NFC West; Who the fuck wins this one?

SoSWin TotalDivison OddsConf. OddsSuperbowl Odds
16San Francisco 49ers10.52.2612
18Seattle Seahawks9.53.251121
16Arizona Cardinals793151
7Los Angeles Rams872141

San Francisco 49ers

Last year; 13-3, first

The Superbowl losers will do well to retain their NFC West title this year, the hangover from such a big loss is a real thing, and generally takes teams down a peg. They do still have one of the best coaches in the league with Kyle Shanahan and they retained largely the same group of players as last year, I expect they’ll try a similar tack to what we saw in the post-season last year.

That means probably not a whole lot of need from Jimmy Garoppolo. He wasn’t trusted with many attempts at the end of the season and it’s easy to forget this was his first full 16 game season as a starter. Is there room for improvement? Most definitely, is he capable of that? I think so. When you’ve got a play-caller like he is, then players will be open and he should be able to hit them.

The issue is that a lot of his pass-catchers have picked up knocks. Deebo Samuel fractured his foot early on, and while he might be on the active roster for week 1, it’s an injury which can easily be aggravated, it’s a worry for me. They lost Emmanuel Sanders in FA, but drafted Brandon Aiyuk who was one of the leaders in yards after catch in college, and something they definitely target when acquiring players. Kendrick Bourne played in the slot and was a red-zone threat, someone I repeatedly bet for TDs last season, he’s one of the few who seems healthy and is experienced in the system, he should start the season well. Trent Taylor is finally healthy, I think, and if he finally gets on the field he’ll put up receptions without many yards and there could be a spot for Dante Pettis who fluffed his lines last season. They keep bringing in pass catchers and they keep getting injured.

They do have the best pass catching tight end in the game though in George Kittle. It’s tough not to love the guy, he clearly loves the game and it’s a pleasure to watch him play, his catch and run when the chips were down vs the Saints last year one of the most impressive things you’ll see on a football field. They also brought in Jordan Reed who can add to the receiving group as long as he doesn’t get another concussion.

The running game was brilliant last year, second only to the Ravens and Raheem Mostert earned himself a few more bucks on his contract due to his form in the playoffs once Tevin Coleman went down with an arm injury. He smashed shit up. 220 yards and 4 TDs against the Packers was the best stat-line from an RB in playoff history so you can’t argue he deserved it. He’ll surely be the lead back in the crowded, but talented group they’ve got there. Tevin Coleman knows Shanny and does the job when on the field, and it looks like Jerrick McKinnon has finally made it through a camp after a horrendous few years since they brought him in on a decent sized contract, and of course Big Jeff is there waiting for a chance too.

They had the 2nd rated defense in the league last season, mainly due to their pass defense. I’d be amazed if Richard Sherman is as good as last year, but it should still be good as the pass rush they get up front is incredible, led by sophomore Nick Bosa. When you’ve got Dee Ford as a bit player you know you’re on to a winner. The LB group is very good, Warner and Greenlaw are young but very good and Jimmie Ward and the Jacuzzi Tartt are a very good safety duo.

There’s not a whole lot to dis-like about the 49ers. They made the big game last year and probably should have won it, so it will be tough to bounce-back but they’ve got the coaching and a largely unchanged team, replacing Staley with Trent Williams on the O-Line is an improvement if anything. Favoured in 12 games, dogs in 2 this season. Giants, Jets and Dolphins in the first 5 games should give them a decent start to the season.

Seattle Seahawks

Last year; 11-5, second

I’m constantly baffled by the Seahawks, they perennially win 9 games without seemingly deserving it, proven last year by them winning 10 of 12 1-score games, the most in the league. Most of the time you’d call it luck, but it’s just the way they Seahwks are setup to play. It’s run-heavy until the 4th quarter where if they’re losing they unleash “Mr…Mr…Mr…Unliiiiiiimited” – He might be the cheesiest motherfucker on the planet but he’s a hell of a QB.

A hell of a QB who has apparently NEVER received a vote for the MVP award. 6th in yards, 3rd in TDs, 3rd in INTs and 5th in QBR last season. He’s bloody good. It was his third consecutive season with over 30 TDs, which is impressive for a team who run first.

