Hot on the heels of my NFC East and NFC South previews, it’s time to head out west to see how the L.A Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks fared this off-season. While the NFC South is arguably the best division in the NFL, the NFC West isn’t far behind with three of the four teams set at QB and the other, Arizona, possessing a plethora of talent across the field. Where do I think they’ll finish? Just scroll down to find out.
1. L.A Rams
Notable Additions: Brandin Cooks (WR), Aqib Talib (CB), Marcus Peters (CB), Ndamukong Suh (DT)
Notable Losses: Sammy Watkins (WR), Robert Quinn (DE), Alec Ogletree (LB), Trumaine Johnson (CB), Connor Barwin (DE)
Young supremo Sean McVay took the league by storm last year, reigniting a previously stagnant offence and getting the most out of former number one overall pick Jared Goff at QB. Todd Gurley broke through as perhaps the best running back in the NFC, while the defence also grew under veteran coordinator Wade Phillips. The off-season was an adventurous one in L.A, with the Rams trading for New England speedster Brandin Cooks in addition to former Chief and shutdown corner Marcus Peters. Fellow cornerback Aqib Talib was also added via trade, while superstar defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was signed during free agency. Those moves should give opposing offences fits, in particular, although L.A notably lost players such as receiver Sammy Watkins, pass rusher Robert Quinn and linebacker Alec Ogletree. Unless injury strikes the Rams should be able to secure a post-season spot, although they may struggle to gain a first round bye due to the strength of their division.
2. Seattle Seahawks
Notable Additions: Ed Dickson (TE), Barkevious Mingo (LB), Rashaad Penny (RB)
Notable Losses: Kam Chancellor (S, likely retired), Richard Sherman (CB), Michael Bennett (DE), Cliff Avril (DE), Jimmy Graham (TE), Paul Richardson (WR)
Much like the Rams, it’s been all change for Seattle as they’ve waved goodbye to a number of members from their all-time great 2013 defence. Gone are safety Kam Chancellor (fellow safety Earl Thomas is in the midst of a contract dispute and wants a trade), cornerback Richard Sherman and pass rushers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. However, it isn’t all doom and gloom for the Seahawks. They’ve made some subtle improvements to their offensive line, and Russell Wilson remains a top five QB in the NFL. Pete Carroll has shown an ability to rebuild teams on the fly in college,and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Seattle compete for a wild card spot late into the season, especially with their formidable home support.
3. San Francisco 49ers
Notable Additions: Jerick McKinnon (RB), Weston Richburg (C), Richard Sherman (CB), Dante Pettis (WR)
Notable Losses: Carlos Hyde (RB), Eric Reid (S)
The niners are one of the trendy picks for a post-season appearance in 2018, with a full year of Jimmy Garoppolo on tap and offensive whiz Kyle Shanahan at the helm. While San Fran should win more games than 2017 (6-10 final record), they still have a few holes on the roster and it’s unclear if Jerick McKinnon will prove to be an upgrade at running back over the departed Carlos Hyde. The defensive line is led by former high draft picks Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead, ensuring that particular unit is the strength of a D that also added former Seahawk and 49ers tormentor Richard Sherman on the outside. 10 wins is very much a possibility for the 49ers – whether or not that will be enough to finish in a playoff position is very much in doubt, but the future is certainly bright in Southern Cal.
4. Arizona Cardinals
Notable Additions: Sam Bradford (QB), Justin Pugh (OL), Josh Rosen (QB), Christian Kirk (WR)
Notable Losses: John Brown (WR), Tyrann Mathieu (S)
Arizona nabbed their quarterback of the future in May’s draft in the form of UCLA product Josh Rosen, but it’s likely that Rosen will sit behind Sam Bradford until the coaching staff decides he’s ready (or Bradford gets injured). Former Carolina defensive coordinator Steve Wilks was hired to replace the retired Bruce Arians, so it’ll be a learning curve both on the field and off it for the pillars of what the Cardinals hope is a successful future. 2018 might see some growing pains, but a long-term plan is at least in place for a franchise that is excited to welcome running back David Johnson, who missed almost all of last season with a fractured wrist, back into the fold. One other player to keep an eye on is legendary receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who needs 390 receiving yards to move past Terrell Owens into second place on the all-time list.
Who do you think will prevail in the NFC West? Leave a comment or tweet @fredjstanley. Stay tuned for further NFL previews as the season approaches.