2015 NFC West Betting Preview: Seattle poised to Win Again

russell-wilsonTop to bottom, the NFC West was the conference’s toughest division in 2014. Seattle made their second consecutive Super Bowl while the Arizona Cardinals also earned a postseason spot. San Francisco finished a disappointing 8-8 a year after making the NFC Championship game; but the difficulty of playing in the West certainly didn’t help their cause. As for St. Louis, they were 6-10 but showed some promise that will help them compete in 2015. Speaking of which, Seattle still looks like the favorite, but there should be some shakeup in other spots, which we’ll discuss below.

4th in Division: San Francisco 49ers; 5-11 W/L Projection

colin-kaepernickStrengths: If there’s one thing that San Francisco did very well last year, it was run the football. They ranked fourth in the league with 136 rushing YPG, and this may not change under new head coach Jim Tomsula’s run-heavy philosophy. Frank Gore may no longer be carrying the ball here, but the franchise is hoping that second-year player Carlos Hyde can step into the role. New weapons RB Reggie Bush and WR Torrey Smith will help improve the offense too, meaning QB Colin Kaepernick may have a little more success than his poor campaign last year.

Weaknesses: Many of the prominent players who carried San Francisco to the NFC title game in 2012 and ’13 retired or left through free agency. Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Perrish Cox, Michael Crabtree, Aldon Smith, Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis are some of the key starters who are gone from last year. Tomsula may have some quality players to replace them, but lack of depth will be a huge problem on both sides of the ball. A new era has started in San Francisco and the road to wins may be slow at first.

3rd in Division: St. Louis Rams; 7-9 W/L Projection

tre-mason-ramsStrengths: St. Louis only tallied 40 sacks last year, but this statistic isn’t always indicative of the pressure that a team puts on quarterbacks. The Rams boast a very deep D-line that includes Robert Quinn, Chris Long, Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and, now, free agent Nick Fairley. If the below-average secondary (especially since losing CB E.J. Gaines to injury) can hold coverage long enough, St. Louis should harass QBs all year.

Weaknesses: The offense looks to be a reincarnation of last season – with the addition of quarterback Nick Foles – so don’t expect much here. Tavon Austin needs to show some development after being drafted 8th overall in 2013, because the rest of the receiving corp just isn’t very good. St. Louis hoped they had solved running back with the addition of Todd Gurley, but he’ll be out until the second half of the season. So once again, Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham will try to see what kind of yardage they can muster.

2nd in Division: Arizona Cardinals; 10-6 W/L Projection

carson-palmer-arizonaStrengths: The Cardinals aren’t particularly strong in one offensive area, but the sum of parts should equal moving the ball quite frequently. Everything begins with QB Carson Palmer, who was playing well until injuring his knee just six games into the season. He’ll have some good weapons to throw the ball to, with Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd all back. Andre Ellington, rookie David Johnson and Chris Johnson form what should be a productive, 3-headed backfield.

Weaknesses: Last year’s strength could be its weakness with the defense losing DE Darnell Dockett, DT Dan Williams and CB Antonio Cromartie to free agency, while LB Larry Foote retired. CB Patrick Peterson should lead what remains, but even he struggled in 2014 after being diagnosed with diabetes. The hope is that he has the disease under control and continues being his dominant self. Even if this is the case, though, the D-line needs to improve on their 35 sacks from a year ago, which may be difficult with no key offseason additions.

1st in Division: Seattle Seahawks; 12-4 W/L Projection

kam-chancellor-seattle-1Strengths: Provided Kam Chancellor ends his holdout soon, Seattle will once again sport the league’s most impressive secondary. New addition Cary Williams more than makes up for Brandon Browner’s defection to New England, Add in C Richard Sherman and S Earl Thomas and the “Legion of Boom” won’t miss a beat. Linebacker Bobby Wagner will be stalking opposing running backs and helping this team potentially make another Super Bowl.

Weaknesses: It’s hard to pick holes on this team, but receiver and the O-line have some question marks heading into 2015. Adding TE Jimmy Graham was huge and will give QB Russell Wilson a great No. 1 target. However, wide receiver is quite thin with Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette being the top options. The Seahawks gave away C Matt Ungar in the Graham trade and they lost James Carpenter to the Jets. Still, these problems may not be enough to slow down yet another highly talented Seahawks team.

