Welcome to week 2 of my young, wild and accurate predictions on how the NFL season will play out this year. This week I will display my in-depth look at the always enjoyable NFC West. The NFC West hasn’t been as exciting as it once was, instead of 4 contenders there are pretty much just 2 these days, and you’ll learn about that in just a second. First, let’s start at the bottom.
With a depressing 1 – 15 record, the Rams make a sorry debut in Los Angeles. This one is hard to believe, but bear with me. This years Hard Knocks squad has an insanely tough schedule with playing each NFC West team twice (and scooping up 1 win against the 49ers), and then playing contenders like New England and Carolina, followed by many proven threats in the league. Realistically they could get 5 wins at most, but I couldn’t see them winning any of their match-ups. Of course, the Rams are kings when it comes to upsets, so I’m sure they’ll squeeze a few out. This is a big year for Coach Fischer, now that he has the team he’s hand-picked he will be pressed to succeed, and I just don’t see that happening.
Following the Rams is the San Francisco 49ers at 5 – 11. I’m one of the few believers out there that thinks Chip Kelly might actually do well coaching this team. He is a good coach, there’s no denying that, and he has the kind of QB he likes working with. With the 49ers, he declined the option of controlling personnel changes, so he can’t become the control freak he was in Philadelphia. Plus, I always like a nice underdog story. With all that being said, this team is not what it used to be by any measure. Even with a top 5 coach at the helm (and Chip certainly isn’t that), it would be tough to grab 9 wins. I doubt Chip finds much success this season.
Now things get interesting, we have ourselves a tie for first place.
At 12 – 4, we have the Arizona Cardinals in second place, and at 12 – 4 we have the Seattle Seahawks taking 1st. Confused yet? I had to factor in tiebreakers of course, which is the teams’ in-division records. Guess what? Both teams went 5 -1 in the division (loosing a game to each other, ironically). The backup tiebreaker is in-Conference record, with Arizona going 8 – 4 and Seattle going 9 – 3, and that decides it for us.
Both of these teams are going to have great years. Arizona’s defense got a hell of a lot scarier with Chandler Jones joining the line; I don’t see them loosing a step from last year except for maybe some even more exceptional work by running back David Johnson. This is a big year for Arizona, the Palmer – Fitzgerald window is very short, they need to make some magic while they still can.
Seattle is a bit different from last year. The defense will be elite as always, but the big change of pace is in the offense. Mark my words; this is the year of Russell Wilson. When Lynch was the dude there, they were a run-heavy team, and it worked wonders for them. But last year they struggled at the beginning of the season. It became clear Lynch couldn’t carry the team like he used to, so they had to adjust. And as we saw last year, they started to become a pass-oriented team (remember Dougie Baldwin’s 9 TD’s in 5 games? I certainly do). This year, Wilson will finally be able to call the offense his own, and I think with a healthy Jimmy Graham in the lineup things will work much better throughout the year unlike last year. For me, they’re probably the only true threat to Carolina in the NFC (who I have Seattle beating in the regular season).
I am pretty confident in my predictions for this division, next week I’ll cover the NFC North, which is much more neck and neck. Stay tuned folks.