2016 NFC West Betting Preview

Carson PalmerThe Arizona Cardinals were the cream of the NFC West crop last year, finishing with a 13-3 record and making the NFC Championship game.

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)

Arizona +130
Los Angeles +1300
San Francisco +3000
Seattle -140

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.

david-johnson-cardinalsA 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.

2015-nfl-playoffs-russell-wilsonOne 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.

todd-gurley-ramsKeenum’s job won’t be easy with the mediocre receiving options on this team, including Kenny Britt (681 yards, 3 TDs) and Tavon Austin (473 yards, 5 TDs).

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.

The receiving corp isn’t exactly stacked, with Torrey Smith (663 yards) and Bruce Ellington (153 yards) slated to start at receiver.

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.

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.

Seattle Seahawks Betting: Marshawn Lynch Saga serving as Distraction

marshawn-lynch-seattleAside from Dallas’ DeMarco Murray, there’s not a player who’s running the football better than the Seattle Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch. You need only look at this highlight from a couple of weeks ago as further evidence of his dominance:

Looking past the highlight reels, though, things are not good in Seattle. The defending Super Bowl champions are coming off a 24-20 loss to Kansas City and sitting just 6-4 right now. What’s more is that controversy has been brewing over Lynch’s refusal to go into the lockerroom at halftime of the game against the Chiefs.

Word is that he aggravated a back injury and didn’t think he could make it back to the lockerroom without treatment. However, the 20-degree weather that Lynch stayed out in during halftime makes some question this report.

The more popular theory is that Lynch is angry that Seattle probably won’t keep him around after this season. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen broke this report, which claims that the Seahawks have “grown tired of his ways, including pulling a no-show at the White House Super Bowl ceremony, his camp holdout, and his possible contribution to locker-room distractions.”

Another story from NFL Network claims that the running back is putting some of the blame on head coach Pete Carroll for letting negative news stories leak regarding Lynch. The 28-year-old didn’t exactly offer assurance that the reports are false. “Pete’s my head coach. Well, I mean, you know, he’s really not in my position meetings…It ain’t like we get to chop it up like that,” he said when asked if he and Coach Carroll were still on speaking terms. Lynch also said that he didn’t know if he’d be back in Seattle and he “just plays the game.”

marshawn-lynch-seattle-1Carroll had a bit more to say on the matter during a segment with 710 ESPN. After discussing how well Lynch has played this year and how “he’s never played better,” Carroll got into the contract issues over the summer by saying the following:

“So all that under consideration, I think (it) still goes back to summertime, talking about the contract and stuff like that. There was some conversations that not everything always works out exactly the way you want it. So we will do everything we can to keep our guys with us. You know that we’ve done that.

Marshawn was the first guy we turned to way back then, because he deserved it, he had earned it and he had been the guy that had shown that special quality and that makeup that we cherished so much. The competitiveness and all of that.

Years later in the contract, you look at it, well, it’s not quite the same deal. I think we had plenty of conversations about that in the summer time. He made his decisions to stay out and we respected that, too. We had no problem with that.

So as we’re moving forward, he’s giving us everything he’s got and we’re working through it and that’s where that is right now. This football team is determined to do well. We still have a lot out there. This is a tremendous finish opportunity and Marshawn, hopefully if he can get back again this week, he’ll be right in the middle of it with us.”

As Carroll tried to put a positive spin on, the main problem goes back to how Lynch is outperforming his contract, yet the team doesn’t want to pay him. Including base salary, signing and roster bonuses, Lynch made $8.5 million last year and $8 million this season. He’s set to make another $8 million in 2015, however, it’s very possible that he won’t be around to collect that money. And if that’s true, it will really put a dent in Seattle’s future running game.