2020 NFC West Season Preview
The NFL schedule has been released and the draft is over, so now it is time to take a look at how the teams stack up this year. Today I will take a look at how the NFC West stacks up. You can find more divisional previews and other great content from our great writers by visiting Winners & Whiners, StatSalt, and PickPapa.
1) San Francisco 49ers
Odds to Win Super Bowl: 11/1
Odds to Win NFC Championship: 13/4
Odds to Win NFC West: 21/20
Draft Picks: DT Javon Kinlaw (No. 14), WR Brandon Aiyuk (No. 25), Colton McKivitz (No. 153), Charlie Woerner (No. 190), WR Jauan Jennings (No. 217)
The San Francisco 49ers had a strong season last year that saw them go 13-3 overall. The Niners then made it all the way to the Super Bowl before losing to the Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 31-20. San Fran had a 20-10 lead heading to the 4th quarter but they were outscored 21-0 in the final frame to lose it. Just think, this was a team that had missed the postseason five years in a row and they went just 4-12 the previous season. What a turnaround for San Francisco. Can the Bay Area Boys work their magic again and this time win the whole darn thing? We shall see.
2019 Regular Season Offensive Stats: 4th in total offense (381.1 ypg), 13th in passing (237.0 ypg), 2nd in rushing (144.1 ypg), and 2nd in scoring at 29.9 ppg.
Why did the Niners go just 4-12 back in 2018? A big reason was that Jimmy Garropolo got injured very early in the season and the Niners had to rely on Nick Mullens and CJ Geathard the rest of the way. The pair just was not ready and they combined for 21 TDs and 17 TDs in their time in there. Way too many mistakes and a reason why the Niners were 28th in points allowed but just 13th in yards allowed that year. Garropolo was back last year and he played the full season. The ex-New England Patriot had a strong season, throwing for 3978 yards with 27 TDs and 13 INTs on the year. What a difference having a healthy Garropolo makes as the Niners went from 4-12 to 13-3 and a super bowl appearance. Still, we note that Garropolo had just two TDs compared to three INTs in three games in the postseason. Much of the offense is back intact and while the Niners did lose WR Emmanuel Sanders to the Saints, they will fill his spot with 1st round pick, WR Brandon Aiyuk. He will pair with Deebo Samuel, who had 802 yards receiving and three TDs while also posting 159 yards on the ground and three more TDs. San Fran also has the best tight end in the league in George Kittle, who led the team in receiving yards with 1053 yards while also posting five TDs.
The Niners had a solid passing game but the offense is still predicated on being able to move the ball on the ground and San Fran had the 2nd best ground attack in the league last year. San Francisco had a three-headed monster in the backfield led by Raheem Mostert, who had 772 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. He also had a strong playoff showing, rushing for 336 yards and five TDs in three games. Second on the team was Mat Brieda with 623 yards and a TD while Tevin Coleman had 544 yards and six TDs. This is a dominant running game that does make the job of Garropolo and the passing game that much easier. The offensive line is one of the best in the league as the Niners were 11th in sacks allowed at 2.1 per game and 6th in rush yards per attempt at 4.8. This offense will be very solid once again.
2019 Regular Season Defensive Stats: 2nd in yards allowed (281.8 ypg), 1st against the pass (169.2 ypg), 17th against the run (112.6 ypg) and 8th in points allowed, giving up 19.4 ppg.
The Niners also know how to play some defense as they were 2nd in yards allowed, 1st against the pass and 8th in points allowed, giving up just 19.4 ppg. The defense remains mostly intact but they did trade away DT DeForest Buckner to the Colts. In return, the Niners used that pick on taking Javon Kinlaw, who many feel was the best defensive tackle on the board. The defensive line will again be solid for the Niners. The pass defense was outstanding last year and I will look for another solid season from this group. Richard Sherman was part of the Legion Of Boom at Seattle and now he is apart of a similar group here in the Bay. He led the team with three INts and 11 passes defended last year. Jimmie Ward is a solid cover guy while Emmanuel Moseley is the same as a cornerback. The linebacking corps is strong as well with Fred Warner who led the team in tackles with 89 while also posting three sacks, nine passes defended, and three forced fumbles and Dre Greenlaw, who was 2nd on the team in tackles with 62. I do not see this defense slipping at all.
