NFC West Preview
This division enters the year having went through an offseason of major changes and after San Francisco and Seattle having been the rivalry to pay attention to throughout recent years. The Rams are the team that expectations will be high for as they were one of the surprises of the season. The NFC West will have plenty of storylines to pay attention to and most of the players involved have shown a willingness to speak out which could make the drama even more fun. The teams in this division all have some positives you could talk yourself into and also some flaws that can’t be ignored and need to be looked at.
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Arizona Cardinals (+1200)
The Cardinals enter a new era with Sam Bradford entering the season with the starting quarterback job as Carson Palmer retired and Larry Fitzgerald contemplated following him while Tyrann Mathieu went to Houston in free agency. The Cardinals biggest concern should be if Bradford, who has a substantial injury history, can last all 16 games or at some point does the rookie Josh Rosen get his chance under center. Joining Bradford in the backfield will be David Johnson who was probably the best running back in the before a wrist injury cost him 15 games of the 2017 season. The defense will still be led by Patrick Peterson and Chandler Jones. Newcomer Tre Boston will play a big role at safety having had a great year in Los Angeles for the Chargers and having 8 pass break ups and 5 interceptions but knows new head coach Steve Wilks from being with the Panthers. The Cardinals have attempted to continue to not have sustained down years but there’s enough of a sample size to know that Bradford can be a really good quarterback but durability is a huge concern and having a rookie that was selected in the top ten could see Rosen taking snaps for a losing team and Johnson could take a little time to find his rhythm. This team is not a division contender but could be in the near future if Rosen is the player some thought he was as a freshman at UCLA.
Los Angeles Rams (-135)
The LA Rams probably had the best offseason on paper of anyone choosing to go all in for this year by adding Brandin Cooks, Marcus Peters, Ndamukong Suh, and Aqib Talib. With Peters and Talib the Rams have added two top 15 cornerbacks to their secondary where they were already one of the best pass defenses in the league in 2017. When you add in Suh to Aaron Donald who may holdout into the season but will report at some point before they get to their biggest games and this could be the second-best defense behind Jacksonville which will make Jared Goff’s job at quarterback even easier. The Rams were the darlings of last season with an offensive mastermind in Sean McVay who showed he wasn’t too young for this job and the players in the locker room seems to really enjoy playing for him but the front office has thrown some big personalities into the mix but based on talk going into the season they aren’t worried because of the experience of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. The Rams are rightly big favorites as injuries or off field drama would be this teams undoing but this could be the best chance the Rams franchise has had at getting back to the Super Bowl since Kurt Warner led them to victory in 2000.
Seattle Seahawks (+425)
The Seahawks has moved on from the Legion of Boom to turning over the team to Russell Wilson. The offense will be expected to carry this team as the defense has been what’s led this team to their two Super Bowl appearances with the 2014 championship. Some key players for Seattle will be entering their contract years with Earl Thomas being the biggest name of the group that includes KJ Wright, Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett. Thomas hasn’t reported to training camp leading to uncertainty surrounding the lone holdover of the Legion of Boom to issue an ultimatum to extend or trade him. A trade of Thomas would be a huge downgrade no matter who replaced him as Thomas missed from week 12 to the end of the year the Seahawks were ranked 31st in quarterback rating while the first 11 weeks they were ranked 3rd. The replacement for Thomas would be second year pro Tedric Thompson and with Kam Chancellor’s career seemingly over the entire secondary would be thrown together quickly. This isn’t a very talented team with a lot of depth on offense they hope they found an every down back in the draft with Rashaad Penny and Doug Baldwin has been one of the most dependable receivers with a drop rate of only 1.32 in 2017. This team needs a lot to break right and that’s difficult to imagine.
San Francisco 49ers (+275)
The 49ers have found their franchise quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo and rewarded him with one of the biggest contracts in the history of the NFL. Although not having too many weapons around him the Niners offense clicked towards the end of the season and managed to finish with a 5-game winning streak. The case for the 49ers winning the West is Jimmy Garoppolo is an elite quarterback who can make any receiver into a household name and Sherman returns from an Achilles injury in all-pro form. This is not impossible but Garoppolo did have the wins but his numbers with 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions suggests he’s not quite Tom Brady just yet but the Niners should be able to compete for a wild card spot.
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This division is heavily favored by the Rams and it’s hard to make a case against them. However, the best value could rest in San Francisco if Garoppolo lives up to the hype but they still feel a year away. The Seahawks look like a team that broke everything up around Russell Wilson and think he can carry them to the playoffs with little help. The Cardinals are in transition and will more than likely be starting a rookie quarterback who is tough to project. So, the bet to make is the Rams the talent in this division slants heavily towards them and also they can change styles when need be as a balanced offense and defense that is a menace to deal with and should be enough to win the NFC West.