It’s almost here.
The Seattle Seahawks are two days away from beginning their quest for another NFC West title. We know they want a lot more than just divisional bragging rights, but being at the top of a brutal division such as this one is an accomplishment in itself.
Just as we did last year, the Field Gulls staff has gotten together and written down their predictions for the NFC West race. However, we’re doing something a little different and splitting this into three parts. There are a lot of new staff writers who’ve joined Field Gulls for their very first season and the first two parts are exclusively their spots. This post features the veterans. These are lengthy reads so I hope you’ve got some time on your hands.
Part 1: Wilson Conn and Willie Keeler
Part 2: Frank T. Raines, Stan Taylor, and a cameo from Terrance Robinson (thadisrad) who is our Pre-Snap Reads compiler
Part 3: Yours truly, Tyler Alsin, John P. Gilbert, and Brandan Schulze
1.) Los Angeles Rams: 12-5
2.) Seattle Seahawks: 11-6 (WC)
3.) San Francisco 49ers: 9-8 (WC)
4.) Arizona Cardinals: 7-10
You can make a genuine case for any one of these teams to win the NFC West and make a good playoff run, and also a genuine case for any of them to finish last.
I clearly underestimated the Rams and thought they’d fall off last year. Instead they ended the Seahawks’ season and got to the Divisional Round. It’s hard to maintain elite defensive play over consecutive years and the losses of Troy Hill and John Johnson (not to mention DC Brandon Staley) has me thinking they’re due to drop a few spots, but not too big a drop because, ya know, Aaron Donald. But the offense should get an upgrade with Matthew Stafford over Jared Goff, and unless Stafford is washed up or can’t play in McVay’s offense, I think they’ll be able to edge out Seattle to return to the NFC West’s top. They have a great receiving duo and for some reason that team suffers few serious injuries.
So why do I think the Seahawks will finish 2nd? Well… while they have the best quarterback in the division, I don’t think they have near the deepest or best roster in the division. That matters a ton when you get to the inevitability of injuries, and this has been a problem for the Seahawks in each of the last two seasons. This cornerback situation is terrifying and it may be the team’s undoing when it comes to being championship contenders. Their status as a playoff team is reliant on the offense remaining one of the NFL’s best under a new OC and not having the type of in-season growing pains that can flip a W to an L. We’ll soon find out whether the end of 2020 was a blip for Russell Wilson or the beginning of the end of his prime. I think that’ll be staved off and give Seattle another 10+ win season. But the defense is going to be picked on often if they cannot generate a consistent pass rush, at which point it’s open season on the outside.
San Francisco probably has the best roster but the worst QB situation. Trey Lance is either going to have to be generational out of the gate or Jimmy G will play at a high-level. That defense is more than formidable when healthy and their rushing attack is going to be absolutely lethal. And yet I see them only barely making the playoffs. Garoppolo will be benched for Lance, who will dazzle at times and frustrate Kyle Shanahan on other occasions.
Arizona is another year away. And by that I mean they’re gonna end up firing Kliff Kingsbury after he blows it in clutch situations. Much like Seattle, Arizona has major question marks at cornerback while having better talent on other parts of the defense. Offensively I just think that for all of Kingsbury’s “genius” he holds Kyler Murray back with his stubbornness and bizarre love of the horizontal passing game. One of these teams is going to be much worse than we think and I see it being the Cards, who will take a step back before making that next leap forward.
- Seattle Seahawks: 13-4
- Los Angeles Rams: 11-6
- San Francisco 49ers: 8-9
- Arizona Cardinals: 7-10
It seems that with all of the offseason drama (and maybe even a little preseason drama) fans of other NFL franchises have forgotten which team won this division last year and are overlooking the Seahawks in their predictions. If Russell Wilson can channel that seething discontent we saw in his eyes while sitting next to Roger Goodell in the Super Bowl and use that through the entire season, he’ll finally get some of those elusive MVP votes.
Is Matt Stafford good enough to get the Rams one more win this season? Probably. But he has proven that he’s not good enough when it matters most to be able to win in the playoffs. Plus, has anyone pointed out the fact that Stafford is literal kryptonite to all running backs? Reggie Bush was the only back to barely squeak out 1,000 yards taking hand offs from Stafford back in 2013 and the guy was never the same. Is it a coincidence nobody has seen ageless wonder Adrian Peterson since last season?
