After thousands of words typed, a handful of draft classes analyzed, and a lot of time debating the probable outcomes for each division, we’ve somehow made it to the last division preview in one piece.
To cap off these rather exciting division previews, we’re going on a voyage to the NFC West, where running the football takes top priority among the big dogs in the division.
The Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers are prepared to duke it out once again for the division crown, an undersized quarterback in the Arizona desert has made plenty of off-season headlines, and after unveiling their underwhelming new uniforms, the Los Angeles Rams are looking to rebound after missing the playoffs a year after an appearance in Super Bowl 53.
So much intrigue within this division with the talent to match. We could be looking at a situation where all 4 of the teams in the NFC West could be fighting for playoff spots, but let’s save that juicy discussion and my personal football fantasy for later on.
For now, let’s indulge in what all the NFC West has to offer and then you can make your own picks at playbonuscode.
Best Offense: San Francisco 49ers
I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t expect this 49ers offense to look so intimidating as it did last season. There were too many questions surrounding Jimmy Garoppolo, Kyle Shanahan had yet to put out a decent season as a head coach, and the offense as a whole had quite a number of question marks that didn’t have the easiest of answers.
That’s why it was incredible to watch this offense play off of its defense, and shred teams apart with their dominant ground game, ultimately becoming a face in the the revival of run first offenses.
The running back room simply put on a show each and every week, keeping defenses on their toes throughout the year by constantly spreading carries out among the group. Once the ground game got going, Garoppolo went ahead and diced defenses up with play action, making this offense one of the more deadly ones in the entire league.
George Kittle was a big beneficiary of the play action heavy scheme, putting up elite numbers among tight ends, and becoming the face of this 49ers passing attack. The wide receiver group was no slouch either, and with the additions the team made to the group this off-season, it’s hard to not get excited about the future of this young, talented offense.
However, with the success of a run first offense, comes the howls and cries of offensive regression. It’s true, run first offenses tend to go up and down in terms of overall production from year to year, due to the likely cruel possibilities of failure in the run game.
But I tend to believe this sort of offense is different, mostly due to Kyle Shanahan’s ability to make changes in scheme and play design whenever it’s needed. I also can’t forget about the smorgasbord of talent that’s still residing on the 49ers roster at wide receiver, running back, and tight end.
There’s going to be a dip in terms of efficiency from this offense, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
But the dip won’t be catastrophic, to the point 49ers fans start to question the current product that’s set to be put on the field.
I’m a big believer in this unit, only time will tell if my belief is foolish, or warranted.
Best Defense: San Francisco 49ers
Even with the departure of DeForest Buckner, the 49ers’s defense is still the top unit in the NFC West by far.
The defensive line is still rich with talent and depth, and should have plenty of options available to make up for the loss of Buckner’s production. The same disruptive pieces that gained so much recognition a year ago, are back and should be in position to dominate once again. 2020 1st round pick Javon Kinlaw is a new piece to the defensive line puzzle, and he’s a name you all should become familiar with this season, and as we head towards the future.
The linebacker group is still full of playmaking and athleticism in the way of Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner. If this group can avoid the nagging injury bug, we’ll be discussing the true overall cohesive dominance of this defense, instead of shining most of the light on that insane defensive line.
There isn’t much to say about this secondary either. Richard Sherman is clearly the top dog in this corner group, but opposite him at CB2, there isn’t a lot get excited for.
Emmanuel Moseley, Jason Verrett, and Ahkello Witherspoon stand as the best available candidates to fill that CB2 spot heading into the 2020 season, but each player has their own shortcomings that make it difficult to slide either option in as the surefire CB2.
Moseley didn’t impress enough to lock down the CB2 job after somewhat locking it down towards the end of last season, Verrett can’t stay healthy to save his life, and Witherspoon struggled with inconsistency in 2019.
I’m sure the 49ers aren’t panicking over the potential lack of quality opposite Sherman, but they’d probably want more consistency at that spot as well.
Regardless of these questions facing the secondary, I’m not at all concerned about this 49ers defense. This is why the 49ers going back to Super Bowl has excellent odds at fandel us codes.
Impact Rookie: Isaiah Simmons
This pick scares me a bit, but not at the fault of Simmons himself.
