NFC West preview

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August 31, 2017 by squish

(Courtesy of Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Written by John Avino

Seattle Seahawks

2016-17 record: 10-5-1(1st)

Key additions: RB Eddie Lacy, K Blair Walsh, G Luke Joeckel

Key losses: RB MarShawn Lynch, TE Brandon Williams, K Steven Hauschka

The Seahawks come into the season this year relatively unchanged. In past years, the team has lost free agents or key pieces in the offseason that greatly affected their next season outlook, but this year they have retained most key pieces while also helping certain areas. The biggest move they made this offseason was training MarShawn Lynch’s rights away, and he hadn’t suited up for them in over a year.

Eddie Lacy looks to bring a change of pace back to the Seahawks running back corps that already includes Thomas Rawls and CJ Prosise. While his role is still somewhat undefined, Seattle will be happy to have another power back in the aftermath of Lynch’s Seahawk days.

The biggest issue the Hawks face may be with themselves. There has been plenty of offseason chatter about Richard Sherman and his supposed dislike of Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson, and other members of the Seahawks offensive unit, which everyone on the team has made seem overplayed. It does not change the fact that they were actively shopping Sherman earlier in the offseason.

2017-18 prediction: 10-6 (T-1st)

Team MVP: QB Russell Wilson

The Seahawks will win 10 games once again, but since I can’t predict a tie, I will give them a record of 10-6. They still have elite personnel at all the major positions on both sides of the ball, and they have added a few weapons through the draft and free agency which should help Russell Wilson score more points this season.

Arizona Cardinals

2016-17 record: 7-8-1 (2nd)

Key additions: S Antoine Bethea, LB Karlos Dansby, K Phil Dawson, OLB Jarvis Jones

Key losses: DE Calais Campbell, TE Darren Fells

The Cardinals had a lot of turnover at a lot of different major positions this offseason. The good news for them is that they were able to restock and replenish a lot of their losses with upgrades or younger players with a lot more current potential. Their defense added a couple of young playmakers Budda Baker and Haason Reddick that should make some noise right away. Adding them to a talented defensive unit already including Tyrann Mathieu and Pat Peterson should be a lot of fun to watch.

On offense, David Johnson showed the world just how big of a start he could be by barreling his way to the top of nearly every major rushing category. Larry Fitzgerald continues to amaze and silence critics, as the future Hall of Famer still looks to have plenty of gas left in the tank.

But, it really all comes down to Carson Palmer and whether or not he can stay healthy. We know what he is capable of when he is out there, but sometimes that “when” is more of a “if”. Bruce Arians has always coached up his backups pretty well also, but I am sure he is hoping to not have to go that route.

2017-18 prediction: 10-6 (T-1st)

Team MVP: RB David Johnson

The Cardinals will pace the Seahawks with 10 wins this year. David Johnson will rush for over 2000 yards and 15 touchdowns, leaving everyone else in the dust. The new defense will have a couple of early season hiccups, but ultimately will be one of the deepest, most fun units to watch.

Los Angeles Rams

2016-17 record: 4-12 (3rd)

Key additions:  Head Coach Sean McVay, WR Sammy Watkins, WR Robert Woods, OT Andrew Whitworth, DE Connor Barwin

Key losses: C Tim Barnes, WR Kenny Britt

The Los Angeles Rams hit close to home. I have been a Rams fan since the days of the best show on turf, and no, their move to LA and constant losing has hardly affected my affliction for them. Last year was a mess. From Jeff Fisher’s extension and firing, to Jared Goff and Todd Gurley’s struggles at the peril of a terrible offensive line, to Greg Williams’ outdated defensive looks getting burnt. The San Francisco 49ers had two wins last season, and they were both at the defeat of the Rams. That should tell you plenty about their season.

The Rams got better in the places they needed to. Head Coach, defensive coordinator, wide receiver, offensive line; you name it, the Rams improved it. I have no doubt their defense, which now under the tutelage of Wade Phillips, will return to elite status once again this year, especially up front. The additions of Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods give the Rams two legitimate wide receivers on the outside, matching perfectly with the uber talented slot receiving of Tavon Austin. Andrew Whitworth is both a huge upgrade for the offensive line, but perhaps more so of an upgrade to the leadership of this Rams team.

The biggest issue for the Rams is the hold out of star defensive lineman Aaron Donald. He has dominated the position his first two years in the NFL, and rightfully so is looking for a pay raise. If he misses even a little of the regular season, their defense takes a huge step down.

2017-18 prediction: 8-8 (3rd)

Team MVP: RB Todd Gurley

The Rams will improve greatly in the first year of Head Coach Sean McVay’s tenure, and win 8 games. I want so badly to compare McVay to Mike Tomlin; both very young, exciting, relatable guys when they were first hired. I think he will bring a new found fire to this team, and drastically help Jared Goff’s development as he was able to do with Kirk Cousins. Aaron Donald will return before the season begins, and Todd Gurley will return to form and finish in the top 10 in rushing.

San Francisco 49ers

2016-17 record: 2-14 (4th)

Key additions: QB Brian Hoyer, WR Pierre Garcon, DL Soloman Thomas, LB Reuben Foster

Key losses: WR Torrey Smith, QB Colin Kaepernick, S Antoine Bathea, K Phil Dawson, LB Ahmad Brooks

The 49ers season can’t be called more of a mess than I called the Rams, because as I said earlier, both of their wins came against the Rams last season. The 49ers are heading in a completely different direction with the hirings of GM John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. Both have already made significant progress in upgrading this team.

GM John Lynch had a great draft, as he was able to draft both Soloman Thomas and Reuben Foster, both players he later said he would have taken with the 3rd pick if necessary. QB Brian Hoyer continues his journeyman career, as he will get yet another shot at a starting quarterback job. The defense continues to get younger, and thus less expensive, however the lack of veteran leadership could come back to haunt them at times this season.

2017-18 prediction: 4-12 (4th)

Team MVP: Navarro Bowman

The 49ers will double their win total from last season, but it will still be a struggle for them to compete in the division. Their offense replaced a couple of stagnant receivers with very minor upgrades, and their defense, while younger, will take more time to get their legs under them because of the youth and inexperience.

Conference X-Factor: Sammy Watkins

Sammy could throw a wrinkle in the plans of the rest of the division. If he stays healthy and finds a good repore with Jared Goff, they could be a match made in heaven for Todd Gurley’s rushing attack, which could lead to a lot more offensive production from LA’s unit!

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