Early 2020 NFL Preview-NFC West

Published: 5:29pm, May 18, 2020 EDT | Updated: 5:34pm, May 18, 2020 EDT

Written by Ben the Pen

(odds from PointsBet)

1)San Francisco 49ers

Last year's Record: 13-3 SU, 9-6-1 ATS, 8-7-1 O/U

Super Bowl Odds: +900; NFC West: -110

Key Offseason Additions: WR Travis Benjamin (FA-Chargers), OT Trent Williams (Trade-Washington).

Key Offseason Losses: WR Emmanuel Sanders (FA-New Orleans), OT Joe Thomas (retired), TE Garrett Celek (retired), TE Levine Toiolo (FA-Giants), DT DeForest Buckner (Trade Colts), RB Matt Breida (Trade-Miami).

San Francisco made the Super Bowl last season and the next goal is to win it. They didn't have many losses aside from trading Pro Bowl DT DeForest Buckner to the Colts for their 13th overall pick. Offensively, the 49ers could improve a passing game that put up a pedestrian 237 yards per game in the air (13th). Jimmy Garoppolo had a solid year with 3,978 yards with 27 TDs and 13 picks for a 102 passer rating. At wide receiver, the 49ers lost Emmanuel Sanders in free agency and could use some help for Garoppolo. Deebo Samuel looks like an absolute stud and was a great pick in the second round, after catching 57 passes for 802 yards and three scores. The Niners drafted Brandon Aiyuk from Arizona State at No. 25. That was a bit of a reach and they traded up for him. There aren't a lot of other options at receiver. TE George Kittle is the best tight end in the NFC, after catching 85 passes for 1,053 yards and five TDs last season. This was a run-heavy team that averaged 144 yards per game (2nd) on the ground. RB Raheem Mostert led the Niners with 772 yards and eight TDs (5.6ypc). Tevin Coleman added 544 yards on the ground and 21 catches for 180 yards. Left tackle Joe Staley missed nine games last season due to injuries and is 36. He retired right before the draft so the Niners went out and traded for Trent Williams, who is younger but sat out last season in Washington. Justin Skule struggled as a rookie last season taking his place and now will back Williams up. The Niners drafted Colton McKivitz in the fifth round, who could end up as a backup at both tackle spots.

Defensively, were dominant last season, allowing just 281.8 yards per game overall to rank second. They were also number one against the pass, allowing just 169.2 yards per game. They have very few weaknesses, if any. They did end up trading DeForest Buckner, one of the premier defensive tackles in the game, to the Colts. GM John Lynch didn't waste any time replacing him as the Niners selected Javon Kinlaw from South Carolina at No. 14. Kinlaw a big-time talent who could take Buckner's place right away, but replacing Buckner's production (62 tackles, 7.5 sacks) will be difficult with a rookie. One rookie who had a great season was DE Nick Bosa, who had nine sacks and 16.5 TFLs to earn Defensive Rookie of the Year. At linebacker, Fred Warner led the team with 118 tackles and added three sacks, while Dre Greenlaw added 92 tackles. Jimmie Ward (84.2 PFF) is one of the best safeties in the NFC. CB Richard Sherman is still one of the best at his position, based on smarts and not speed. The Niners may have some issues at cornerback next season due to free agency, but right now, few teams can match their secondary.

Prediction: 11-5. First place. Don't see them winning 13 games again, but that defense should still be great, though down a notch with the loss of Buckner. Also, Williams is a question mark at left tackle. But still, the team to beat in the NFC West.

2)Seattle Seahawks:

Last year's record: 11-5 SU, 7-8-1 ATS, 8-7-1 O/U

Super Bowl Odds: +2000; NFC West: +225

Key Offseason Additions: WR Phillip Dorsett (FA-New Engnald), Edge Edge Bruce Irvin (FA-Carolina), CB Quinton Dunbar (Trade Redskins), TE Greg Olsen (FA-Carolina), OT Cedric Ogbuehi (FA-Jacksonville), C B.J. Finney (FA-Pittsburgh).

Key Offseason Losses: OT George Fant (FA-Jets), OL Germain Ifedi (FA-Chicago), OL D.J. Fluker (FA-Baltimore), DT Al Woods (FA-Jacksonville), DE Quinton Jefferson (FA-Buffalo).

Outlook:

As long as the Seahawks have Russell Wilson, they will be fine. Seattle won 11 games last season, which would normally be a great year, but they trailed the 49ers by two games in the NFC West. They gave Wilson (4,110 yds, 31 TDs, 5 INTs) a few more weapons in the offseason, including Phillip Dorsett, who played with the Patriots the last three seasons. Tyler Lockett (82 catches for 1,057 yds, 8 TDs) is not your prototype number one option, but he is productive. D.K. Metcalf is a freak in terms of size and speed and showed he could be the real deal as a rookie (58 catches for 900 yds, 7 TDs). They also added veteran Greg Olsen, who just turned 35. He was still effective last season with Carolina, catching 52 passes for 597 yards in 14 games. but Olsen hasn't played a full season since 2016, when he was one of the best in the game. At running back, Chris Carson led the way with 1,230 yards and seven TDS (4.4ypc). They drafted DeeJay Dallas in the fifth round, who could help as a shifty backup. At offensive tackle, Duane Brown is fine at left tackle, but he is 35 and has an injury history. Wilson was sacked on 8.5 percent of his dropbacks in 2019. They did lose No. 3 OT George Fant to the Jets in free agency. They also lost right tackle Germain Ifedi to the Bears in free agency. They picked up Cedric Ogbuehi from Jacksonville to take his place. Guard Damien Lewis was taken in the third round and was a solid pick to help the interior.

