10 Jul Free NFC West Odds
Free NFC West Odds | Expand the Boxscore’s Divisional Futures Series
In our final division preview we look at the NFC West. Quite possibly the most competitive division in the league. All four team have a chance to win the division and could cannibalize each other when it comes to their final records. (All lines from Draft Kings Sports Book)
This will be a remarkably interesting division all season. One to watch for sure.
Last Season: 5-10-1
2020 O/U: 7.5
I love this team, especially their future.
Kyler Murray is the reigning offensive rookie of the year. The team was able to jettison David Johnson and they were able to get DeAndre Hopkins in return. Kenyon Drake returns to the back field with Chase Edmonds. The Cards have the makings of a threat in coming years. 2020 is not likely to be the year it starts.
After going 5-10-1 last season, the team landed the eighth draft pick in this year’s draft. They uniquely used this pick on a defensive player. Isaiah Simmons is in the mold of Derwin James. With his size and speed Simmons can play all over the field. He is an ultimate athlete. Hopefully, the Cardinals use him this way and do not try to limit him.
The rest of the defense is not too great and will need to improve greatly for the team and their fortunes to improve. Patrick Peterson is great, but in his later years is becoming more and more limited in his role. This puts more pressure on the rest of the secondary to cover up for him.
The offense should be much better. The team needs to not fall into the same trap as the Browns of last season. Reading the press clippings and assuming DeAndre Hopkins is the answer to all your issues is one way to get trapped. He is a great player and has had more than 100 receptions in three of the last five seasons. But new team, same player does not always work out how we want it to.
An offensive lineman whom many thought would go in round one fell to Arizona in round three: Josh Jones. He will pair up with newly re-signed D.J. Humphries to bookend an offensive line which is young and hopefully improving. This will help second year QB Kyler Murray as he tries to improve upon a solid rookie season. It will also help the back field of Drake and Edmonds as they strive to continue their late season success of 2019.
Christian Kirk was the lone receiver from 2019 who did much of anything. The team made major draft moves at the receiver position last season but injuries forced them to be shelved most of the season. If Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler can give the Cardinals anything this season, they along with the legendary Larry Fitzgerald will be one of the deepest groups in the entire league. Fitzgerald is not what he used to be but he is still a leader in the locker room.
The tight end position in Arizona is a wasteland. In an offense with so many weapons serviceable is exactly what the team should be looking for. The perfect tight end for this team is someone who can block better than he can catch. O.J. Howard would be a perfect fit here.
Arizona is going to be much better than they were last season even if the record does not show as much. The biggest issue for the team besides the defense is the division. That makes it unlikely the Cardinals are able to beat their total this season. But it will be fun watching them try.
Los Angeles Rams
Last Season: 9-7
2020 O/U: 8
The Rams made some needed moves this off-season. Not only did they get rid of the bloated contract of Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks, they also brought in possible replacements for both in the NFL draft.
The team traded two first-round draft picks in 2019 for Jalen Ramsey. Similar to the Laremy Tunsil in Houston, this means the team has to do anything to sign him. This gives Ramsey the leverage and will cause the Rams even more pain down the road. It will also give them arguably the best corner back group in the league to go with the undisputed best defensive player in the league in Aaron Donald. Hopefully this will be enough on defense to stop opponents.
The Rams will be forced to build a defense around these two players and low to mid-tier players who fit a role. Teams have been successful doing this. Los Angeles needs to hope they can be the next team to build a winning defense in this manner. They will be forced to do so without one of the best defensive coordinators of all time after the team let go of Wade Phillips.
The offense is also going to be going under a renovation this season. With Todd Gurley now in Atlanta and Brandin Cooks in Houston it will be even more important for Tyler Higbee to continue the pace he was on at the end of 2019. Another key to the team is the returning duo of Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods.
Woods has the ability to be a down field threat and score from anywhere while Kupp is the bigger slot receiver has the added ability to be a target in the red zone. This will be a portion of the field the team will need to figure out after the departure of Gurley. Even though he had a bit of a down season in 2019, Gurley was still the top back in the NFL at the goal line.
