Divisional Outlook 2019: NFC West

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Teams and Division Championships All-Time (Last 10 Years):

  • San Francisco 49ers: 19 (2)
  • Los Angeles Rams: 17 (2)
  • Seattle Seahawks: 8 (4)
  • Arizona Cardinals: 3 (2)

The NFC West, at least recently, has been one of the more balanced divisions in the league, with each team being the best for a short time through the last 10 years. The most consistent has been Seattle, but they needed those division wins to catch up, considering they spent a few years in the AFC before realignment. The Cardinals are in the same boat, but have had considerably less success. All 3 of their wins have come in the last 11 years though, so they’re getting there. Sadly, I don’t see this year being all that great for them. Here are my projections:

  • Seattle Seahawks
  • 10-6 in 2018, lost in Wild Card Round

With the Rams losing a few players and their only notable signings being old guys Clay Matthews and Eric Weddle, I think they could slide a little bit in this division. That should open the door for the Seattle Seahawks to reclaim the division title, as long as they do things correctly. Russell Wilson is now the highest paid player in football, and Seattle is going to have to utilize him as such. Their loss to the Cowboys in the Wild Card round last season put Pete Carroll’s stubbornness on full display, and for this projection he’ll need to realize that the team needs to operate around Wilson. The Seahawks QB saw 10 of his 27 pass attempts in that game in the 4th quarter alone, and if he had thrown the ball 30+ times it’s not hard to see Seattle sneaking by with a victory there. Running up the middle with Chris Carson on every first down is not a viable strategy; he isn’t Marshawn Lynch, and the guy under center is a top five quarterback in the league at worst. However, Carson has been surprisingly good when used in the right situations. Provided Carroll can get that through his head, this is a team that didn’t lose anybody too important in the offseason, re-signed who they needed to re-sign, and made some good free agency pickups to fill holes (G Mike Iupati, K Jason Myers, DE Cassius Marsh).

The draft also went well for the Hawks, where they shored up their front with a DE in the first round, followed up by S Marquise Blair in the second to fill the hole left by Earl Thomas. Currently their biggest need is at WR, where Doug Baldwin would leave a massive void if he were to retire. Adding D.K. Metcalf in the second round will help somewhat, but if they can sign someone else, this team will be extremely dangerous.

Projected Record: 12-4, losses @CLE, @LAR

  • Los Angeles Rams
  • 13-3 in 2018, lost in Super Bowl

I want to clarify that I’m not low on the Rams here, I still think they’ll compete and maybe make a deep playoff run. But after their meteoric rise to the top, they’re going to slide a little bit this year. Sean McVay was completely exposed in the Super Bowl in terms of his offensive gameplan, and teams will take note of that. On the defensive side of the ball they’re likely to lose Ndamukong Suh. Bowling ball CJ Anderson, who bailed them out when Todd Gurley got hurt, has already signed somewhere else. They got lucky in having one of the easiest schedules in the league next year, so they should still come out alright, but expect them to drop some games that they shouldn’t.

LA used the draft as a chance to trade down and add depth, a respectable move in terms of building for the future. Notably they added two corners with 2 of their first 3 picks, signalling that they may not be happy with the often-detrimental performance of former Chiefs star Marcus Peters. Talent isn’t a problem on this team, they’re still loaded with it. But they have exploitable weaknesses, namely at the Quarterback position. And they may be tentative to lean on Todd Gurley so heavily seeing as it backfired on them last year.

Projected Record: 11-5, losses to NO, @SEA, @CLE, BAL

  • San Francisco 49ers
  • 4-12 in 2018

Few teams in the league are as big of a question mark as this one. Prior to last season, people had them making playoffs, maybe even winning the division, but an injury to new QB Jimmy Garoppolo derailed the team at the very beginning of the year. To be honest it’s hard to know what to make of this team. Kyle Shanahan’s offense should be fun to watch with Jimmy back under center, and even this year they had a unique identity with FB Kyle
Juszczyk playing on 2/3 of all offensive snaps. This is a team that currently lacks significant talent on both sides of the ball, but the FA signings of Tevin Coleman and Dee Ford should help out there. First round draft pick Nick Bosa should also make an immediate impact, so this defensive line might be pushing elite territory depending on the play of those two additions and the existence of DeForest Buckner. Coleman is unproven as far as being a consistent first-option RB, but it’ll be interesting to see what he can do. The rest of the draft went well for the 9ers, seeing them take two Wide Receivers that should help fill a void at the position.

Overall, this team pretty much is getting a fresh start here. Last season was a lost cause from the beginning, and they did a good job of being bad enough to keep a high draft position while showing fans that they have something to look forward to in the future. But it’s not yet their year. Especially with a strength of schedule that ranks 11th overall, highest in the division.

Projection: 8-8, with at least one thrilling overtime win that reminds everyone why they fell in love with Jimmy Garoppolo

  • Arizona Cardinals
  • 3-13 in 2018

I’m not even sure what to say about the Cardinals. Kliff Kingsbury was a good signing at HC, that much I’m relatively sure of. Beyond that, what is this team doing? They put Steve Wilks in control last year, draft him a Quarterback, then fire him after one year. He mismanaged the entire team to the point where it was embarrassing, most notably star player David Johnson, but you would still expect a little bit more commitment to the guy. Then as soon as they hire a new coach, they immediately get rid of the QB they took with their first round pick, also last year. I can’t tell if they think they made a huge mistake and just wanted to move past it quickly, or they just saw a 3-13 record and figured it must be the new guys that are the problem. Rosen was terrible but it’s hard to imagine a worse situation for him to have been in. The worst part is that throughout all of this, the GM has been the same guy. How did he love Rosen last year and then decide that he wasn’t even worth giving a second chance? It makes no sense.

As far as talent goes, this team has some great players. Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson, David Johnson, even 65-year-old Larry Fitzgerald is still doing his job out there. Offseason additions of Terrell Suggs and Jordan Hicks could make this defensive unit a legitimate issue for teams to deal with in the future, although Suggs is no longer the force he used to be. A big signing at OT of Marcus Gilbert also stands out as smart considering this will be their second straight year with a rookie QB. They drafted well too. But this team still doesn’t feel complete due to heavy talent deficiencies beyond the above names. They’re going to need a bunch of those rookies to have big roles if they want to succeed, and it seems like that is going to take at least another year.

Projected Record: 5-11, -Josh Rosen, +2 wins, that’s what we call a net positive

-ND, April 28th, 2019

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