As the season draws nearer, let’s highlight some of the key offseason moves and 2018 predictions for all 32 teams. We’re going to take a closer look at each team division by division leading up to week one. Today we’ll break down the NFC West.
Los Angeles Rams
2017 Record: 11-5
2017 was an amazing season for the Rams for many reasons. They got a new Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator in Sean McVay and Wade Phillips. McVay was named NFL Coach of the year as he transformed the Rams from the worst offense in the league in 2016 to the best in 2017, the only time that a team has made the jump from worst to first in the Super Bowl era. Running back Todd Gurley earned NFL Offensive Player of the Year, lead the league in touchdowns, and finished second in yards from scrimmage by a narrow margin due to his benching in week 17 as the Rams had already locked up their first playoff appearance since 2004. McVays’ new offensive system allowed Jarred Goff to shine like one would expect from a former first overall draft pick. Aaron Donald was a disruptive force on defense, racking up 11 sacks in only 14 games and earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Los Angeles looks to only get better in 2018. They traded away two players in Alec Ogletree and Robert Quinn who were not good scheme fits for Phillip’s 3-4 defense. They received via trade three Pro Bowl talent players in Cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aquib Talib, and Wide receiver Brandon Cooks. They also signed former Pro Bowler Ndamukong Suh to play on the defensive line alongside Donald and Michael Brockers. Last year Kicker Greg Zuerlein was having an outstanding year leading the NFL in points scored before his season was ended by a back injury, but he appears to be healthy making three field goals in the Rams’ preseason win over the Raiders. Another year in McVay’s system is going to bode well for Goff, and the addition of a legitimate number one receiving option in Cooks spells success for Los Angeles in 2018.
2018 Prediction: 12-4 NFC West Champions
San Fransico 49ers
2017 Record: 6-10
Last season new head coach Kyle Shanahan started the season 0-8 before deciding that C.J. Betheard was not the long-term solution at quarterback. One trade and four weeks later Jimmy Garopolo is the new face of the franchise. Goropolo won his only five starts of the season to create enormous buzz around the future of the organization. The plan moving forward was to have Jerrick McKinnon at running back after Carlos Hyde left in free agency, but McKinnon suffered a knee injury in the preseason that means his season is over. There is still uncertainty about who will play the biggest role in the backfield, but early reports suggest that Alfred Morris will get the start. Morris played with Shanahan in Washington for two years and was very productive, so hopes are for Morris to return to 2013 form. Shanahan is likely to play the hot hand, so Matt Breida or Kyle Juszczyk could earn themselves bigger roles. Look for tight end George Kittle to be more involved in the offense this year. The 49ers will improve on their win total from last year, but a dominant Los Angeles team will keep them from winning the division, and a strong NFC will keep them from the playoffs altogether.
2018 Prediction: 8-8 Miss Playoffs
2017 Record: 9-7
For many years the Legion of Boom boasted one of the fiercest defenses, and specifically one of the stingiest secondaries in all of football. It seems those days have finally come to an end. Richard Sherman plays in San Francisco, safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are missing and most likely won’t play this season if ever again, so Bobby Wagoner remains the only high profile member of that once great defense. The offense isn’t much better, outside of All-Star quarterback Russel Wilson and receiver Doug Baldwin. Seattle let tight end Jimmy Graham go in free agency and now the position will revert to mainly blocking roles. They’ll need all the help they can get on the offensive line as that unit was one of the worst in football last year. Seattle is definitely rebuilding, even if it doesn’t look like it due to Wilson’s magical playmaking ability.
2018 Prediction: 7-9
2017 Record: 8-8
This offseason, the Arizona Cardinals acquired their long-term solution at quarterback in Sam Bradford. Wait no, the long-term solution is hopefully Josh Rosen taken with the 10th pick of the draft. Bradford gets the starting nod for week one, and when healthy has shown that he has tremendous talent. Rosen should benefit from working with the veteran and should eventually take over the position sometime this season. David Johnson looks to return healthy this season and has added some bulk in an effort to stay healthy. I think he’ll look similar to his 2016 form, but it will be tough for him to shoulder the offensive load with Larry Fitzgerald and the combination of Ricky Seals-Jones and Jermaine Gresham at tight end. The defense still has a solid secondary with Patrick Peterson at corner and Antoine Bethea and Budda Baker at safety, but this team is still too many pieces away from contention.