He added himself a new redzone target last year with DK Metcalf coming in and having a good first season in the team, finishing with 900 yards and 7 TDs. One paper that sounds great, but he was the most targeted WR in the endzone last year, so arguably he should have finished with more TDs, but he eased his way into the team, learnt as he went and his route-tree was much improved come the end of the season. His pace and size make him rather difficult to deal with. Tyler Lockett topped 1,000 yards for the first time in his career and finished with 8 TDs himself, he’s one of the more under-rated WRs in the league due to the system the team play, but always steps up when needed. Outside of those two it’s a bit muddled, they brought in Josh Gordon who may be suspended? My man David Moore is back again and offers a red-zone threat, Philip Dorsett adds speed, but other than that there’s not much.

They brought in Greg Olsen for probably his final year at TE. He’ll do well in this system, as the starting TE tends to do, but meh. Will Dissly would be far better there if he could ever stay healthy. He has had some terrible injuries the last few years so you’ve got to hope they’re out of the way now. Luke Willllllllson is still on the roster, as is Jacob Hollister.

Chris Carson has said he’s “100%” coming into week 1 after finishing the season on IR due to a fractured hip. Sounds shit. He racked up nearly 1,500 yards and 9 TDs in 15 games last year and was the best runner on the team. I had high hopes for Rashaad Penny and he looked good in the work he got but it looks like he’ll be on IR to start the season, they brought in Carlos Hyde as cover, and rookie DeeJay Dallas looks set to be the pass-catching back coming into the season.

The defense was below average and lost Jadeveon Clowney in FA, so pass rush will be an issue, once again. They never seem to have any pressure up front. They do have one of the best LBs in the game with Bobby Wagner though, the secondary isn’t terrible and improved greatly with the addition of Jamal Adams in a gigantic trade over the summer, and they took a rando with a high pick in Jordyn Brooks who I looked at in draft-prep and he’s an interesting player, but probably not worthy of a first rounder.

They’re favourites in 11, dogs in 4 for the coming season, but it looks tough on paper. The first half of the season is tougher than the second. I can’t say that they won’t do well as it’s Russ, but it looks difficult for them.

si.com

Arizona Cardinals

Last year; 5-10-1, fourth

Given the fact they had a rookie QB and rookie Head coach last year the Cardinals had a pretty decent season, impressively they changed gameplans and improved through the season, Kyler settled into the job, ran the ball more and after signing Kenyan Drake looked great in all facets on offense.

Last year he became the first player to be drafted in the first round of MLB and NFL drafts, but Kyler Murray may have been wishing he choose Baseball a few weeks into the season after experiencing his offensive line’s “quality” but once they got him moving around and utilised his legs a bit more things seemed to settle down as shown by at least 1 TD in each game in the second half of the season (1 rushing in the game he didn’t throw one)

They played 4 wide more than any team in the league last year, far far more than anyone else, it helps open the run game as well as giving the QB people to throw to. They might not have had the personnel to make it fully work last year though, so they brought in one of the best WRs in the league with Deandre ‘Nuk’ Hopkins coming in from the Texans. He’s had near enough 1,000 yards in the last 6 seasons (there’s a 954 in there), 100 receptions in 3 of those and looks like he’s just hitting his prime, he wins every 50/50 ball and adds experience to a young team. Along with him they’ll likely line up the most experienced man there is Larry Fitz, Christian Kirk and it sounds like Andy Isabella who’s got a lot of speed, but didn’t do too much last year. 37 year old Fitzgerald is a true living legend, spending his entire career in Arizona from 2004, and somehow in that time, having more tackles than drops. Remarkable stat.

They gave Kenyan Drake the transition tag meaning he gets nearly $9m this year. He came in halfway through the season and hit the ground running with 110 yards and a score on his debut with the team, finishing the season with 8 TDs in the 8 games he played (a 4 TD game helped…) They looked a lot better with him on the field so it made sense to pay him. If he does fall off then Chase Edmonds backed him up well last year when given the full load.

