WINNER: LA RAMS (12-4)
No surprise here, the reigning NFC Champions are projected to win another NFC West on their way to the Playoffs.
Having one of the best coaches (Sean McVay), and offensive lines in the league is sure to keep Jared Goff playing at a high level. They also managed to keep their receiving corps intact, and add an impressive RB in the third round of the Draft, Darrell Henderson (Memphis). With the uncertainty surrounding Todd Gurley’s knee tendinitis, Henderson could prove to be a valuable addition.
While the D-Line is still solid, Aaron Donald will miss having his friend Ndamukong Suh (left in free agency) upfront, as LA’s defensive front is a bit thin. Reports from training camp also indicate Dexter Fowler, who they acquired last season from the Jaguars, is having a great summer, and even drawing comparisons to Aaron Donald. The secondary is among the league’s best, and will give the other NFC West Qb’s problems all year.
However, winning this division won’t be easy, as BeatVegas projects the Seahawks and Cardinals to also have great seasons.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-5)
They may have lost WR Doug Baldwin (retired), but they added star rookie WR D.K. Metcalf (Ole Miss). Metcalf has dazzled in camp, and may end up being the steal of the Draft. There are also reports that Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is opening up the playbook to more of a pass-heavy offense, that includes RB’s being sent out on receiving routes on some plays. The offense also added talented rookies, RB Travis Homer (Miami), WR Gary Jennings (West Virginia), and WR John Ursua (Hawaii). They may be young, but this offense captained by one of the hardest working Quarterback’s, Russell Wilson, is sure to surprise in 2019.
On defense, they lost Frank Clark (Chiefs), but drafted the highly touted DE L.J. Collier, and signed long-time Lions star DE Ziggy Ansah. Another promising rookie Seattle drafted, DE Demarcus Christmas is also expected to impress. Having one of the best head coaches (Pete Carroll) and kicking game’s in the NFL, won’t hurt either.
I’m projecting the Seahawks to out-perform the public’s perception, and should bring value to bettors all season on their way to securing a Wild Card berth.
ARIZONA CARDINALS (11-5)
This one is our “bold-prediction” of the year if you will. I’m expecting QB Kyler Murray to be everything he’s been billed to be, and more. With the NFL trending more towards a mobile pocket, Murray’s height is less of an issue, and his ability to throw on the run is second to none. Picture a faster, and somehow even more precise Russell Wilson. Another comparison could be Baker Mayfield, but once again faster, and a better decision maker. Like his coach Kliff Kingsbury said, “Kyler’s a freak”. It doesn’t make sense that he could be so strong and accurate, while also possessing elite speed. Predicting how a rookie QB will fair in the league is never easy, but Murray has been amazing. Ever since watching him come in for a few snaps as a Freshman behind Mayfield at Oklahoma, I’ve been on his bandwagon. The Heisman winner could put together one helluva story for us this year as the Cardinals try to go from worst to first.
Of course, Arizona wouldn’t be anticipating such a great season if it weren’t for their rebuilt O-Line. Last year’s achilles heel, is now a strength of the Cardinals. After adding in the Draft, WR. Andy Isabella (UMASS), WR Hakeem Butler (Iowa State), WR Kee’Sean Johnson, (Fresno State) (who’s been impressing in camp), and TE Caleb Wilson (UCLA), they have also given Murray and future hall of famer WR Larry Fitzgerald something to work with. Former Pro Bowl RB David Johnson is also expected to return to 2016 form. All this wrapped up in Kliff Kingsbury’s progressive offensive scheme, and we’re looking at a high-flying, high-scoring team.
On defense, the Line may be on the thin side, but they are stacked with talent. In the Draft, they picked up DE Zach Allen (BC), and signed Terrell Suggs away from the Ravens. The linebacker corps is also star-studded and led by former Patriot LB Chandler Jones. Once this team gets CB Patrick Peterson back from suspension (6 games), things should get rolling.
If Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury are who I think they are, look out for the Cardinals on the way to a Wild Card!
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (4-12)
With the return of QB Jimmy Garoppolo after missing a season with a torn ACL, and the ridiculously talented TE George Kittle, the 49ers will still have major holes elsewhere.
Having done very little to improve on their mediocre Offensive Line, Jimmy G and his knee are in for a rough year. The knee itself is already a big question mark, and it remains to be seen if he will be just as mobile as before. The last thing Garoppolo needs is a lack of confidence in his O-line, but that’s what San Francisco is breaking camp with. Their playmakers at WR, RB, and TE will keep them in games, but it’s their defense where the main flaws lie.
An aging CB Richard Sherman anchors a slow, well-below average Secondary. After ranking near the bottom of last season’s CB/S rankings, the 49ers waited till the middle of the 6th round to draft a “B” cornerback. Sure they drafted the talented prospect DE Nick Bosa (Ohio State), but the D-Line was actually already a bright spot. They would have been better served drafting a LB (also needing improvement in that group), or CB/S in the first round. Lastly, the overall team chemistry of this locker room has to be questioned. With loud and boisterous supporters of opposing politics (Nick Bosa and Richard Sherman) on the team, one might also wonder how the front office expects this group to gel.
John Lynch was one great LB, but I seriously question his abilities as a GM. For you ‘Niner Faithful’ out there, I don’t like to bring bad news, but best of luck with a tough schedule, and an even tougher division.