2018 NFC WEST FOOTBALL DIVISION PREVIEW

No team in the NFC took a bigger jump in 2017 than the Los Angeles Rams. The ended 13 years of losing football and won the NFC West. The Rams are a strong bet to win the division again after adding several new key players. The Seahawks are headed in the opposite direction, missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2011 season. Seattle also lost several key players to free agency. Arizona lost Head Coach Bruce Arians and QB Carson Palmer. San Francisco is optimistic after QB Jimmy Garoppolo went 5-0 after taking over the starting job at the end of 2017.

 

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 2018:

Arizona, .520 overall/.542 division/.506 non-division

Los Angeles, .523 overall/.479 division/.550 non-division

San Francisco, .500 overall/.521 division/.525 non-division

Seattle, .523 overall/.521 division/.525 non-division

 

 

ARIZONA CARDINALS

2017 RECORD: 8-8

DIVISIONAL RECORD: 3-3

The Cardinals are under the direction of new head coach Steve Wilks. The biggest concern for Wilks is his lack of head coaching experience. He has just one season as an NFL coordinator and one head coaching job in college at Division II Savannah State in 1999. The Arizona brass feel Wilks will give the Cardinals a better chance of winning playoffs games. Wilks is a defensive minded coach, but the defense was actually better than the offense in 2017. Arizona needs to find a starting QB. They have veteran Sam Bradford and rookie Josh Rosen competing. The Cardinals return only four starters on defense.

RETURNING STARTERS OFFENSE: 6

RETURNING STARTERS DEFENSE: 4

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

2017 RECORD: 11-5

2017 DIVISIONAL RECORD: 4-2

Los Angeles went 4-12 in 2016. It was the franchise’s first season back in LA. Sean McVay had little to work with. Then something clicked. The Rams turned it around in 2017 going 11-5 and making the NFC playoffs. McVay became an offensive genius and QB Jared Goff became an NFL quarterback. RB Todd Gurley proved why he is one of the top backs in the NFL. DT Aaron Donald has become a star. The Rams made several off-season moves including NT Ndamukong Suh. Look for the Rams to repeat as the division champions.

RETURNING STARTERS OFFENSE: 9

RETURNING STARTERS DEFENSE: 6

 

 

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

2017 RECORD: 6-10

2017 DIVISIONAL RECORD: 1-5

The 49ers had a season of two tales. One started at 0-9. The other 5-0. Somewhere in the middle they went 1-1. QB Jimmy Garoppolo provided the late season magic and now the 49ers are very optimistic heading into 2018. Like most NFL teams, the 49ers made some changes in the off-season they believe could push them back into the playoff picture including OL Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame) and former Seattle DB Richard Sherman. If Garoppolo continues to play well, the 49ers could surprise some people and win the NFC West.

STARTERS RETURNING OFFENSE: 7

STARTERS RETURNING DEFENSE: 8

 

 

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

2017 RECORD: 9-7

2017 DIVISIONAL RECORD: 4-2

The Seahawks are the one team in the NFL that is going through a transition. Seattle missed the playoffs for the first time since QB Russell Wilson as the starter. The future doesn’t appear to be too bright after getting rid of stars like DB Richard Sherman, LB Michael Bennett, TE Jimmy Graham, DT Sheldon Richardson and RB Thomas Rawls. The OL was a disaster in 2017 and that puts more pressure on Wilson. If Seattle finishes above the cellar in the division, that will be a plus.

STARTERS RETURNING OFFENSE: 7

STARTERS RETURNING DEFENSE: 7