The NFC West is shaping up to be one of the toughest divisions in football, as all four teams have playoff aspirations in 2020.
The San Francisco 49ers are about even money to finish in first place this season, while the Seahawks sit at +230 to dethrone the reigning NFC champions.
After a down year in 2019, expect the Rams to be back in postseason contention this season, as they still remain one of the most talented rosters in the NFL.
Last but not least, Kliff Kingsbury’s Cardinals will be on many people’s radar this fall, as they continue to build upon a young group that showed serious flashes last season. Kyler Murray is a darkhorse candidate for MVP, and the addition of DeAndre Hopkins will help surround the young quarterback with more playmakers on the outside.
Although the Niners are the odds-on favorites to finish atop the NFC West, anticipate a competitive race all season long in what figures to be a division that is well represented come playoff time.
All Eyes on Jimmy G
After a disappointing end to their season, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and head coach Kyle Shanahan took a lot of heat when asked about their conservative approach down the stretch of Super Bowl LIV.
San Francisco’s offense left a lot of big plays on the field, as missed opportunity after missed opportunity let Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs back into the game that Kansas City would eventually win.
Nevertheless, the Niners return the same core group of guys that led them to a 13-3 record last season. Outside of the departure of defensive lineman DeForest Buckner — whom they traded for the 13th pick in this year’s draft — San Francisco has done a great job of re-tooling this offseason.
Rookie first-rounder Javon Kinlaw will help fill the role that Buckner previously occupied, while wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk figures to provide Garoppolo with a downfield threat that was sorely missed in 2019.
The same recipe for success remains in San Francisco next year, as Shanahan will lean heavily on the defense and run game to lead them back to the postseason.
So long as Garoppolo can limit the big mistakes, there’s no reason why the Niners shouldn’t remain atop the division in 2020.
Will Seattle get back to the postseason?
All things considered, the Seahawks really had no business making the playoffs last season, as this team was constantly bailed out by quarterback Russell Wilson’s heroic efforts on a weekly basis.
Pete Carroll’s defense is simply not what it used to be — ranking 22nd in total defense and 26th against the pass. They have done a relatively poor job of replacing the Legion of Boom over the years, as Carroll has relied heavily on his coaching and defensive scheme to overshadow their deficiencies throughout the secondary.
Nevertheless, Bobby Wagner remains a mainstay on that unit, and a defense-oriented draft class should help fortify a group that should improve dramatically next season.
Moreover, it seems as though offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has yet to embrace Wilson’s greatness on the field, as the Seahawks were one of the most run-heavy teams in football last season.
This team will go as far as Wilson takes them, and it wouldn’t shock me to see this team take a step back in 2020. In what has become a loaded NFC, nothing is guaranteed for Carroll’s group, as they’ll be in the running for another Wild Card spot this season.
Patience Running Thin in Los Angeles
A make-or-break year is on the horizon in Los Angeles, as the Rams were one of the most disappointing teams in football last season.
Young quarterback Jared Goff took a huge step back in what was supposed to be a critical year for his development.
Although Los Angeles finished the season 9-7, head coach Sean McVay acknowledged that his team vastly underachieved, and vowed that they’d be back in the playoffs in 2020.
The offense will miss dynamic playmakers Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley this year, as McVay will have to rely heavily on his quarterback and play-calling to keep this unit afloat.
Expect some serious regression out of this offense this season, as the team will depend on the star-studded defense to keep them in football games.
I don’t love the makeup of this roster, so don’t be surprised if the Rams take another step back in 2020. The playoffs remain a possibility for McVay and company, but a lot will depend on whether Goff can emerge as an elite quarterback this season.
A potential surprise team in the NFC, the Cardinals are trending in the right direction for 2020 and beyond. Murray showed some serious flashes under head coach Kingsbury’s tutelage last season, as this air raid offense appears to be here to stay.
Murray impressed throughout his rookie campaign, as he emerged as the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2019. The surprise acquisition of All-Pro receiver Hopkins will provide Murray with some serious firepower, as he will bolster a receiver corps that was among the weakest in the league last season.
He will join Larry Fitzgerald and emerging star Christian Kirk in that receiver room, as Murray will now have plenty of options at his disposal for his sophomore season.
Meanwhile, Arizona’s defense will be vastly improved in 2020, as rookie first-rounder Isaiah Simmons will be able to roam freely in Vance Joseph’s 4-3 defense. He and Budda Baker will be tremendous playmakers for a unit that struggled a year ago, as Pro Bowl edge rusher Chandler Jones will now have less weight to bear given the supporting cast around him.
If Murray’s offensive line can hold up better than it did a year ago, Arizona will be serious Wild Card contenders this season.
- San Francisco 49ers: 11-5
- Seattle Seahawks: 9-7
- Arizona Cardinals: 8-8
- Los Angeles Rams: 7-9
The Niners are in great shape to repeat as division champs. Don’t be surprised if the Cardinals emerge as a potential playoff team this season, as there is great value across various sportsbooks that appear to be undervaluing Kingsbury’s team in 2020.