If rookie Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, and John Kelly are all productive in their roles, they will able to replicate the production together. By taking some of this pressure off them, Kupp and Higbee will allow the team to be less one-dimensional in this area and provide an even better offense.
Rookie Van Jefferson and Josh Reynolds will be fighting for the third receiver position. By providing a reliable option, it will force teams to cover more players, thereby reducing the number of double-coverage played against Woods and perhaps Kupp.
Jared Goff lost two important pieces to target on offense, but that may not be enough for detractors if he has another mediocre season.
2019 was not the follow-up that was expected from Goff. His TD passes went from 32 to 22 and his INTs increased from 12 to 16. Goff’s TD % went from 5.7 down to 3.5. This was one of the main reasons the team went from 13-3 in 2018 to a 9-7 record last season. If the team wants to get back into the division hunt, Goff will need to lead the way with his own improvement.
San Francisco 49ers
Last Season: 13-3
2020 O/U: 10.5
In the past 15 seasons there has only been one team in the NFC to lose the Super Bowl and even make it back to the playoffs the following season. This team was the Seattle Seahawks of course. Last season the Los Angeles Rams became the latest team to fall into this category. Will San Francisco break the trend in 2020?
Kyle Shanahan is a well regarded coach. When it comes to offensive minds, he is up there with the elites of the game. That said, all the teams in this division have good offenses so the defense is where the real differences need to occur.
With Nick Bosa and Richard Sherman, the 49ers have the start to a great defense. Despite trading DeForest Buckner to the Colts this off-season the team still has a strong defensive line. By shipping Buckner to Indianapolis, the team was able to re-sign Arik Armstead. If Dee Ford can give them more this season then he did in 2019 and first-round draft pick Javon Kinlaw proves to be a stud, the defensive line could be a major strength to go with their secondary of Sherman and Jimmie Ward.
Robert Saleh has a lot of talent on his unit this season. This could finally be the squad who gets him a head coaching gig after the 2020 season.
If George Kittle is not the best tight end in the league, he is right there. He is as good a pass catcher as we have at the position and is possibly the best blocking tight end as well. His all-around game makes him a monster. In 2019, Kittle had 85 receptions for 1,053 yards and five TD in just 14 games. This on an offense which was number one in the league in percentage of run plays per game.
Deebo Samuel was looking to be the WR one for the 49ers in 2020 after a breakout 2019. He suffered a Jones fracture in the off-season, so we will have to see if he is able to make a full recovery for the season or if we need to put off his hype for one more year.
Before the injury, we were not sure why the 49ers spent one of only four draft picks they had to draft a wide receiver in Brandon Aiyuk. It looks as though he will have to be the main receiver for the team. Aiyuk had one season of production at Arizona State after being a junior college transfer. His level of play will need to take a big step forward to match what Samuel was able to accomplish last year.
If the pass game with Jimmy Garoppolo is in flux, the run game is in turmoil. Jerick McKinnon has not been able to remain healthy since arriving two seasons ago. The 49ers traded away Matt Breida and with Raheem Mostert now wanting a trade, the backfield could be thin very soon.
Trent Williams arrives from Washington to replace the retired Joe Staley. The offensive line should not get any worse. If Williams is the player he was before missing last season they could even be better. They will need to be because a lot more will lay on the shoulders of Garoppolo to get the 49ers back to the promise land. He will need to be more than a game manager this season for the team to repeat in the division.
Last Season: 11-5
2020 O/U: 9
The run game got so banged up in Seattle last season the team was forced to bring Marshawn Lynch out of retirement to get through the season. While this was able to get them 11 wins and within inches from a division title, it will not do the trick in 2020.
Chris Carson should be healthy and return in time for the regular season. Rashaad Penny may not which is all right for those involved. To support Carson in the run game, the Seahawks turn to a veteran with experience in the division. Carlos Hyde comes in after one season in Houston. Coming in as the clear backup to Carson, Hyde will provide a needed complement as Seattle keeps their starter fresh.
