This is certainly an interesting division with the final two NFC teams left standing last season and the Superb Owl Champion Rams. Red wonders what odds you could have gotten on a Rams-49ers NFC title game parlay last September. In fact, the NFC West was the official Red’s NFL Division of Excellence in 2021 with three teams winning more than 10 games and making the playoffs. This season – maybe not so much.
Los Angeles Rams – The Rams seem unlikely to suffer a Superb Owl Champion next season slump. Matt Stafford still has a solid O-line despite the retirement of All-World tackle Andrew Whitworth. What else does MS have going for him? Well there is the incredible Cooper Kupp. Maybe the Rams can continue to target Kupp 12 times every game with Kupp drawing double coverage on every play. That certainly did not stop him last season from almost hitting 2000 receiving yards. And Van Jefferson is no slouch either – having averaged 16 yds/catch and 6 TDs. Throw a top tier TE in Tyler Higbee and a serviceable Allen Robinson and there just aren’t enough bodies in the defensive backfield to go around. Maybe what appears to be a lack of quality running backs won’t be a problem with a defense-stretching passing game, but it is a big question mark. The Rams defense was spectacular in the playoffs last season allowing just over 16 pts/game. But they have lost Von Miller, Darious Williams, Sebastian Joseph-Day and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. In reality, if the Rams can hold teams to 20 points per game on average they will win a lot of games. Rams cruise to another 12-5 season and take the West.
San Francisco 49ers. Turmoil under center is the watchword as Jimmy Garrapolo is unexpectedly back with a big contract. Yet all the talk is about Trey Lance who filled in a bit last season. Jimmy G had a decent season and led an only above average team to the NFC Championship game – much to Red’s amazement. If that situation does not get resolved quickly – well expect a trade to whichever team’s No. 1 passer goes down first. There are some things to like here. Everyone might be talking about Deebo Samuel if Cooper Kupp hadn’t sucked all the oxygen on the west coast. DS accounted for over 1400 yards of offense and 51 first downs (that’s 3 per game for those keeping score). In the backfield there isn’t much behind Elijah Mitchell who had a decent rookie campaign. But the Niners need a credible pass-catching threat out of the backfield. Maybe someone will step forward. Outside of the division, the Niners play three other playoff teams (Chiefs, Bucs and Raiders). It could be a tough slog to 10-7 and another wild card berth.
Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals looked to be on a roll with a respectable 11-6 record despite some injury setbacks last season. Then the Rams crushed them in the first round of the playoffs. To say that Kliff Kingsbury is now on a short leash is an understatement. The main problem is the lack of offensive talent around Kyler Murray. At RB there is the frequently absent James Connor and then ?????. At WR there is newly acquired Marquise Brown, the suspended D-Hop and ????? At least Zach Ertz seems solid at TE. But with Mr. Murray sucking up all the money with his new mega-deal it seems that the Cardinals will be playing with one hand in the back pocket wondering where the wallet went. If Murray stays healthy, the team will win some games. They could even win some games with the well-seasoned and very football smart Colt McCoy under center. This team just seems worse than last season. It’s a tough slog starting with the Chiefs, Raiders and Rams. Cardinals will be somewhat lucky to go 9-8 and miss out on the playoffs.
Seattle Seahawks – Well someone has to suck in this division. It is not that the Seahawks are a terrible team, they just don’t measure up to the competition. Hey, they had a good run and Red will be the first to call for the head of Pete the Cheat. His 13th season is indeed unlucky as Carroll is run out of town on a rail after the Seahawks finish at the bottom of the NFC West again with a 7-10 record.