Conclusion: The Niners are the class of this division and they are one of the favorites to make it to the Super Bowl from the NFC. I will not disagree with that. This is a team that went 13-3 a year ago and they have nearly their entire team back. There is no way that they are losing the NFC West this year. Yes, the division has improved but the Niners have not regressed as far as last year’s team goes. The offense will again be one of the best in the league while the defense is strong, especially with the addition of Kinlaw through the draft. I am not sure they will make it back to the super bowl but I am certain that they will own one of the top two seeds in the NFC playoffs.
2) Seattle Seahawks
Odds to Win Super Bowl: 17/1
Odds to Win NFC Championship: 17/2
Odds to Win NFC West: 9/4
Draft Picks: LB Jordyn Brooks (No. 27), DE Darrell Taylor (No. 48), G Damien Lewis (No. 69), TE Colby Parkinson (No. 133), RB DeeJay Dallas (No. 144), EDGE Alton Robinson (No. 148), WR Freddie Swain (No. 214), TE Stephen Sullivan (No. 251)
The Seattle Seahawks had a solid 11-5 season a year ago but they still finished two games out of first in the NFC West. The Seahawks did beat the Eagles in the Wildcard round by a score of 17-9 before losing to the Packers in the divisional round by a score of 28-23. The Seahawks must now regroup and they are in a division where every team could very well finish with a .500 record. Seattle made some decent offseason moves but did they do enough to overtake the powerful 49ers in the NFC West? That remains to be seen.
2019 Regular Season Offensive Stats: 8th in total offense (374.4 ypg), 14th in passing (236.9 ypg), 4th in rushing (137.5 ypg), and 9th in scoring at 25.3 ppg.
The problem for the Seahawks was not their offense, which was one of the better in the league. The offense is led by Russell Wilson, who had the best season of his career. He threw for 4110 yards with 31 TDs and just five INTs while rushing for 342 yards and three TDs. Wilson can beat you with both his legs and his arm and he has now averaged 499 ypg on the ground over his eight-year career so far. He has now tossed 100 TDs in the last three years, compared to just 23 INTs over that same stretch. Russell is one of the five best quarterbacks in the league right now. The wide receiver corps remains intact with Tyler Lockett (1057 yards, 8 TDs last year) and DK Metcalf (900 yards, 7 TDs both returning, plus they have added Phillip Dorsett, who spent the last three years at New England. I like the look of this receiving corps.
Making things easier for Wilson is a running game that ranked 4th in the league last year. Back in 2018, Chris Carson burst on to the scene with 1151 yards rushing and nine TDs. He followed that up by rushing for 1230 yards and seven TDs last year while also posting 266 yards receiving and two TDs. Oh, and he did miss a game last year or his numbers would have been a bit better. Rashard Penny was 2nd with 370 yards and Wilson was 3rd with 342 yards. Penny played in just 10 games and when healthy he can be tough to bring down. The Seattle running game will again be one of the best in the league. The offensive line is a definite strength of the team and it needs to be as they are protecting one of the best QBs in the land. This offense should have another good showing overall this year.
2019 Regular Season Defensive Stats: 26th in yards allowed (386.1 ypg), 27th against the pass (263.9 ypg), 22nd against the run (117.7 ypg) and 22nd in points allowed, giving up 24.9 ppg.
Despite going 11-5 on the year the Seahawks still had all sorts of problems on the defensive side of the ball. They hope to have addressed some of those issues after taking two defensive players in their first two picks in the draft. Jordyn Brooks will be looked upon to add some strength to a linebacking corps that struggled last year, plus they added bruce Irvin to that group, who played the first four years of his career with Seattle. The Seahawks currently have a major hole in their front wall as defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has not signed and will most likely not be on the team this year. DE Darrell Taylor was taken in the 2nd round and the hope is that he will fill the vacancy left by Clowney but still the front line of the defense will be down this year. The pass defense was one of the worst in the league last year and they hope to have addressed that by signing Quinton Dunbar, who had nine INTs and 35 passes defended in five tars with the Redskins. He had four of INTs last year. The defense should be improved but it still has some work to do, especially along the front wall.
Conclusion: Seattle had a solid season last year and I will look for them to have another solid season this year but it will not be enough to overtake the powerful 49ers. Seattle will have one of the best offenses in the league and one addition I forgot to add above was Greg Olsen at tight end. The defense has improved but it was bad last year and I don’t see it improving enough to give them the NFC West Title. Seattle is also in a division that will be much tougher overall than last year and that will not make things easier for them. I do feel that the Seahawks will again be in the mix for a wildcard but the defense and the schedule will not allow them to take the NFC West Crown.
