By: Brandon Blake
The NFC West is home to two teams who, in my opinion, are favorites to possibly represent the NFC in the Super Bowl in Arizona and Seattle. The division is also home to one team that is stuck in neutral in a new city in the LA Rams. And finally, the division is home to a team that is in rebuilding mode with a new head coach in the San Francisco 49ers.
The question I have for the Arizona Cardinals is can their key players stay healthy and continue to fire on all cylinders on their way to the Super Bowl?
Can the Seahawks replace Marshawn Lynch’s production and diversify their offense enough to challenge Arizona in the West while maintain their usually strong defense?
The Rams are in a new city and the same excellent front four on defense but is that enough to get out of the 7-9 (or 8-8) rut?
The Niners are starting over with a new head coach and face a brutal schedule this season and are weathering the storm of Colin Kaepernick’s stance on not standing during the national anthem. With all changes on the roster, can the first season under Chip Kelly be a successful one for San Francisco?
Here are my projections for the NFC West
*- Denotes winner of the division
# Denotes winner of the wild card
*Arizona (13-3)- They are one of the two best teams in the NFC other than Carolina. I do worry if Palmer and Mathieu can stay healthy throughout the season and the second half of their schedule is difficult (five of their last seven games are on the road). But I think if they can stay healthy and play to their ability, they are a very good team that can win this division and can possibly get to Houston to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
# Seattle (11-5)- With the retirement of running back Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks will look to a stable of running backs to try to replace his production (Will this be the year Christine Michael break through?) Look for Seattle to balance their offense by shoring up their offensive line in order to protect quarterback Russell Wilson and utilize their trio of fine wide receivers (Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Paul Richardson). The defense should continue to be provide stellar play and I think tight end Jimmy Graham should have a bounce back season. While the Cards a little bit better on paper, the Seahawks are not far behind.
LA Rams (5-11)- At least Jeff Fisher doesn’t have to worry about his team going 7-9 or 8-8. Other than running back Todd Gurley and maybe Tavon Austin (if used properly which is something the Rams have failed to do in Austin’s career), this team has no real offensive weapons to help out quarterback Jared Goff (assuming he is the week 1 starter). The defensive front four is still very talented but the back seven remains inconsistent. This team while talented in some spots, is not talented enough to really challenge Arizona and Seattle in this division.
San Francisco (3-13)-I’ll share my thoughts on my House of Babble about Kaepernick’s stand at a later time. As far as the team, If the Rams are bad, I think the Niners are worse. There is a serious talent deficiency and a brutal schedule to start the season (first seven games are as follows: Rams, @Panthers, @Seahawks, Cowboys, Cardinals, @Bills, Bucs) will doom this team and set them up to be in position for the top pick in the 2017 draft.