Overall, the 49ers may have the most talented roster in the NFC West. I’m not looking forward to watching the Seahawks having to face off against their front seven. A big reason why they’re so talented is because they’re consistently picking in the top 10. Listening to 49ers fans you’d think that they’ve won the division more than once since 2012, but it’s only because they’re constantly trumpeting Dre Greenlaw’s name as the guy who got them that title. We’ve seen for nearly the entirety of the Kyle Shanahan era, a great defense only gets you so far. I think Trey Lance can eventually be the one to lead the team, but I can’t pick them to have a winning record until they hand the reins to him.
The Cardinals are consistently the most overrated team in the division and maybe even the entire conference. Fortunately, the Cardinals franchise has the second-best quarterback in the division with Kyler Murray paired with one of the best wide receivers in the NFL (thanks Bill O’Brien). Unfortunately, for Cardinals fans, they also have the worst coach in the NFC West. For that reason, it will keep them on the non-winning side of the standings for the third straight year.
1.) Seattle Seahawks (12-5, with one Poona Ford touchdown this year)
Seattle was the divisional winner last year and I believe their roster is better this year. They will be the winners.
2.) San Francisco 49ers (11-6, Wild Card, with much Jimmy Garoppolo mockery)
San Francisco has a very good roster and just a guy throwing footballs at quarterback.
3.) Los Angeles Rams (11-6, Wild Card, with their offense just making Stafford look all too familiar)
To be fair I think Los Angeles will actually tie S.F. but I dislike them more, so third it is. Matt Stafford is better, the overall roster is not.
4.) Arizona Cardinals (9-8, in what is just the stupidest NFL record in this strange new world)
Arizona finished fourth last year, and I do not believe their roster has improved. They will finish fourth this year.
John P. Gilbert
- Los Angeles Rams
- Seattle Seahawks
- San Francisco 49ers
- Arizona Cardinals
Yeah, yeah, yeah, spare me the, “Rams are overrated; the Seahawks won the division last year takes.” Since Sean McVay took over for Jeff Fisher, he’s 6-3 when facing off against Pete Carroll, with those three losses coming in games in which a potentially game-winning touchdown pass hit Cooper Kupp in the hands in the final seconds, a potentially game winning field goal sailed wide in the final seconds and the third in a game in which Jared Goff played much of the game with a broken thumb on his throwing hand.
So, in short, if the Hawks want to be the favorites, they need to figure out how to beat a team that has had their number the past four years and which will have a big upgrade at quarterback for the 2021 season. Now, I won’t be all that surprised if Seattle wins the West this season, it’s just not what I expect. Also, of note is that we’ll get to see whether the steady decline of the Rams offensive potency in recent seasons was the result of Jared Goff’s incompetence, or whether it was systemic limitations of McVay’s offense. In any case, I expect the Rams and Seahawks to be the top two in the division.
And then there are the 49ers. Their fans want them to be good. Their fans believe they’ll be competitors. Their fans constantly remind those around them about their five Super Bowl wins, but that’s largely because that’s basically all they have. The 49ers have four winning seasons in the last eighteen years, with three of those seasons bunched together in the early part of last decade. The 49ers have as many fourth place finishes in the NFC West since 2015 as they have winning seasons since 2003. In addition, the only reason the 49ers haven’t finished last in the division in five of the last six seasons is because when they had the second worst record in football in 2018, they just so happened to play in the same division as the team that had the absolute worst record in the NFL. They did what they could, though, because in 2018 they did get swept by the team that ended up with the first pick overall in 2019.
Finally getting around to Arizona, head coach Kliff Kingsbury is probably in his last season before the Cards hire Shane Waldron. Kingsbury hasn’t been horrible in Arizona, and his .422 winning percentage in the NFL isn’t all that different from his .467 winning percentage at Texas Tech, but he sure hasn’t been all that successful. Perhaps 2020 turns out differently if Murray stays healthy, but what ifs don’t pay the bills in the NFL. If the season turns south early, the drubbing the Cardinals take in Seattle the Sunday before Thanksgiving and heading into their bye could be Kliff’s finale. (Obviously it probably won’t be, but you better believe if it is you guys will never hear the end of it from me.)
To summarize the three parts in case you’ve not read them all:
- Everyone thinks the Seahawks will make the playoffs
- Terrance, Frank, Stan, Brandan, and Tyler are picking Seattle to win the NFC West
- Myself, Gilbert, and Wilson are going with the Los Angeles Rams to finish first
- Willie is on his own picking the 49ers as NFC West champs
- No one believes in the Cardinals as a division-winning team
And now, we wait to see the results unfold...