This ended the Seattle Seahawks’ run of two consecutive NFC West titles. But the Seahawks still had a good year, finishing 10-6 and making the postseason.
The Los Angeles Rams had another mediocre season, finishing 7-9 amid quarterback struggles. They hope that drafting QB Jared Goff number one overall and a move to L.A. re-energizes the franchise.
As for the San Francisco 49ers, they’d settle for respectability following a 5-11 campaign that saw coach Jim Tomsula fired after one season. The team hopes that Chip Kelly can get San Francisco on the right track again.
Overall, this will be a two-team race for the division title, while the Rams hold long-shot postseason dreams. Let’s take a closer look at each team individually.
NFC West Betting Odds to Win Division (from GTBets)
Los Angeles +1300
San Francisco +3000
1. Arizona Cardinals: Projected Record 13-3
In Bruce Arians’ three seasons, Arizona has gone 33-15 and made the playoffs the last two years. Considering that the Cardinals are bringing back the same squad from this successful run, we see them being just as good – if not better.
The passing game will be a definite strong point, with QB Carson Palmer coming off a career year. He threw for 4,671 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.
A big reason for Palmer’s success is the weapons that he has, including Larry Fitzgerald (1,215 yards, 9 TDs), John Brown (1,003 yards, 7 TDs), and Michael Floyd (849 yards, 6 TDs). Add in the fact that RB David Johnson is also a receiving threat, and Palmer should once again have a strong season.
Speaking of Johnson, he’s been tabbed as a breakout player after producing over 1,000 combined yards and 12 touchdowns. Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington will also factor into the ground game.
The defense will be really good, with Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, Deone Bucannon, Kevin Minter, Patrick Peterson, and Tyrann Mathieu all being standouts.
Arizona has all the components of a championship contender. But their first goal will be triumphing over what figures to be a tough NFC West.
2. Seattle Seahawks: Projected Record 11-5
For the first time in three seasons, the Seattle Seahawks failed to make the Super Bowl, losing 31-24 to the Carolina Panthers in the divisional round.
Seattle is no doubt motivated to come back strong, with All-Pro quarterback Russell Wilson leading the way. He passed for 4,024 yards and 34 touchdowns, and rushed for 553 yards, which are MVP-type numbers.
One strong suit of Wilson’s is spreading the ball around, as three different receivers and a tight end gained over 600 yards. Doug Baldwin led this balanced effort with 1,069 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.
The run game will be questionable heading into this year. But Thomas Rawls looks solid after rushing for 830 yards and 4 TDs last season. He’ll be backed up by Christine Michael and C.J. Prosise.
The defense is filled with familiar names, including Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman. This unit contains no true weaknesses and should once again be feared by opposing offenses.
Seattle has all the components to be a championship contender again. But the running game is a question mark, as Rawls and others look to replace the retired Marshawn Lynch.
3. L.A. Rams: Projected Record 8-8
2015 was another middling year for Jeff Fisher’s squad as they went 7-9 and missed the playoffs. This leaves Fisher 27-36-1 with the Rams, making this a must-win year for the coach to keep his job.
If Fisher is to win, he’ll have to do it without star quarterback play. Nick Foles was a disaster last season, forcing the Rams to turn to Case Keenum, who produced 828 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Keenum will start this year until Jared Goff is ready.
The one reliable component of the Rams’ attack will be second-year RB Todd Gurley, who rushed for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. As long as Gurley stays healthy, he could have an even better campaign this season.
The defense will anchor L.A. this year. From S Marc Barron and LB James Laurinaitis making tackles, to DT Aaron Donald and DE Robert Quinn getting sacks, the Rams defense is hard to score on.
But the main question is if their offense can score enough points to keep the defense off the field. If so, then L.A. has a chance at an 8-8 or 9-7 record.
4. San Francisco 49ers: Projected Record 3-13
San Francisco made a bold move to acquire Chip Kelly after he was let go by the Philadelphia Eagles. Kelly had success in terms of his record (27-21), but he lost the locker room in his third and final season.
He’s already dealing with a murky situation as QB Colin Kaepernick refuses to stand for the national anthem. It also doesn’t help that Kelly will have a tough time deciding whether Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert will start at quarterback. The two combined for 3,631 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions while splitting time as the starter.
If Carlos Hyde stays healthy, the running game could be good. The third-year player rushed for 470 yards and 3 touchdowns in just 7 games last season.
The defense is another question mark for this team after allowing 28 PPG and 387.4 YPG, ranking 29th in both categories. The team only managed to force 12 turnovers last year, which is a stat that must improve if they’re to do any better in 2016.
Despite a new coach, the prospects look grim for San Francisco to avoid the NFC East cellar. Barring a miracle, they’ll be one of the worst teams in the NFL.