the ability of this defense to make plays and cause turnovers. With Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary, quarterbacks should beware of throwing against this defense, as a quick slant route can easily turn into a pick six for the cards. The acquisition of Chandler Jones will be huge come December-January. He gets to the quarterback with the best of them and should be able to see single coverage due to the attention that Calias Campbell gets on the other side.
Forecast: 12-4. This is a very good football team. Do not be surprised if you see this team representing the NFC in the Super Bowl next February.
1. Seattle Seahawks
Key Personnel Additions: Chris Clemons
Key Personnel Losses: Russell Okung, Bruce Irvin, Marshawn Lynch (retirement)
This was the hardest decision I had to make in picking the division winner. The Cardinals and Hawks are both so good. The deciding factor for me was going with a Super Bowl winning QB coming off his best season to date. The Hawks are primed for a winning season and deep January run. With playmakers on both sides of the ball, this team will scare opponents all season long.
Russell Wilson is a popular MVP pick coming into the season and rightfully so. He demonstrated last season his ability to carry the team and be a pass first, run second offense. He has grown into a dynamic all world player and deserves all of the credit he receives. I loved what I saw out of Doug Baldwin last season too. He became a true number one receiver and I expect that trend to continue this season. Jimmy Graham will bounce back and be a valuable asset in the passing game. While the run game took a hit with Lynch retiring, Thomas Rawls is a hungry young back with speed and power to make up for it. This is Russell Wilson’s team now. You should anticipate a lot of high scoring games from this team.
Seattle’s defense has been the backbone of their success over the past several seasons. Yes, their players are getting a little older, but are they in decline? I think we can all agree the answer is no. Richard Sherman, Billy Wagner, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett are all still in their in primes and you can bet on that being on full display this season. The embarrassment of losing to the Carolina Panthers in last year’s playoffs like they did, will be on a motivational point for this team and especially the defense.
Forecast: 13-3. The Seahawks will edge out the Cardinals by one game to win the division and gain a first round bye. Can the Seahawks win their second franchise Super Bowl this season? I like their chances, but I guess we will have to tune in on Sundays to see.
What do you think? Tell us who you think will win the West in the comments below.