It seems like Dan Arnold will be the most boringly named starting tight end in the league, he finished the season well after coming in from the Saints.

The defense was average, but ranked 6th in rush defense. They brought in the flexible Isaiah Simmons in the draft and it sounds like he’ll be mostly linebacker, but he can play anywhere on the defense. Budda Baker became the highest paid safety in the league and Patrick Peterson is still one of the better corners around. Oh yeah, Chandler Jones had 19 sacks last season and arguably should have won DPOY.

They’ll have to get off to a decent start, the second half of their season is pretty horrible. They’re listed as faves in just 4 games although I’d have them better than that personally, and tend to play the 49ers close who they open with this year, that will tell a lot on where those two teams are I think.

Los Angeles Rams

Last year; 9-7, third

It’s only been 2 years since the Rams flopped in the Superbowl against the Patriots, and a lot has changed in that time, they gave Goff a huge contract, paid to get rid of Todd Gurley and traded away most of their future picks. They’ve done fine, of course, 13-3 and 9-7, so it’s not like they’ve failed really, just haven’t got as far as they’d have expected.

Jared Goff did get paid a lot, and he does seem to rely on his coach calling plays into his headset, they might not even need that this year with no/little crowd noise, McVay can just shout from the sideline. He’s put up the numbers each year with over 4,600 yards, 63% or so completion percentage in the last two years, but a QBR ranking him at 22 last year, caused by only the 22 TDs last season though, which is something they’ll want improving. The offensive line was pretty terrible last year which definitely didn’t help and it doesn’t look like it’s been improved too much over the summer either.

Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods give him one of the better WR duos in the league, Woods the chain mover, the man who gets more targets, but Kupp the man in the endzone in general. The worry for Kupp is that they play more 2 tight end sets as they used to great success at the end of last season, that puts Tyler Higbee in his slot and means he doesn’t get as much play. Robert Woods played high snaps all season though finishing with 1,134 yards from 90 receptions, but somehow only 2 TDs, that figure will bounce back to around 6 or 7 I reckon. Kupp still had double-digit TDs, and actually more receptions and yards than Woods last year despite his role being limited at the end of the year. They lost Brandin Cooks in the summer, and it looked like Josh Reynolds would take that spot, but Van Jefferson has been getting rave reviews in camp and it seems he’s the most likely to get the WR3 spot.

Will they carry on the 12 personnel that they had at the end of last season? That’s the main question for me. Tyler Higbee had 100+ yards in 4 of the last 5 games of the season last year. I’m not entirely sure they’ll keep him going, whether they’ll go back to 3 WR or whether he’ll share time with Gerald Everett.

Running back looks muddled at the moment but it seems like Malcolm Brown will get first shot, with Darrell Henderson carrying a knock into week one and rookie Cam Akers likely to take the role as the season goes on. They’re all utterly unproven in the league so it will be an interesting situation to keep an eye on.

They paid a big price for Jalen Ramsey in bringing him in from the Jags last year, 2 firsts and a fourth rounder. They’ve not paid him yet but will have to. He became the second all-pro defender on the team with Aaron Donald who’s a beast in the middle of the defensive line. They brought in a few rookies on defense who they’ll need to step up if they’re to pay the guys they need to in coming years.

They’re favourites in 8 games, dogs in 7. I don’t really know what to make of the Rams this year to be honest. If things go well they could win the league, badly and they’re finishing 4th. It’s really quite a tough division. Cowboys, Eagles, Bills isn’t a good start to the season though so we’ll see immediately where they’re at.

Summary

Fuck me, it’s a tough one to call. I wouldn’t be shocked to see any of them finish in any position in this division. I think you’ve got to take the 49ers to finish top two, but the Superbowl hangover is a proper thing and they’ve had a lot of injuries in camp already. Seahawks are always there or thereabouts and the Cardinals improved on offense in the summer. The Rams arguably look the weakest in division but could realistically be favourites in other divisions. I’m sure you want an answer from me here, Cardinals/Rams are probably the value at the prices.

Best bet(s)

Arizona Cardinals over 7.5 wins – 2.00 (365)

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