Jimmy Mc Ginty looks at the NFC West as part of his NFL season previews and he expects a very poor season for the San Francisco 49ers while the St Louis Rams should continue to improve.
The NFC West looks set to be dominated, yet again, by the Seattle Seahawks. The 2013 Superbowl Champions and 2014 runners up look as strong as ever. The key addition came in the shape of Jimmy Graham; the former New Orleans Saints star tight-end. Centre Max Unger who went the opposite direction in that trade will be a loss (their offensive line was already an issue) but for once Russell Wilson has a top quality target. Wilson has been brilliant the past few seasons with some mediocre talent in front of him. That all changes with Graham. The Seahawks will be very tough to beat. Their strong running team led by Marshawn Lynch shows no sign of slowing down.
The Seahawks defence was terrific last season and with 10 of the 11 starters set to return that shouldn’t change.
If it were anyone else this would look a tricky, bordering on brutal, schedule. Road games at Green Bay, Cincinnati, Dallas, Minnesota and Baltimore don’t appeal as ‘soft’ nor do the visits of Detroit and Pittsburgh. Playing the Cardinals twice isn’t helpful either.
The Seahawks look to be the best team in the League, so should win the NFC West fairly easily, but that schedule will see them drop 3,4 maybe even 5 games along the way. That doesn’t lead me to a bet on Seattle but it does boost my confidence in backing the Colts to have the best regular season record. LINK
San Fran 49ers have had the off season of all off seasons. And I don’t mean that in a good way!! They’ve lost a whole host of starters. Patrick Willis, Anthony Davis, Chris Boreland and Justin Smith retired. Aldon Smith was released after his third DUI. Perrish Culliver is now a Titan, whilst Chris Culliver is a Redskin. Top guard Mike Lupati is now in Arizona. Running back Frank Gore is in Indianapolis, wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson are in Oakland and San Diego respectively. Quite the list!! Their remaining starting WR from 2014 Anquan Boldin is 35. Starting tight-end Vernon Davis is 31 and coming off a rancid 2 touchdown season. Coach Jim Harbaugh went as well. A coach which QB Colin Kaepernick seemed to have a good understanding with.
Reggie Bush and Torrey Smith were added, but neither are coming in off the back of good seasons and both are coming from better offenses. They might not add as much as people expect. Carlos Hyde is expected to be the starting running back, but he didn’t overly impress as a rookie last year. Navarro Bowman is a top defender who has already stood out in preseason, but he’ll be by himself this season. The 49ers were gutted in the off season and will be gutted in most games during the season.
To add insult to all the upheaval the 49ers have a horrific schedule. In their first 7 games they face 5 playoff teams from last year along with the improving Vikings and Giants. By the time the easier games come around plenty of the team will have chucked it in for the season. Add in a second clash with Seattle, Arizona and the improved Rams later in the season and a trip to Detroit and it all looks like a horrific 3-13 or 4-12 season. Confidently back San Fran to win less than 6.5 games.
The Arizona Cardinals made the playoffs last season, but unfortunately when they got there they were without a quarterback.
The Cardinals had a terrific start to the season showing a 9-1 record after week 10. Unfortunately that is when QB Carson Palmer had a season ending injury. His replacement Drew Staunton only lasted a few more games before getting injured and from that point onwards their season disintegrated. RB Andre Ellington missed 4 games of the run-in also. They’ll be hoping to bounce back in 2015. It’s worth nothing that last year was no fluke. They finished (10-6) in 2013 when their division included a strong 49ers team; it no longer does.
The Cardinals first round draft pick was on a tackle, DJ Humphries. With Mike Lupati joining from San Fran also, Carson Palmer should have some added protection this season. The Cardinals are hoping not to repeat last year’s QB issues. In Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown, the Cardinals have 3 genuine top quality receivers. They also added a decent rookie running back in David Johnson to help out Andre Ellington. The Cardinals have plenty of firepower.
Antonio Cromartie leaving, and not being replaced, has certainly weakened the defence. The opening schedule looks friendly (Saints, at Bears, 49ers, Rams) which should see the Cardinals start well (4-0 likely) but after that it’s quickly downhill. The Lions and Steelers on the road as Ravens, Bengals, Vikings and Packers visit. Not to mention the two Seattle games. Arizona are a very good side, but they’ll need to be great to overcome that schedule easily. Their defence worries me slightly and if anything happens to 35yr old (coming back from ACL surgery) Carson Palmer they’re in a world of trouble. Something like 9-7 looks reasonable.
The St Louis Rams won only 6 games last season, but when you consider they lost their starting QB before Week 1 and his replacement in the first game, it wasn’t too bad an effort. Also in a division with Seattle, Arizona and a not quite as bad as they are now San Fran. They also started the season 1-4 so there’s a couple of ways of looking at 6-10 as a decent season. Certainly one they can build on. The schedule allows for some progress too; the Rams get to entertain the Seahawks in week 1, the Steelers come to town in wk3 before road games at Arizona and Green Bay. A 1-4 start (like last year) is very likely. However the schedule softens up considerably from there. At home to Browns, 49ers and Bears in a 4 game stretch looks very nice and a trio of home games against Arizona, Detroit and Tampa look winnable also. The over under line at 7.5 wins is about right.
Nick Foles is in as QB. He’s certainly an upgrade on Shaun Hill and Austin Davis. Todd Gurley is also the likely starting running back. He is described by some as the best running back prospect to enter the draft for some time. He’s due to miss the opening game or two, which won’t help as they are tough fixtures and now his backup Tre Mason looks likely to miss week 1 through injury also. At WR they are strong without being electric. Brian Quick, Chris Givens, Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt are all capable. With an improvement under centre this season they’ll hope to put up some better numbers.
The Rams defence led by Aaron Donald is superb. They’ll keep the team in many a game. Nick Fairley joining from Detroit adds a little more but unfortunately top corner back EJ Gaines is out injured.
8-8 is probably my starting point for the Rams. If they don’t give up after a bad start and they get Gurley back fit as soon as possible I think they could have a very strong second half to the season to finish 9-7 pushing Arizona for 2nd spot. Back St Louis Rams to finish 2nd in NFC West.
5 points win San Francisco 49ers under 6.5 wins at 4/5 with Betfair Sports
1.5 points win St Louis Rams to finish 2nd in NFC West at 3/1 with 888sport