Kam Chancellor Holdout with Seattle Seahawks could have Big Impact

kam-chancellor-seattle-1All-Pro safety Kam Chancellor has been a huge part of the Seattle Seahawks’ back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. Unfortunately, after watching several of his teammates get paid this summer, Chancellor is now locked in a bitter contract dispute.

The 27-year-old is certainly not holding out due to principle, but rather just because he thinks he’s severely underpaid at $4.55 million a year. However, there are two huge problems at play here:

1) Seattle only has $4.9 million in cap space left.
2) The team normally only negotiates contracts with players who are in their final year. Doing so with Chancellor, who’s signed until 2017, would break that policy.

Another issue that the talented safety has to deal with is all the money that he’s losing by not reporting to camp. Here’s a look at how the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta describes the situation:

“[T]he team can fine [Chancellor] for $30,000 for every day missed, so up to $330,000 at this point, along with the ability to recoup up to 25 percent of his signing bonus for this season (which as $1 million) if he misses all of training camp. The way that rule works is the team can ask to recoup 15 percent of his bonus after the sixth day and then one percent a day up to 25 percent. So, Chancellor would be subject to fines of up to $530,000 as of today. But fines are at team discretion and often waived once a player reports.”

kam-chancellor-seattleThe loss of money might not end with what Chancellor is missing out on now. If he doesn’t get a deal done by the start of the regular season, then he risks incurring more penalties. Just missing the first regular season game would mean that Seattle could recover up to 25% of his salary. Following four missed weeks, the Seahawks could recover 1/17 of the prorated amount of Chancellor’s earnings for every subsequent game.

Obviously there’s some incentive for him to report, given all the cash he’s losing. However, Seattle also has some incentive to reconsider because their other starting safety, Earl Thomas, is slowly recovering from an injury. If the Chancellor situation doesn’t get resolved soon, the team would trot out DeShawn Shead and Steven Terrell as starters – not exactly anchors of the the “Legion of Boom” defense.

Chancellor is definitely one of the cogs of this defense, and somebody that Seattle would love to coax back onto the field as quickly as possible. He’s racked up 375 tackles over the past four seasons along with 8 interceptions and 7 forced fumbles. The past two years he’s helped lead Seattle to a Super Bowl victory (2013-14) and another Super Bowl appearance. The Seahawks have their core back for the 2015-16 season and are once again primed for another excellent season. But a large part of this will require either offering Chancellor a new deal or convincing him to suit up anyways.

2014 Super Bowl Outcome Likely to change Future of NFL Teams

cliff-avril-seattleIn a day and age where NFL teams desperately reach for the next great quarterback while ignoring the rest of their roster, the Seattle Seahawks are an anomaly. Their GM, Joe Schneider, in collaboration with head coach Pete Carroll, took no shortcuts en route to transforming a middling team with no identity into the powerhouse that destroyed Denver 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII.

The league definitely took notice of this spectacle, as Seattle’s tall, lengthy corners, Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell, held the Broncos’ star-studded receiving corp in check. The league saw safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas make crushing hits whenever Peyton Manning did find his receivers for mostly harmless chunks of yards. They watched as Seattle’s pass rushers, Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril and Red Bryant, completely took one of history’s greatest quarterbacks out of his comfort zone. They witnessed the Seahawks’ offensive stars, Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, make huge plays whenever they were needed. And now, the league is going to act on what they saw in the 2014 Super Bowl.

You can count on a dozen or more teams working to build a roster that’s more akin to Seattle. And this means that defensive players will gain a little more value this offseason. Greg Hardy, T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are all set to make far more money this summer thanks to the Seattle Seahawks.

richard-sherman-seattleTeams have already been gravitating towards quarterbacks who can throw on the run. However, guys like Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater gain even more value in the draft after Wilson helped lead Seattle to a championship. Furthermore, the prototypical height requirement of 6’3″ or taller is diminished because of the 5’11” Wilson.

Running back committees have almost become automatic in this day and age. But when looking at the success Seattle had with a bruising, workhorse back like Lynch and a competent backup in Robert Turbin, getting somebody who can carry the load will be of extreme importance.

The Seahawks have definitely created the template here. And multiple teams will now be hoping to emulate Seattle’s roster. Obviously some organizations will fail badly at doing so. Others might achieve the success of San Francisco and Carolina, which are both very similar to Seattle. But will anybody be able to reach the heights that the Seahawks did this year? Or will it be the team from the Pacific Northwest repeating again as champs? You can bet that this will be a busy offseason as teams try to prevent the latter from happening again.