The receivers are led by Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. Role players like Phillip Dorsett coming in from New England and David Moore provide some depth. The big two are as good as all but a handful of duos in the league.
Tyler Lockett provides speed to get down the field which allowed him to have eight TD receptions in 2019. In 16 games for Seattle, Lockett had 82 catches for 1,053 yards. The ability he has in the red zone to make plays is a key to allowing the run game the ability to be effective. Defenses must be weary of the pass game while also watching out for the physical Chris Carson blowing them off the line of scrimmage.
Coming into the league, D.K. Metcalf was seen as a one route guy. He was also seen as an injury risk after having injuries at Ole Miss. This caused him to drop in the draft to the second round. He showed a real ability to learn a route tree and could take over as the leading receiver in Seattle this season. With 900 yards and seven TD on 58 receptions as a rookie, Metcalf had a coming out party of sorts.
More targets are going to be coming his way after Russell Wilson showed confidence in the rookie as the season progressed. This should mean an uptick in both receptions and targets as he and Lockett become a dominant set of weapons for Wilson going forward.
As for Wilson, he is the straw which stirs the drink. He is yet to miss a game in his NFL career and although he does not run as much as he once did, the threat of his running ability makes him a deadly threat at QB. He spent many years running for his life behind mediocre offensive lines. All it took was getting Dwayne Brown from Houston and getting rid of Tom Cable and the line improved in spades.
With veteran Greg Olsen coming in at tight end to tutor Will Dissly and Jacob Hollister, the position will also be in good hands this season. Something which has not been able to be said in recent years. The tight end position in Seattle has been a mess due to injury so having this group will be an added luxury for Wilson to exploit.
Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman are all gone. One person who is there is Bobby Wagner. He will again be the lynch pin who holds the defense together. We have yet to see if Jadeveon Clowney is going to be returning to the team. If he does this will impact the run defense. For all of his faults as a pass rusher an incredibly good run defender. This was shown in Houston where the team went from a top 10 run defense to a bottom 10 run defense in one season without him.
Seattle could make a similar dip if they are unable to bring him back. He has not received any offers to his liking to this point. If Clowney does sign somewhere else, they will hope second round pick Darrell Taylor or fifth round pick Alton Robinson can step in as a rookie to fill the void.
First-round pick linebacker Jordyn Brooks will look to learn from Bobby Wagner at the position. He could not have a better teacher, and this will hopefully allow him to develop quickly in the defensive scheme.
If Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, and Quandre Diggs can provide solid back end help, Seattle has enough fire power on offense to win the division. But it will be incumbent on the defense to make enough stops so the offense can be on the field.
Picking a division winner in the NFC West is not as simple as looking at all the stats. Not only do these teams play each other extremely well, they also tend to buck a lot of their trends while doing so. San Francisco and Seattle are running teams but against each other, the pass games come to life. This means you have to go with your heart just a bit in this division.
There are three extremely good coaches in the division and one who is trying to get there. Arizona may just turn out to be the best fourth place team in NFL history. As many moves as they made, they will be better. They are still a year or two away though.
The Rams’ cap situation means short-term success outweighs future flexibility.
This leaves the two main contenders. Even with a lack of supporting cast Russell Wilson drags this team forward. He does so every year. With Tyler Lockett healthy and D.K. Metcalf looking to be a star, the receivers are as good as he has ever had.
San Francisco clearly has the best group on defense. No one player is better than Aaron Donald, but collectively they are one of the best units in the NFL. The issue may be on offense. If Deebo Samuel cannot come back fully healthy from his Jones fracture, the whole offense could take a large step back.
With this in mind, my heart is pushing me in one direction for the division this season.
Bet: Seahawks +225
Dominick is a lifelong resident of the Philadelphia area. Playing fantasy football for more than 20 years and writing for more than five, he has a vast knowledge of both the NFL and fantasy football. Despite his being blind, Dominick is a consistent ranker amongst FantasyPros experts, and always strives to be better than last season. Follow him on Twitter @EnvisionFF and read his weekly Best Bets articles during the season.