3) Los Angeles Rams
Odds to Win Super Bowl: 28/1
Odds to Win NFC Championship: 14/1
Odds to Win NFC West: 13/4
Draft Picks: RB Cam Akers (No. 52), WR Van Jefferson (No. 57), LB Terrell Lewis (No. 84), S Terrell Burgess (No. 104), TE Brycen Hopkins (No. 136), S Jordan Fuller (No. 199), LB Clay Johnston (No. 234)
The Los Angeles Rams went 9-7 last year but it was only good for 3rd place in the NFC West. It seems that they must have suffered the Super Bowl hangover after making it to the big game the year before. The Rams will now try and regroup but they are in perhaps the toughest division in all of football. Despite not making the postseason last year, the Rams have still had three winning years in a row. Can they make it four in a row? Let’s dig in and try and figure it all out.
2019 Regular Season Offensive Stats: 7th in total offense (374.9 ypg), 4th in passing (281.2 ypg), 26th in rushing (93.7 ypg), and 11th in scoring at 24.6 ppg.
The Rams were a very solid offensive team and that was thanks mostly to their passing game. I will get to the ground attack in a moment. The Rams do have one of the best passing games in the league, led by Jared Goff, who threw for 4638 yards and 22 TDs. the one bad thing was that he also threw 16 INTs. He has now thrown 28 INTs in his last two seasons and Goff will have to correct that moving forward. Goff led the league in passing attempts with 626 and that was mainly because the running game was non-existent. The Rams were 17th in the league in rushing attempts per game at 25.1 but they just couldn’t get it going, ranking 26th in yards per game and 27th in yards per attempt (3.7). Todd Gurley had been the face of their ground attack for the last few years but he has now moved on to Atlanta. The Rams did not have a first-round pick this year so with their 1st pick in the draft and the 52nd pick overall, they selected RB Cam Akers from Florida State. He will most likely take over the number one running back spot with Malcolm Brown (255 yards last year). Also in the mix will be James Gilbert, who the Rams signed as an undrafted free agent after rushing for 698 yards and six TDs at Kansas State a season ago.
Whoever the running backs are, they will set up behind an offensive line that is far better at pass blocking than run blocking. The Rams were 1st in the league in sacks allowed per game at 1.4, compared to 27th in rushing yards per attempts at 3.7. They did try and address the OL by trading for Tremayne Anchrum from the Texans. Still, the offensive line needs to run block a bit better. Now let’s take a look at the wide receivers, which are among the best in the league. Cooper Kupp had a breakout season last year with 1161 yards and 10 TDs, while Robert Woods was 2nd with 1134 yards and two TDs. Woods also had 1219 yards and six TDs the year before. The rams did lose Brandin Cooks, who is now with the Texans, but they drafted WR Van Jefferson in the 2nd round, who had 657 yards and six TDs last year at Florida. The Rams also have a solid TE in Tyler Higbee, who had 733 yards and three TDs a season ago. This is still a very good offense overall.
2019 Regular Season Defensive Stats: 13th in yards allowed (339.6 ypg), 12th against the pass (226.6 ypg), 19th against the run (113.1 ypg) and 17th in points allowed, giving up 22.8 ppg.
The defense was very average for the Rams last year and they are hoping to be a much better group this season. They did take a pretty big hit to their defense with the loss of LB Dante Fowler, who is now in Atlanta. The Rams may look to third-round pick LB Terrell Lewis, to fill the void. He had 11.5 tackles for loss and six sacks at Alabama last year. The defensive backfield did get some help with the addition of safety Terrell Burgess through the draft. The defensive line is solid after ranking 5th in sacks per game at 3.1 last year. Aaron Donal is a beast on the line with 72 sacks in his first six years in the league, including 44 in his last three years. The Rams did not do a ton to help the defense this year and it could take a step back from last year’s average group. Making matters worse is that the Rams did not renew the contract of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who is one of the best defensive minds in the league.
