The NFC West preview!

Finally a division that looks a little easier to call! After trying to break down the NFC South and East this week, the West should go to the Seahawks again this year. The Rams and the 49ers made a lot of changes in the off-season, and the Cardinals are still solid but I can’t see past the NW-ers this year.

The Seattle Seahawks (4/9) have an issue. Their offensive line, everyone knows it and you’d think they do as well, it’s a big part of why they haven’t made the Superbowl since that Butler interception and why Russell Wilson is constantly running for his life! I think they probably have more faith in Germain Ifedi than a lot do after his performances last year, and they signed former first round draft bust Luke Joeckal to try and bolster that area. IF they are more solid there and only time will tell on that, then they have a real chance of reaching the championship game this season.

Russell Wilson is a franchise QB, probably a top 5 guy in the league. His ability to extend plays while avoiding pressure is second to none and is the reason why he’s so good at what he does. God knows how well he’d do with a bit of protection in front of him. Doug Baldwin is the receiver with the best connection with Wilson and is therefore his favourite target so he makes a ton of yards each year, he knows what to do when Wilson is scrambling and is targeted a lot of the time. Second read is likely to be tight end Jimmy Graham who came back last season from a horrible patella tendon injury to show he’s as good as ever and he will probably look even better this year with a healthy year under his belt. Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson are playmakers at WR, and Jermaine Kearse can do a job if needs be, but he seemed to be on the way out last year. Richardson in particular impressed in their post season games although has a muscle injury at the moment. He’s one to keep an eye on this season.

It seems like Thomas Rawls is going to be the week 1 starter in the running game, which is great. I love Rawls, he’s a beast when he’s healthy, which doesn’t seem to be often at the moment. Coach Pete Caroll tends to use a hot-hand approach to the running game, whoever impresses in training during the week will get the start. Competing with Rawls is Eddie Lacy (I shall not use any weight jokes) – He has had targets set into his contract this summer which he has been hitting and making, he’s a good RB and perfect for this team who needs a savage runner who can go through players. If neither of them can do it, then CJ Prosise is a great 3rd down back and could even get more than that if he impresses this season, again. If he stays fit. A recurring theme for this offense.

The Seahawks defence deserves a Superbowl win before they are past it. It was proved pretty well last year that Earl Thomas is the key to the defence, he’s the “QB of the group” who controls them all, once he went out with a leg break they weren’t as good. Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett and Bobby Wagner are defensive players that most people who follow NFL know about, there’s not a lot of groups are so well known which shows how good they are.

Enough about them… Onto the Arizona Cardinals (3/1) are most likely to finish second in this division. Like the Seahawks, they have a cracking defensive unit (if they can stay fit… getting bored of writing that) Patrick Peterson, Tyrann “honey badger” Mathieu and Chandler Jones are all elite players who will hopefully lead this team to the post-season, add to them the draft signings of Hassan Reddick and Budda Baker and they’ve got a cracking defensive group there!

Unfortunately for them… I think Carson Palmer is on the way down, he suffered a horrible playoff game a couple of years back and didn’t seem to recover until the second half of last season. It doesn’t help that he also plays behind a pretty crappy offensive line but without the athletic ability of Mr. Wilson. Which really doesn’t help the team, another thing that lets the offence down is the lack of options in the passing game. Larry Fitzgerald is still there, and amazingly led the league in receptions last year with 107. His conversion to slot receiver has allowed him to extend his career further than most thought would have happened. Other than Fitz, the no.2 WR should be John Brown however he struggled last year with sickle cell, and this week coach Bruce Arians launched a bit of a verbal assault on his whole receiving corps. “Smoky” Brown especially saying that he should have been back by now. All is not good there. Is John Brown isn’t up to it, then Jarron Brown will step up to #2 in that passing game. They have a burner in JJ Nelson who will show up every few games or so, but can’t be trusted to any huge extent week in, week out.

The running game however… well… They have my favourite RB in the league in David Johnson. It helps that he won us a large amount on the leading TD scorer last season, but more to the point he was awesome last year and he’s not a Steelers player. He would have finished the season with over 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards had he not got injured at the start of the final game of the season, and they have said that they will use him everywhere all the time this season, suggesting 30+ touches per game. (Out of interest, Skybet are offering 14/1 on 1,000 and 1,000 for DJ) As hinted at above, he led the league in touchdowns last year and as he’s pretty much all they’ve got in all fairness this year, so if they offer a total TD market then I would expect him to top it. There’s very little behind him should he go down, Andre Ellington can do a job in the rec. and rushing game, but he’s a shadow of DJ.

