Updated: Jun 6, 2019
The NFC West may not be the most exciting division but it does boast two of the league's premier offensive minds.
The Los Angeles Rams ran away with the West in 2017 and are likely to do it again in 2018. LA added elite talent at the cornerback position via trade and threw some money out to improve the defensive line. They were not the only team handing out stacks though.
The San Francisco 49ers came on strong in the final five games of 2017 led by Jimmy Garappolo. Jimmy G lit the fuse that has hyped 49er Faithful throughout the offseason, because of this San Francisco handed out a five year, $137.5 million extension including $86.4 million guaranteed in the first three years. The extension came only seven starts into Garappolo's career.
From a quarterback who's played seven career games to one who won a Super Bowl. Russell Wilson has a big task ahead of him in 2018. Wilson has to carry the Seattle Seahawks single-handed this season. The Legion of Boom era is over in Seattle and now the Seahawks find themselves in the middle of the pack.
At the bottom of the NFC West lies the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are in the midst of a hybrid rebuild. Arizona on paper could contend with many mediocre teams in the NFL but the uncertainty of Sam Bradford's health and a new head coach lowers expectations.
The NFC West is gearing up to be an exciting season of fast paced offenses clashing against smash mouth defenses. Week two of the NFL is underway and so in the next step to finding who walks away with the NFC West crown.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Los Angeles Rams are the best all around roster in the entire NFL and one of the games smartest minds running it.
Head coach Sean McVay captain the ship for the LA Rams and he has them geared up for another NFC West title.
McVay took over the Rams last season and led them to an 11-5 record while helping quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley reach their true potential. The three combined to form the NFL's highest scoring offense averaging 30 points per game in 2017.
The departure of top receiving touchdown leader Sammy Watkins might be felt but the addition of Brandin Cooks will keep the deep threat element part of Los Angeles' offense. Cooks may have been the Rams lone offensive acquisition but LA doubled down on defense.
Los Angeles traded for elite cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. The duo brings over a career 53 interceptions. On the defensive, the Rams resigned one of their own.
Los Angeles signed reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald to a six year extension worth $135 million, including $87 million guaranteed, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. LA also brought in the always controversial Ndamukong Suh, adding 51.5 career sacks to the number four ranked team in 2017.
Los Angeles won't need to worry about the likes of San Francisco just yet. Jared Goff and Todd Gurley with Sean McVay calling the shots should be in for another year among the leagues best offenses.
The addition of Brandin Cooks and the return of Goff's favorite target, Cooper Kupp, will make LA's passing game be even more explosive than last season.
The Rams defense has a remodeled secondary in 2018. Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib are tops in the league and will be even more effective with the number three ranked defensive line putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The additions Los Angeles made will play dividends in the regular season as the Rams will finish 2018 with a 12-4 record.
A small snag in the road when they travel to San Francisco, New Orleans, and come home to play the Chiefs won't hurt too much as Los Angeles will win the NFC West easily.
Sean McVay is an offensive genius and is the key to the Rams success but he is not the only mastermind in the NFC West.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The Jimmy G era in San Francisco has begun and it started with a 24-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. It was a game the 49ers were projected to lose which cushions the blow of starting 0-1. Although the loss, 2018 will be a year the red and gold rack up wins.
The combination of head coach Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Jimmy Garappolo is the pairing 49er fans have been dreaming of since Walsh and Montana went their separate ways. Comparing Shanahan and Garappolo to the greatest coach/player duo in NFL history is asinine but Super Bowl potential is present in the current regime.
Enough cannot be said about the fantastic job General Manager John Lynch has done to turn around what looked like a directionless 49ers roster. Lynch has already made impact signing after impact signing. First was retaining Garappolo and the second was stealing Richard Sherman away from Seattle.
The moment Sherman was release by the Seahawks, Kyle Shanahan immediately called the All Pro to discuss a deal. Sherman signed a three year, $27.15M contract with San Francisco adding a legit pass defender to a team in desperate need of one. Sherman was the first of many new additions to the 49ers rosters this offseason.
San Francisco decided to beef up the running game by bringing in Jerrick McKinnon. Unfortunately a torn ACL will cost him of all of 2018. To replace McKinnon, the 49ers signed veteran Alfred Morris, a former product of Shanahan offense in Washington.
Speaking of former Redskins, Pierre Garcon is expected to be fully healthy this season after missing the majority of the second half in 2017. Along Garcon, is the newly extended Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor and second-round pick Dante Pettis round out the receiving corps.
Some flashy moves this offseason for San Francisco were expected but like years past, the draft is where the 49ers fill out the roster. Last year is was Solomon Thomas, Reuben Foster, and Trent Taylor. This year year they hope Mike McGlinchey, Dante Pettis and Fred Warner can have the same type of impact.
The 49ers are a young team on the rise with talent at every position and crafty veterans to plug the holes. The only problem for San Francisco is the roster features very little elite talent. Jimmy Garappolo, DeForest Buckner, Richard Sherman, and Rueben Foster are the closest to elite level talent the 49ers possess. Not bad but not good enough just yet.