Conclusion: The Rams will come up short in their quest for both the division title and a playoff spot this year. The Rams have a strong passing game, just like they did a year ago but Goff no longer has his security blanket in Todd Gurley. They also lost some depth at WR with the loss of Brandin Cooks plus the running game is still a big question mark. The defense was average last year and they still have Aaron Donald along the line but the losses of LB Fowler and DC Phillips will hurt this unit. The Rams also have to deal with the Niners, Seahawks, and a vastly improved Arizona squad so there will be no easy games for them in the division. I see the Rams as an 8-8 team at best.
4) Arizona Cardinals
Odds to Win Super Bowl: 60/1
Odds to Win NFC Championship: 28/1
Odds to Win NFC West: 12/1
Draft Picks: LB/S Isaiah Simmons (No. 8), OT Josh Jones (No. 72), DT Leki Fotu (No. 114), DT Rashard Lawrence (No. 131), LB Evan Weaver (No. 202), RB Eno Benjamin (No. 222)
The Arizona Cardinals had another rough season last year as they went just 5-10-1 but this is a team that is definitely on the rise. I will get to all of that in a moment. The Cardinals have now gone 8-23-1 the last two years and they have missed the postseason the last four years in a row. Arizona will now look to take a big leap forward and while they are still a year or two away from being serious contenders in the NFL, The Cards will be a much more competitive team this year. Let’s take a look, shall we?
2019 Regular Season Offensive Stats: 21st in total offense (341.7 ypg), 24th in passing (217.3 ypg), 10th in rushing (124.4 ypg), and 17th in scoring at 22.6 ppg.
The offense was not great last year overall but the Cardinals showed promise on that side of the ball for this year and beyond. With the first pick in the draft last year, they chose QB Kyler Murray from Oklahoma and he had a solid first season, throwing for 3722 yards with 20 TDs and 12 INTs. He needs to cut down on the mistakes but overall, Murray had a nice start to his career. I will look for Murray to have an even better season this year and I do expect him to top 4000 yards in passing. The main issue was protecting Murray, who was sacked 48 times last year, which was tied for 3rd most in the league. They are hoping that 3rd round pick OT Josh Jones will help shore up the line for the Cards. They need to protect their star QB as he will not be around too much longer if he continues to be sacked over 40 times in a season. Also, Brett Hundley is his backup and the Cardinals can’t afford for him to be under center.
The Cardinals got perhaps the biggest steal in the offseason when they traded away a 2nd-round pick and running back David Johnson for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who had 1165 yards receiving and seven TDs a year ago. Hopkins is one of the best receivers in the league and has now accumulated 4115 yards receiving and 31 TDs over the last three years and they got this guy for basically a song. Larry Fitzgerald is getting up there in age and he may have lost a step or two but he is still effective and led the team in yards receiving with 804 while posting four TDs. Christian Kirk had a solid 2nd season with 709 yards and three TDs. they form a solid three-headed WR corps. The running game was solid, especially once Kenyan Drake joined the team. He started the year in Miami, before coming to Arizona, where he rushed for 643 yards and eight TDs in eight games. Murray was 2nd on the team with 544 yards on the ground but the Cards are hoping he doesn’t have to run that much this year. Overall, this will be one of the best offenses in the league this year.
2019 Regular Season Defensive Stats: 32nd in yards allowed (402.0 ypg), 31st against the pass (281.9 ypg), 24th against the run (120.1 ypg) and 28th in points allowed, giving up 27.6 ppg.
The defense was not very good as it ranked at or near the bottom of the league in all major categories. The defense still has plenty of work to do but Arizona did pick up a big piece when they drafted LB Isaiah Simmons with the 8th overall selection in the draft. He was a beast at Clemson with 16.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks last year. The Cardinals also drafted a pair of defensive tackles in the 5th round and signed DT Jordan Phillips, who had 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss for Buffalo last year, LB Devon Kennard, who had seven sacks and 9 TFL last year with Detroit, and LB De’Vondre Campbell. This defense has a chance to be vastly improved over last year’s unit.
Conclusion: The Arizona Cardinals are an improved team from last year’s squad that won just five games but they are still a year or two away from being a serious contender in the NFC West. Still, this is not a team to be taken lightly this year. The offense got a major upgrade with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins. Kyler Murray is also in his 2nd year and a full season with Kenyan Drake at RB means this will be a complete offense this year. The defense has a lot of ground to make up after having such a bad season last year but they added LB Simmons and a couple of free-agent pick up that will help improve this unit greatly. The secondary still needs some work, though. Overall, the Cardinals are improved but I still see them finishing at just 8-8 on the year, but just wait until next season.