I like the Cardinals, I just don’t think they have enough to get near to the Seahawks at the top of the division.

Sorry Jay, but I think the LA Rams (28/1) will finish third in the division. Keeping with the trend in the division, they have a pretty good defence, Aaron Donald is arguably the best defensive player in the league, however, he is currently sitting out of training camps in a move that could go into the actual season which is really not very good for the Rams.

On the fun side of the ball they are “led” by sophomore QB Jared Goff who they traded up to take at no.1 in 2016 and then rushed into action behind a butt team and left with no chance of making any real impact. He didn’t. He looked like garbage. BUT I don’t think he is, he’s not THAT bad… surely? They also improved the OL immensely by signing Andrew Whitworth from the Bengals, he allowed 2 pressures all year in Cinci and will probably do the same in LA. They have also improved the weapons for him. Poor Robert Woods thought that he was finally out of Sammy Watkins shadow by joining them from the Jets early in free agency, he was about to become the main target for this team… until last week when a 3 way trade meant that the Rams signed Watkins. He is a huge improvement on everything the Rams had, and (IF HE STAYS FUCKING FIT) he really should be the main guy, you wouldn’t believe it now, but he was drafted before Odell Beckham, Mike Evans and Brandin Cooks. Watkins being there might even help out Tavon Austin who has a huge contract that he hasn’t even come close to living up to. They also drafted Cooper Kupp this year who has been impressing in pre-season, so all in all it’s a far better looking offense than last year. – The biggest change however is Jeff Fisher not being there. He was a succubus on the offence last year. They were the worst team in the world to watch last year. It was horrific.

The running game is all about Todd Gurley. He ran for 1,106 and 10 TDs in his rookie year in 2015 which led a lot of folk to draft him top 5 in fantasy last year. BUT Fisher destroyed him. Gurley was quoted as saying they were running a “high school offense” last year and it looked like it. Unfortunately for Gurley the passing game had zero respect from anyone leading to packed boxes for him to run against and a pretty damn awful year. Even when he did break through he lacked any spark to get anything going. The whole atmosphere in LA just seemed toxic last year.

BUT… BUT… They ditched Jeff Fisher (on all or nothing which was a pretty horrible watch) and picked up the Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay making him the youngest coach in the league and getting in someone who might actually want to score some points this season. Add to that the upgrade in WRs and Offensive line and things are looking up for this bunch.

So unfortunately I have the San Francisco 49ers (50/1) once again propping up the division. However it’s not all bad for them this season. They had a cracking draft with their 2 first rounders, no.2 pick Solomon Thomas and no. 31 Rueben Foster have improved their defence greatly and will see an improvement in that area. Adding them to Deforest Buckner, Navarro Bowman and Arik Armistead and they’ve got a pretty damn good defensive unit on paper. No, seriously, they may have a decent unit. They will have to sort their shit out with stopping the run as they were by a way the worst in the league at stopping opposing RBs last year, but these new kids should help with that.

On offence. Well… They released Colin Kaepernick (The evil fucker who believed in his principles and knelt during the national anthem like a prick. How dare he exercise his right for peaceful protest to something he felt needed highlighting. What a shitbag) And signed Brian Hoyer. Now, he’s not that bad! He had some good games for the Bears last year, and he’s good at targeting a guy if he things he’s worth the effort. One man who is worth that effort in a Kyle Shanahan offence is Pierre Garcon. He will be fed and fed and fed in the passing game this year and should help the team move the ball a little. Where I think this team will base most of their offence though is the running game. They have Carlos Hyde who is a very good RB (………. when…… healthy……) and Shanahan is a man who knows how to make use of his RBs; (see 2016 Atlanta Falcons) I can see he and Matt Breida or this years draft pick Joe Williams working in tandem to make good gains through the season. Williams has a brilliant story; He quit football in college after the death of his sister who passed away in his arms a decade earlier finally became too much to take and his mental health took a serious downturn before eventually rejoining a team and going batshit crazy in the final games of that season. Shanahan knew about this and demanded that GM John Lynch phone him and that they eventually draft him in the third round. It’s probably a good guess to say that he’s “doing it all for his sister” And Boy can he do it. He ran for 1,332 yards on 188 carries (7.1 average) and scored 10 touchdowns in seven games after his return, including his final college game for 222 yards. Kids got skills. But it’s been Breida with the off-season hype alongside Hyde in the backfield.

It obviously remains to be seen whether the Niners will be any better than last year, but everything points to them improving on last seasons record. It’s a shame for them the Rams also made moves and will match their improvement to keep them bottom of the division.

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