The NFC West should is one of the only few divisions that features two Superbowl contenders in the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. With the Arizona Cardinals not listed as contenders, they are a team to look out for with all the key additions and could make a push for the wild card. The Los Angeles Rams lost a lot of players due to the reason they finally realized they could not pay everyone resulting in them losing their starting running back. The Seahawks hope to make it to the Superbowl after just losing to the Packers in the Divisional round and will likely be without their best pass rusher from last year. And then there are the San Francisco 49ers who were just a few minutes away from being Superbowl but blew a 10 point lead but now return with some impressive additions. With that being said here’s a preview of each team with a prediction on who will win the division.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers were so close to capturing their sixth Super Bowl which would have made them the third team to win six and would have tied with the Steelers and Patriots. With the 49ers being so close they were just a few pieces away from winning the Lambardi so what was the first big move they made. They traded away starting defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Colts for their first-round pick which was 13th overall and there were rumors they would use it on taking a receiver. San Francisco would end up filling in the DT spot with Javon Kinlaw which was a solid move considering they get a younger player and most importantly he is cheaper. The 49ers had problems with their receivers since the beginning of last season so they traded for Emmanuel Sanders but with his departure, in free agency, they were back in need of another receiver. They would replace Sanders with Brandon Aiyuk who was drafted with their other 1st-round and now they have a solid player to lineup along with Deebo Samuel.
The 49ers also upgraded their offensive line as they traded for left tackle Trent Williams who sat out all of last year as he refused to play with the Redskins. This trade came just as former starting left tackle Joe Staley announced his retirement from the league after spending 13 years in the league all of which were with the 49ers. With San Francisco’s new addition in Aiyuk, they felt as they no longer needed wide receiver Marquise Goodwin and traded him to the Eagles for some draft picks. The 49ers also signed wideout Travis Benjamin early in the off-season and felt he would provide more value to the team where he will likely be a starter and if not he will definitely be a solid backup. The 49ers were also able to bring back safety Jimmie Ward as they locked him down for three more years as they handed him a 3-year $28.5 million contract. They now return with the same offense with minor tweaks and added more young talent to the defensive line that already features Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and Aril Armstead.
The Seahawks were once again close to getting a trip to the Superbowl but their lack of talent besides Russel Wilson held them back as they fell short in the divisional round and barely beat the Eagles in the Wildcard. Heading into the off-season one of the biggest things for the Seahawks was they needed some protection for Wilson as they gave up the third-most sacks in the league last season. Seattle went out and only signed three new players to help out their offensive line all of which were role players with a couple of starts along with resigning two players on their line. With little improvement to their line, it looks like Wilson will have another year where he will have to scramble for his life and somehow throw the ball for a touchdown. The Seahawks did try to make an effort in the draft to bring in young talent as they went out and drafted guard Damien Lewis in the third round and was the only lineman Seattle took in the draft.
The Seahawks did improve on defense as they took linebacker Jordyn Brooks in the first-round although they could have had someone like Patrick Queen. Despite not taking Queen, the Seahawks definitely got a baller in Brooks as he recorded 3 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble, and an impressive 20 tackles for loss. As Seattle took a pass rusher in Darrell Taylor during the second round it was clear they would be without their top pass rusher from last season Jadevon Clowney. Seattle last year had trouble protecting the QB and getting at the opposing team’s defense so the team went out and added some people who are capable of getting sacks. Not only did Seattle reunite with former outside linebacker Bruce Irvin who played with them during the “Legion of Boom” era. The Seahawks even went out and got another target for Wilson to throw to as they signed tight end Greg Olsen who has had some solid years in the past and can now possibly record 1,000 receiving yards, something he hasn’t done since 2016.
What an off-season the Cardinals had as they pulled off one of the greatest trade heists in NFL history as they traded for star wideout Deandre Hopkins for a bag of peanuts. Not only did Arizona not have to give up a first-round pick but they also got out of the massive contract they gave running back David Johnson up to the Texans along with a 2020 second-round pick and 2021 fourth-round pick. 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year quarterback Kyler Murray now has one of the best receivers to throw to in the league along with having Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. The Cardinals handed running back Kenyan Drake the franchise tag allowing them to work out a long-term deal, something both sides are interested in as Drake was a key part in the offense halfway through the season. Arizona’s great off-season didn’t stop there as they picked up the versatile defensive player in the draft and possibly best defensive player in the draft in Isaiah Simmons.
Simmons falling to the Cardinals with the seventh pick seemed unreal as the Panthers held the sixth pick and were in need of a linebacker with the retirement of Luke Kuechly. The Cardinals now have a player who can do it all on defense whether it’s line up and play linebacker, safety, and even corner. When the Cardinals took Simmons in the first round there was a concern since Arizona did have one of the worst offensive lines in the league but they got a steal in the third round. Arizona picked up offensive tackle Josh Jones in the third round, a player who was projected to go in the first round, this pick just added to the reasons why the Cardinals had a great off-season. Expect Murray’s game to take the next step as he has one of the best receivers in the league and showed he can hang with good competition as both games vs Seattle were very close.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams had to make major cuts in the team resulting in them losing some key players and some players who were solid as they added depth to the team. This was just a matter of time as Los Angeles knew they had to let go of some people due to the fact they gave quarterback Jared Goff a huge contract a year ago. The cost was them losing starting running back Todd Gurley just before he was due some major money and could not afford to keep him simply because they were paying Goff and defensive stud Aaron Donald major money. The Rams were without a first-round pick as they traded it earlier in the season for cornerback Jalen Ramsey which was a solid deal but he too will eventually want big money. The Rams wasted no time finding a replacement for Gurley as they picked up running back Cam Akers with their second-round pick, a player who rushed for 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Along with Gurley, the Rams took a huge hit as they lost inside linebacker Corey Littleton one of the best coverage linebackers in the league as he too wanted to be paid. Los Angeles lost defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. and were forced to release outside linebacker Clay Mathews who missed some time with a broken jaw. Goff will enter the season with one less weapon as the Rams traded away wideout Brandon Cooks for a second-round pick in the draft. Los Angeles would go on to use that pick to draft a wide receiver as they picked up Van Jefferson, a solid receiver who played two years each at Ole Miss and Florida but has failed to get over 1,000 receiving yards in a season. The Rams now enter the season with the 10th hardest schedule in the league based on opponents 2019 win percentage and with the key departures they had it looks like they might have some trouble.
The 49ers will win the division and clinch a possibly a first-round bye simply because they are one of the most balanced teams in the league and they made some excellent additions in the draft on both sides of the ball. Despite adding weapons to the offense San Francisco’s best part and most exciting part of the team will once again be their defense that’s led by the 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa. Seattle will be in competition with Arizona for the second-best record in the division. Wilson will once again pull off another MVP season where he has to carry the team with his crazy plays he extends. Seattle could have done some more work to not only their offensive line but to their pass-rushing to that’s something that will cost them down the stretch. Arizona has a good chance of making the playoffs this year and can show they truly are a threat to the future with all the additions they have. Murray will showcase his ability proving he can lead a team when he has weapons and why he can be considered an MVP candidate in the future.
One thing that might kill the Cardinals momentum is that they are still a pretty young team that’s being led by a quarterback entering his second year. The Rams will have a downfall year simply because they lost so much and if they missed the playoff when they had all those pieces imagine how they will play this season without them. While other teams were adding pieces for the future the Rams were the only team who was just blowing up their roster due to the fact they forgot about a salary cap. It’s a high chance that they will finish in last place this year in their division.