Today is the official kickoff to the 2021 NFL season, and we wrap up our rendition of our Prediction Series with arguably the toughest division in the league: NFC West.
The NFC West is going to be a bloodbath this year based on high competition, new quarterback and scheme changes, and health/injury status throughout each roster. Just like the ‘Wild, Wild West,’ this will be right to the end.
Let’s see how each stacks up amongst the rest:
2021 is expected from be a big season coming for the Arizona Cardinals. Not only to their quarterback in Kyler Murray, but to their head coach, Kliff Kingsbury.
Both have seemed to mesh well since they started their careers together in 2019, but in a stacked division, they’ve not gotten too far up in the standings. And Arizona continues to build on their team, even if it is bringing in high-end veteran players.
Key moves include signing former Defensive Player of the Year in defensive end JJ Watt and former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver AJ Green to compliment fellow receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald.
With the addition of those players listed, they are expected to be better than the likes of their rivals. The Cardinals are an exciting team, but the key is they need to show they can be a consistent team. If they don’t, their season will be dry as the climate in the desert.
Los Angeles Rams
This past offseason, the Los Angeles Rams are a team on the cusp of being a powerhouse. They needed someone to help them get there; that man is their new quarterback, Matthew Stafford.
Combined with an elite defense and balanced offense, Stafford is expected to lead this team to a deep playoff run. But there were certain areas that the Rams needed to address as well.
LA addressed their wide receiver need in the Draft is they selected Louisville wide receiver Tutu Atwell to join a corps consisting of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. And when projected starting back Cam Akers went down with an Achilles injury, the Rams traded for New England Patriots running back Sony Michel for their running game.
Under Stafford’s new presence and head coach Sean McVay’s experience, this is looking to be a Super Bowl or bust season for LA. If they don’t succeed, they can always try again, but the fact is Stafford’s time is running out—and the team knows it. He’ll need to win a playoff game before his career is over.
San Francisco 49ers
Last season was a season to forget for the San Francisco 49ers. Between offensive issues, having almost the entire team being injured or testing positive for COVID-19, and moving to a different STATE to play games, it was a tough sight for everyone in the Santa Clara area.
The 49ers, when healthy, are one of the teams to beat. However, the team did have significant needs to address; and they went bold to get one of them done.
San Francisco traded up to No. 3 in the Draft to selected highly-touted quarterback Trey Lance from North Dakota State to compete with Jimmy Garoppolo. Their other notable moves were re-signing key players such as offensive tackle Trent Williams and emerging linebacker Fred Warner to multi-year deals.
The 49ers are very close to being back to what type of team they were back in 2019. However, the question is, can they stay healthy from being injuries and COVID?
They will need to be with how their division looks. If not, then it’s back to the drawing board for them.
For the Seattle Seahawks last season, they started off ‘cooking’ a good, hot streak, and then they gotten cold. Though they did win the division, they flamed out in the NFC Wild Card round against the rival Rams.
In order to get quarterback Russell Wilson his second Super Bowl ring, the Seahawks had to make moves to address their dire needed areas such as their offensive line and secondary.
Seattle did address by trading for guard Gabe Jackson and signing him to a three-year deal. They also re-signed wide receiver Tyler Lockett to an extension and drafted another in Western Michigan’s D’Wayne Eskeridge.
Their defense was also reinforced by signing pass rusher Carlos Dunlap and drafting Oklahoma defensive back Tre Brown.
The Seahawks cannot avoid another near-late season collapse as they did, because with how their division is looking, next offseason is going to be a long one. Some key players will be free agents or be traded.
PROJECTED 2021 NFC WEAR DIVISION STANDINGS
- Seattle Seahawks 12-5**
- Los Angeles Rams 12-5*
- San Francisco 49ers 9-8
- Arizona Cardinals 8-9
This race will be described in one word: tight. All four NFC West teams are expected to be hover and finish around .500, but in the end just like last season, the Seattle Seahawks will clinch the division in a tiebreaker with the Los Angeles Rams, whom both will have 12-5 records respectively.
San Francisco will bounce back on both sides of the ball, but they’ll miss the playoffs finishing at 9-8. Same with the Cardinals, as their team will be a victim of a top-heavy, competitive division at 8-9 record.