I remember the talk of Haason Reddick a couple of years ago, about how the Cardinals were planning to use him all over the field at multiple positions, giving him a barrage of opportunities to make plays early on in his career. Fast forward to now, and the little experiment with Reddick has turned into a complete disaster.
Simmons finds himself in a somewhat similar position.
I’m scared at the idea of Simmons being used all over the place, without having a defined role to start out. All the differences in positions can crush an incoming rookie, no matter the amount of talent that first year player has. That’s why I really want to see where the Cardinals are planning to play him the most, whether if that’s as an off ball linebacker, or as a guy who the Cardinals can play the matchup game with.
I love Isaiah Simmons, and he has a decent shot at becoming the difference maker this Cardinals defense desperately needs. But combine the tendency for defensive coordinators to fall in love with using multiple moves for one chess piece, with a recent example of failure that feels oddly similar, and you end up receiving loads of worry moving forward.
If all things fall into place for Simmons though, he’s going to be an absolute force for years to come.
Sleeper Team: Arizona Cardinals
Let’s call this team the NFL off-season darling.
A lot of people are extremely excited about the Arizona Cardinals, not in terms of an overall team success standpoint, but in terms of personal enjoyment. Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray had a wonderful first year partnership together, and have really stolen the hearts of football watchers everywhere.
Murray already had a lot of fans after winning the Rookie of The Year award due to his stellar 2019 season, but once DeAndre Hopkins was added to the mix, the talk surrounding Murray and the Cardinals only grew louder. The playmaking both of those 2 possess is immense, combine them together, and you’re more likely than not to get some explosive results.
Speaking on the team as a whole, the roster still lacks a couple of key pieces in order to contend for a playoff spot this year, but that doesn’t mean can’t come close. Playing in the NFC West doesn’t help their case much, but with some improvements along the offensive line and all across the defensive side of the ball going forward, this team will be in a good position to return to playoff football.
For now though, just enjoy getting the opportunity to watch this Cardinals offense put on a show each and every week.
Biggest Disappointment: Los Angeles Rams
It’s a shame really.
The Rams were once considered a team that’d be contending for Super Bowl appearances, but now, the team is cash strapped and are looking for answers after missing the playoffs in 2019.
Jared Goff came back down to earth after his impressive 2018 season, but it wasn’t entirely all of his fault. Todd Gurley battled with a number of injuries, including the concerning arthritis in his right knee, and the offensive line struggled in both key facets of their game game after the departure of Rodger Saffold.
Looking ahead to 2020, I don’t see how this Rams team will be able to even sniff the NFC West title. Due to the lack of sufficient draft capital, cap room, and maybe a little ignorance, the Rams failed to address the issues that are still plaguing their offensive line. Goff is still being paid money he shouldn’t be receiving, the defensive line is absent of notable talent outside of Aaron Donald, and the secondary is a vast wasteland outside of Jalen Ramsey and Taylor Rapp.
It’s not a mess for the Rams now, but it might become one soon. Ramsey is scheduled to become a free agent next off-season, and the Rams will have to do an extreme amount of cap maneuvering to give Ramsey the money he deserves.
At least Aaron Donald is tied down for a while, and should be a big enough star to promote as the Rams open up a new era in their shiny new billion dollar stadium, if that counts for anything.
How Many Teams Make the Playoffs: 2
I’ll keep this short for personal reasons.
I think everyone and their mother knows the 49ers and Seahawks are the 2 best teams in the NFC West. They both fought tooth and nail to win the division in 2019, and both are prepared to do so again in 2020.
You’ll see the pick for division winner very soon, but either way, I think it’s safe to say that both Seattle and San Francisco will find their selves in the playoffs once more when the 2020 regular season concludes.
Division Winner: San Francisco 49ers
That 49ers defense is still nasty, and the run game shouldn’t lose steam even with Matt Breida now in Miami. I’m not that high on Jimmy G, but he isn’t the worst quarterback in the world.
Seattle still has Russell Wilson, and they just added a top 3 safety in Jamal Adams, but I’m just completely turned off by Brian Schottenheimer.
Give me the 49ers to repeat as division champs, but it’ll be a close division title race until the end, that’s for sure.