From 2013 to 2015, a team from the NFC West, made it to the Super Bowl. San Francisco lost to the Baltimore Ravens, 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII. The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos 43-8 in KLVIII and lost in the final minutes to the New England Patriots, 28-24 in 2015. That seems like such a long time ago because this division could be the worst in the NFL and it is by far, the worst offensive division in all of football.
Seattle Seahawks (Last season’s record, 10-5-1) … 2017 prediction 11-5.
The Seahawks have taken a step back over the past two years, but, I expect them to win every game in their division. If they want to get back to being a legitimate contender in the NFC they must do better in their running game. Last season they were 25th in rushing yards per game. They averaged less than 100 yards per game (99.4) and that was with duel threat quarterback Russell Wilson. Former Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls should share the work load in the backfield. Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham will have to each catch over 70 passes for this offense to be affective. Seattle traded wide receiver Jermaine Kearse to the New York Jet for defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson. Look for former Kansas State super star, Tyler Lockett to have a break out season.
On defense, the strength of this team is in the secondary. Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman can all turn games around by disrupting an offense. With the addition of Richardson up front the Seahawks could be an elite unit once again. Bobby Wagner and K.J Wright may not be the best duo at the linebacker position in the NFL, but… they are very good.
The offense line is average at best. It is clearly this team’s weakness. For the first time in his career Wilson will be asked to be the best player on the field week in and week out. Last season the former Wisconsin Badger completed 64.7% of his passes, threw for 4,219 yards but only had 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Wilson needs to throw and run for at least 40 touchdowns and he must rush for over 500 yards. If their offense line improves, Seattle can be a “tough out” come playoff time.
Arizona Cardinals (Last season’s record 7-8-1) … 2017 prediction 8-8.
The strength of this team is in their running back David Johnson. The former 3rd round pick (86th Overall in the 2015 draft) led the league in total yards from scrimmage with 2,118 yards and caught 80 balls out of the backfield. 37-year-old Carson Palmer will lead the Cardinals under center. In 2016, he had 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Palmer is on the “back 9” of his career and I don’t expect his number to be much different this year. Larry Fitzgerald led the NFL with 107 catches for the cardinals and continues to defy father time. He has only missed 2 games in the last 9 years.
On defense, their strength lies in Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. The Cardinals lost 5 defensive starters and are looking to bounce back from their 7-8-1 season.
There are way too many question marks on both sides of the ball. The Cardinals are the 2nd best team in this division because the 49ers and Rams are in rebuilding mode. Everything must click for the Cardinals to win 9 games.
Los Angeles Rams (Last season’s record 4-12) … 2017 prediction, 6-10.
In 5 years as the Rams head coach, Jeff Fisher compiled a record of 7-8-1, 7-9,6-10, 7-9 and 4-9. The Rams fired Fisher, two years too late. In comes 31-year-old, Sean McVay. I like this hire because the Rams moved to a new city last year, they have a young quarterback in Jared Goff, a young running back in Todd Gurley and now the youngest head coach in the history of the NFL. This offense should improve from last season and they should get better the second half of the season. WR, Sammy Watkins joins the team after 3 inconsistent seasons with the Bills. Watkins can be a pro-bowl caliber player when he is motivated. I expected him to have 75 or more catches. He might be a sleeper pick in fantasy football.
On defense, Wade Phillips will be the coordinator. One thing we know about Phillips, he is a bad head coach but a very good defensive coordinator. It was a good hire by McVay.
If this team can show improvement, McVay can become the “Prince” of Los Angeles the way Pete Carroll was when he was winning 11 games per year and a National Championship at USC.
San Francisco 49ers (Last season’s record 2-14) … 2017 prediction, 3-13.
Under Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers went to three straight NFC championships games and 1 Super Bowl. In 4 years, they were 44-19-1. Since Harbaugh went to the University of Michigan, the 49ers are 7-25. The 49ers hired John Lynch to be the general manager and former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to be their head coach. Lynch and Shanahan know this is a three-year rebuilding process. Quarterback Brian Hoyer will be the starter and he is a game manager at best. For his career, Hoyer has completed 59.6 percent of his passes and has 44 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. Shanahan should get the most out of Hoyer, but make no mistake about it. This time next year the 49ers will use a top 5 pick to draft a franchise quarterback. Running back Carlos Hyde should rush for 1000 yards and veteran wide receiver Pierre Garcon should be the teams #1 option in the passing game.
Defensively, the 49ers were last in rushing and total defense in 2016. Former Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker coach Robert Saleh will have his work cut out for him. This is his first time as a defensive coordinator. I expect 1st round pick, 3rd overall Solomon Thomas to get a ton of playing time on the defensive line. Rookie, Reuben Foster out of Alabama should be a fixture at the outside linebacker position.
I don’t expect much from this team, but if Lynch and Shannon can “trust the process” they can rebuild
this team over the next three seasons.
If the Seahawks can somehow find a way to improve a bad offensive line, they could get back to an NFC Championship game. They are clearly the class of this division.
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