A weak secondary and almost terrible offensive line will cost the 49ers multiples games in 2018. The inability to block for Jimmy G will make scoring tedious and almost impossible when down late. The secondary is in a transition period with Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, Adrian Colbert all beginning their first complete year as starters for the red and gold. The front seven will aid the secondary and as the season progresses expect the Niners to find their stride.
With time comes growth for the young Niners rosters and 2018 will be a step in the right direction.
The 2018 San Francisco 49ers are shadow of what they have been for the last three season. No longer are they an easy win.
The Niners upgraded on both sides of the ball and having Jimmy Garappolo for an entire season will do wonders.
In 2017 the Niners finished 6-10 while winning their final five games. A loss in week one to the Vikings put a damper on the continuation of last seasons win streak but week two can chalked up as a W.
The Niners play tough teams early in 2018. Five of their first seven games are against team expected to make the playoffs. Getting the harder part of the schedule out of the way, San Francisco will begin the year 3-4. After week seven is when the Niners make their move.
Winning four consecutive games will put San Francisco in the thick of the playoff race. 7-4 by week 12, the 49ers will come back to earth and finish 2018 with a record 9-7 just missing out on the NFC Wild Card.
The 49ers have a lot optimism in 2018 which will carry over to 2019 where they should find themselves challenging the Rams for the NFC West title.
What happened to the Seattle Seahawks? It seems like it just yesterday Seattle was celebrating a Super Bowl victory and the Legion of Boom was widely known as the best secondary in the NFL.
A Super Bowl loss to the Patriots in 2015 cracked the armor and in 2018 the empire has crumbled. Politics, personalities, accountability, injuries and age all played a part in the rise and fall of the Seattle Seahawks.
Russell Wilson remains at quarterback with lesser known talent around him. Marshawn Lynch, Jimmy Graham, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Clint Avril and Michael Bennett are all gone.
Seattle now has to restart.
Doug Baldwin and Tyler Locket are familiar faces for Wilson to throw to but a weak offensive line will make Wilson scramble to find any hope in 2018.
The defense that was once the leagues best sits in the middle of the pack now. Earl Thomas is expected to return sometime this season but until then all pro linebacker Bobby Wagner and rookie Shaquem Griffin will hold the fort down.
2018 will be a difficult season to watch for Seahawk fans as the team they once knew is gone. Russell Wilson can lead them to victory but not like previous years. Rookies Shaquem Griffin and Rashaad Penny will be asked to do a lot this season and seem capable of doing a good job.
Seattle has talent scattered throughout the roster just like San Francisco and just like San Francisco that talent is unproven.
Seattle is a team that will show flashes of being a good team but will ultimately find themselves in the middle of the pack.
Rookies Shaquem Griffin and Rashaad Penny will shine giving hope for the future but the absence of Earl Thomas and multiple tough losses will distract from an otherwise average season.
Russell Wilson is a top 10 quarterback and will prove his worth powering Seattle to a 7-9 record. A third place finish for a team retooling will lead to some changes being made in the offseason but rookie stand outs will slowly develop into productive playmakers.
2018 is not Seattle's year but 2019 can allow the Seahawks to make adjustment in hopes of a avoiding a massive over haul in the future.
Unlike Seattle, the Cardinals are rebuilding but have a team that can play spoiler late in the 2018 season.
New head coach Steven Wilks has the freedom to build the roster how he wishes and his first move was to draft UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen with the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft. Wilks has opted to let Rosen grow under veteran Sam Bradford this season rather than rushing him in to action too soon.
Bradford has proven time and time again he can win the NFL... is he stays healthy. The consensus is Bradford will miss multiple games in 2018 leading to Rosen taking over some point.
A blowout loss in week one and another likely in week two may find the Cardinals starting Rosen sooner than expected. If not, Bradford has the talent around him so upset a few teams in 2018.
Running back David Johnson is healthy after tearing his ACL and Larry Fitzgerald still owns the outside. Johnson is one of the NFL's best tailbacks and Fitzgerald will find himself in the Hall of Fame one day. Both are valuable weapons Wilks must utilize if he wants to have any success in his first year as coach.
Arizona' s defense ranked sixth in the NFL in 2017, according to NFL.com. The departure of safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Tyvon Branch will make it harder to duplicate last years ranking. In fact, the Cardinals lost many key contributors this offseason on both side of the ball.
Tramon Williams, Adrian Peterson, Karlos Dansby, John Brown and Jaron Brown all left for greener pastures this past offseason. Some moves hurt more than others but one thing is clear. 2017's 8-8 will be impossible to replicate.
The Arizona Cardinals are the worst team in the NFC West by far but the talent they posses with John and Fitzgerald can lead to a few wins.
It is only a matter of time before Josh Rosen is thrust into the starting quarterback position but until the Cardinals will have to settle glass bones himself, Sam Bradford.
Bradford can do some good and will lead the Cardinals to a few wins in 2018 before he is eventually replaced.
The defense will struggle throughout 2018, especially the secondary after losing three key defenders. The defensive line led by Chandler Jones will have trouble stopping the offensive in the NFC West pushing them further and further down the pecking order.
The Cardinals will finish 2018 5-11. Arizona is not good enough to compete with the average teams in the league. The NFC took a big step forward in 2018 but the Cardinals took a step back. It'll show heavily has the Cardinals will go 1-5 in their division and 3-9 versus the NFC overall.
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