NFC West projections in July? Okay, it may be way too early to begin thinking about the NFL season, but who else can’t wait until fall? In this way-too-early series, I will give my take on each of the NFL divisions and how I believe they will shape up. Last year, the division was dominated by one team. Will the same be true in 2019?
Way-Too-Early NFC West Projections
Arizona Cardinals (5-11)(2-4)
Losses: at Baltimore Ravens (week 2), Carolina Panthers (week 3), at Cincinnati Bengals (week 5), at New York Giants (week 7), at New Orleans Saints (week 8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (week 10), at San Francisco 49ers (week 11), Los Angeles Rams (week 13), Pittsburgh Steelers (week 14), at Seattle Seahawks (week 16), at Los Angeles Rams (week 17)
Last year, the Cardinals “earned” the number-one overall pick in the NFL Draft. While they used that pick on Heisman-winning quarterback Kyler Murray, Arizona will have an uphill battle. With an offense featuring Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson, Murray should be able to put up significant numbers. On defense, the Cardinals will be led by Chandler Jones and newly-signed veteran Terrell Suggs. Within the secondary, Patrick Peterson, D.J. Swearinger, and Budda Baker will be able to lock down opposing receivers. This talent alone will make the Cardinals competitive. The big question will be whether or not new Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury, who was fired from the same position at Texas Tech, will be able to turn their fortune.
Between facing the NFC South and the AFC North, the Cardinals do not have an easy road. The wins are there, though. Their games against Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, and New York could easily flip to the win column. Honestly, if Murray is even half-way decent, the Cardinals could be a middle-of-the-road to an average team. The roster is ripe with talent, so watch out for Arizona to be a dark horse. Even if Fitzgerald has lost a step, the wide receiver corps of Christian Kirk, Hakeem Butler, and Andy Isabella will certainly pick up the slack.
San Francisco 49ers (6-10)(1-5)
Losses: at Cincinnati Bengals (week 2), Pittsburgh Steelers (week 3), Cleveland Browns (week 5), at Los Angeles Rams (week 6), at Arizona Cardinals (week 9), Seattle Seahawks (week 10), at Baltimore Ravens (week 13), at New Orleans Saints (week 14), Los Angeles Rams (week 16), Seattle Seahawks (week 17)
Composing the NFC West projections for 2019 was certainly difficult. The talent level and potential of the San Francisco 49ers were a major issue. Jimmy Garoppolo certainly has the potential to be a franchise quarterback, but can he stay healthy? By drafting Deebo Samuel, the 49rs gave Garoppolo another solid threat alongside breakout tight end George Kittle. The running backs do leave some question marks, of course. Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, and Jerick McKinnon are all solid in their own right, but will any of them step up and become “the guy?” Defensively, the 49ers drafted Nick Bosa, who was widely considered to be the top prospect in the draft. They also traded for Dee Ford from Kansas City, who will fortify their defensive line.
Like Arizona, San Francisco has the potential to be better than their projected record. If they take down Cincinnati, Cleveland, sweep Arizona, and avoid getting swept by either Seattle or L.A., the 49ers could certainly make noise. If there is going to be a reason that they are to fail, it will have to be the absurdly early bye week. Even if they can get within the wild card race, a week four bye will fatigue this team. The 49ers will be at risk of another less-than-ideal season if the injuries begin to pile up.
Seattle Seahawks (11-5)(4-2)
Wins: Cincinnati Bengals (week 1), at Pittsburgh Steelers (week 2), New Orleans Saints (week 3), Los Angeles Rams (week 5), at Cleveland Browns (week 6), at Atlanta Falcons (week 8), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (week 9), at San Francisco 49ers (week 10), Minnesota Vikings (week 13), Arizona Cardinals (week 16), San Francisco 49ers (week 17)
Losses: at Arizona Cardinals (week 4), Baltimore Ravens (week 7), at Philadelphia Eagles (week 12), at Los Angeles Rams (week 14), at Carolina Panthers (week 15)
Russell Wilson is going to lead Seattle back to the playoffs. While Seattle may not strike as much fear as they used to, they will field a formidable team. Possibly the most interesting prospect in the 2019 draft was D.K. Metcalf. With Doug Baldwin retiring, the receivers will have to show up. The one area where Seattle should improve is the offensive line. Both Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny will be solid running backs and should push each other towards being great.
If, for whatever reason, morale is low in Seattle, getting to carve up that Cincinnati Bengals defense in week one will certainly provide them with positive momentum for their crucial run of at Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and L.A. If they can manage to take care of business and not drop a game against a lesser opponent, we could have an extremely tight and exciting race for the division!
Los Angeles Rams (12-4)(5-1)
Wins: at Carolina Panthers (week 1), New Orleans Saints (week 2), at Cleveland Browns (week 3), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (week 4), San Francisco 49ers (week 6), Cincinnati Bengals (week 8, in London), Baltimore Ravens (week 12), at Arizona Cardinals (week 13), Seattle Seahawks (week 14), at Dallas Cowboys (week 15) at San Francisco 49ers (week 16), Arizona Cardinals (week 17)
Losses: at Seattle Seahawks (week 5), at Atlanta Falcons (week 7), at Pittsburgh Steelers (week 10), Chicago Bears (week 11)
The defending NFC champions are going to be the favorites in most NFC West projections. I think it needs no real explanation for why the Rams will be favored. In terms of top-to-bottom talent, you would be hard-pressed to find a roster that is better. Jared Goff will have an MVP-worthy season thanks to the fact that his weapons are absolutely monstrous. Todd Gurley was the top running back in 2018 and should continue that into 2019, despite his late-season injury. Cooper Kupp and Gerald Everett are young playmakers who could take the pressure off of Goff. Defensively, the Rams are led by Aaron Donald, who is arguably the best defender in the game. From front seven to their secondary, who are led by veterans Aqib Talib and Eric Weddle, it’s going to be difficult to score.
Between their two matchups with Seattle, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and Baltimore, L.A. is going to be tested. Considering that they were ever-so-close to winning the Super Bowl last year, it can be expected that the Rams will be able to show up. As one of the most exciting teams in football, Los Angeles will challenge to win the NFC yet again.
An American Football Tale: Victory Goes West
No matter the situation, Russell Wilson will have his team competing. In addition to that, L.A. is going to be as good from top to bottom as any in the league. If Arizona and San Francisco can steal a few wins here and there, the NFC West will be more competitive than the AFC North. These way-too-early NFC West projections predict an exciting season from all four teams in the division. Now that three NFC divisions have been decided, with Philadelphia winning the east, Chicago in the north, and now L.A., the playoff picture is starting to take shape. Check back for the finale of the way-too-early projections series where we decide how the NFC South will shape up.
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