Marc David’s 2016 NFL Football Preview – NFC West
Arizona set a franchise record going 13-3 last year, and will be the favorite to win the NFC West in 2016. Seattle came on strong with a late season surge winning eight of their last 10 games led by Wilson’s 24 TD’s and one pick in the last seven games.
The Rams were up and down in the first half of the season with wins over Seattle and Arizona but a five game losing streak took care of their season and a change of location won’t do much for their chances this season. The Niners were lucky to go 5-11 as they averaged scoring just 14.9 points a game and lost anyone who was anybody.
This is probably a two team race and maybe one of the more exciting to watch.
1. Arizona Cardinals
Odds: +155 to win NFC WEST– + 640 to win NFC CONFERENCE — +1300 to win SUPER BOWL
Record in 2015: 13-3 – Straight Up — 9-7 – Against The Spread
Projection: QB Palmer played at a consistently high level all season leading the league with an 11.3 yards for the average depth of target. His play dipped dramatically during the post season and at 36 years old, staying healthy is the priority for Arizona if they want to make the playoffs again. One of the best things they can do is get a good running game going to keep the pressure off him.
David Johnson a second year back could be the answer as he showed ability both as a runner and receiver with size, speed and he can catch the ball. Ellington is an excellent receiver out of the back field and they might see time together along with veteran Chris Johnson to round out a pretty good backfield.
Receivers are small but fast and players like Nelson and Brown are still learning the ropes. With Fitzgerald strong in both receiving and blocking , his leadership role could be the key to take this group to the next level. Their TE’s are adequate but the strength is the wide receivers. The left side of the offensive line remains the same but a couple of new faces will join them. Mathis (Broncos) and Humphries will play on one side with either Shipley or rookie Boehm in the middle and this line most likely will determine how far Arizona can go on offense.
They have upgraded their front four on defense with Nkemdiche(Ole Miss) and the trade for Chandler Jones (Pats) was the big move. They will give offensive lines all they can handle and with two of the best young DB’s in the league (Peterson, Mathieu) who are the heart of the defense, Arizona’s defense should be one of the best.
2. Seattle Seahawks
Odds: -118 to win NFC WEST — +490 To win NFC CONFERENCE — + 950 to win SUPER BOWL
Record in 2015: 10-6 – Straight Up — 8-7-1 Against The Spread
Projection: QB Wilson was great during the regular season season with 38 TD’s and 11 picks but struggled in the playoffs. He was a dangerous runner especially when blitzed throwing 21 TD’s and just 3 picks while scrambling for over 400 yards of his 644 total running yards which was second best on the team.
With Marshawn Lynch retired, it’s up to Thomas Rawls who had a good season but remains pretty much untested with less than 150 carries is still a question mark. They grabbed three RB’s in the draft – C.J. Prosise (Notre Dame) -Alex Collins (Arkansas)- and Zac Brooks (Clemson) and have plenty of work ahead to bring them along but it needed to be done.
Their receivers and tight end positions are some of the best in the league. Jimmy Graham at TE needs to be used more in the Red Zone as he only had two TD’s there last season and can do better. Baldwin with 78 receptions and 14 TD’s along with Lockett who was one of the better rookies had 51 receptions and is an excellent returner will be great targets for Wilson and big headaches for defenses.
Their offensive line is one of the worst with 4 of their 5 starters not performing well and only rookie Germain Ifedi making the grade. Their defensive front is one of the best led by Michael Bennett (11 sacks) and Cliff Avril (12 sacks).
Their LB’s led by KJ Wright (65 tackles) can get the job done. Star Richard Sherman leads the secondary with Earl Thomas who just might have had his best year to round out the defense that played well last season.
3. Los Angeles Rams
Odds: +975 to win NFC WEST — +3800 to win NFC CONFERENCE — + 10000 to win SUPER BOWL
Record in 2015: 7-9 Straight Up — 7-8-1 Against The Spread
Projection: The Rams selected Goff (Cal) with their #1 pick and he is their future. Keenum took over at QB last season and is average at best as he passed for 828 yards and four TD’s with one pick. The big question is will Goff be able to earn the starting position in his first season. The preseason should give us a better idea and maybe he can develop a chemistry with a few receivers possibly some of the draft picks or backups.
RB Gurley with 1106 yards saw a lot of them come on big plays and led the league with 45% big play yardage. Benny Cunningham will compliment him especially on passing downs but the passing game needs to do well to keep the pressure of a young player like Gurley. They had maybe the worst bunch of receivers with not one gaining at least 700 yards. Austin’s 9.1 average was the second lowest in the NFL and Quick’s 31% catch rate was the worst.
They drafted two receivers who they expect to help. Cooper (So Car.) and Thomas ( So. Miss) but it’s rare that draft choices make any noticeable impact. Three of the starting six players on the offensive line were rookies and injuries to Saffold and Brown sealed the fate of that front line so it’s back to the drawing board.
DT Donald and DE Hayes led the defense but Quinn ended up on injured reserve. He will be back to help a good line be better this season. They have average LB’s but they are the best they have had in a while. They lost two of the three best players in the secondary so they need good play from the front seven to help them out.
4. San Francisco 49ers
Odds: +2500 to win NFC WEST — +4300 to win NFC CONFERENCE — +12000 to win SUPER BOWL
Record in 2015: 5-11 Straight Up — 7-9 Against The Spread
Projection: Kaepernick was going to Denver until he refused a pay cut so he will be in competition with Gabbert for the starting job at QB. Kaepernick has gone downhill since his 2012 season while Gabbert almost saw his NFL career disappear with his horrible play at Jacksonville. Preseason play will decide who will be the starter.
Carlos Hyde missed 9 games last year but he is the man they will be looking at. He has shown his ability to be a star and Shaun Draughn 263 yards and DuJuan Harris 140 yards will fill out the backfield. Receiver Torrey Smith had the fewest catches in his career last year and along with Rogers from the CFL and Burbridge from Michigan State will have the passing game rely more on the TE’s McDonald and Garrett Celek until they are up to speed.
First round pick Joshua Garnett G (Stanford) was great in Stanford’s power run offense but needs to become a better pass blocker. Staley at tackle is one of the better lineman in the league and he will have Trent Brown at the other tackle position but the two rookie guards will decide if this group can help the offense run and pass.
The defense was ranked 29th last season and the front line will be anchored by DE’s Arik Armstead and first rounder Buckner (Oregon) along with NT Ian Williams to stuff the run. LB’s Lynch and Bowman who struggled last year after returning from a 2014 injury will be key to how much better this young defense gets.
Eric Reid who made the Pro bowl as a rookie three years ago, leads the secondary that is inexperienced. With Brock and the return of Bethea who missed the last 9 games last year, this group needs a lot of work to be productive.
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