Defensively, the Seahawks could use some help in the pass rush. Jadeveon Clowney is expected to leave in free agency, though he hasn't signed with any team as of May 18. Even with Clowney, the Seahawks had just 28 sacks, which ranked 31st in the NFL. The addition of Bruce Irvin will help some. He had 8.5 sacks last season in a rotation role at outside linebacker with Carolina. Seattle drafted Darnell Taylor at 48 and is an explosive pass rusher. The Seahawks allowed 118 yards per game on the ground (22nd) and 264 yards per game in the air (27th). The Seahawks signed Jordyn Brooks from Texas Tech at 27 and while it wasn't a popular pick, Brooks could slide in right away at strongside linebacker. At cornerback, Shaquill Griffin looks like the real deal, but they can use a second starting corner. Tre Flowers has been picked on a lot and is also prone to pass interference penalties. They did trade for Quinton Dunbar from Washington and he rated 87.6 from Pro Football Focus. However, Dunbar is dealing with a serious off the field issue right now.

Prediction: 11-5. Yes, Seattle could tie the 49ers in the NFC West this year. They have a tough schedule, facing Buffalo and Philadelphia on the road, but they also have Dallas and New England at home. It's tough to face Seattle from CenturyLink Field, whether there is a 12th man or not.

3)Arizona Cardinals

Last year's record: 5-10-1 SU, 9-5-2 ATS, 9-7 O/U

Super Bowl Odds: +5500; NFC West: +800

Key Offseason Additions: WR DeAndre Hopkins (Trade-Houston), LB Devon Kennard (FA-Detroit), NT Jordan Phillips (FA-Buffalo), LB De'Vondre Campbell (FA-Atlanta).

Key Offseason Losses: RB David Johnson (Trade-Houston), WR Damiere Byrd (FA-New England), WR Pharoh Cooper (FA-Carolina), DE Rodney Gunter (FA-Jacksonville), LB Joe Walker (FA-San Francisco).

Arizona made a huge splash in the off-season, with the acquisition of WR DeAndre Hopkins from Houston for RB David Johnson with pick involved. Hopkins is an elite receiver, coming off 104 catches for 1,165 yards and seven TDs. He and Larry Fitzgerald will give Kyle Murray two big weapons who have great hands. Christian Kirk can be the speed receiver and they have a young player in Andy Isabella, who rarely played in his rookie season. He was moved to the slot after playing outside at UMass and the results were not good. Last year's fourth-round pick Hakeem Butler missed the entire season with a broken hand. The key is the evolution of Murray, who threw for 3,722 yards with 20 TDs and 12 picks (87.4 passer rating). He also ran for 544 yards and four TDs. Adding Hopkins will be huge for his progress. Having a strong tight end would help as Maxx Wiliams (18 catches for 202 yards) appears to be the starter. Arizona is fortunate Murray is very mobile, because their offensive line last season struggled. RT Marcus Gilbert was re-signed to a one-year deal, but he played in just 12 games over the past three seasons and missed last season due to injury. The Cards did draft Josh Jones from Houston in the third round, which was a steal. If Gilbert can't go, Jones is a solid option. The offense wasn't bad last season, as they averaged 22.5 points per game (16th) and 124 rushing yards (10th). For Arizona to find a way to make the playoffs, they have to improve on the defensive end.

Defensively, they struggled, ranking last in yards per game allowed (402ypg), 31st against the pass (282ypg) and 24th against the run (120ypg). In free agency, they picked up OLB Devon Kennard from Detroit, who had 7.0 sacks last season. LB De'Vondre Campbell comes over from Atlanta after recording 129 tackles last season and three forced fumbles, but is a liability in coverage. The pass rush was good last season thanks to OLB Chandler Jones (19 sacks), yet they still ranked just 17th with 2.5 sacks per game. To help the run defense, Arizona brought in massive Jordan Phillips (6-5, 341) from Buffalo. Welcome to Arizona, OLB/ILB/S Isaiah Simmons from Clemson and DT Leki Fotu from Utah. Fotu will help rotating on the line to help up front. Simmons is faster than most wide receivers and should be great in coverage. The only concern is where to place him (all over the field). They also picked up Rashard Lawrence in the fifth round from LSU. He's another big body at 6-2, 308 and some talent. With a decent pass rush and Jones wreaking havoc, the biggest issue had to be the secondary. It starts at cornerback where, the Cards allowed a league-high 109.9 passer rating last season. Cornerback Patrick Peterson struggled after coming back from a PED suspension and turns 30 this year. Kevin Peterson had shoulder issues and Byron Murphy had many issues to be kind. At linebacker, Jordan Hicks led the Cards with 149 tackles (3 picks), while safety Budda Baker added 147 tackles.

Prediction: 9-7. The Cards will make big strides and compete for a playoff spot. The schedule is a little softer based on their 5-11 record. Murray takes a big step forward, though the secondary, lack of a tight end and speed receivers are still a concern.

4)Los Angeles Rams:

Last year's record: 9-7 SU, 10-5-1 ATS, 7-9 O/U

Super Bowl Odds: +3300; NFC West: +450

Key Offseason Additions: DT A'Shawn Robinson (FA-Detroit), OLB Leonard Floyd (FA-Chicago), OG Austin Blythe (FA-Rams).

Key Offseason Losses: RB Todd Gurley (FA-Rams), WR Brandin Cooks (Trade-Houston), DE Dante Fowler Jr. (FA-Atlanta), LB Cory Littleton (FA-Raiders), CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (FA-Philadelphia), S Eric Weddle (retired), K Greg Zuerlein (FA-Cowboys).

The Rams traded their first-round pick last October for star cornerback Jalen Ramsey. So they didn't have a first-rounder, and they had to replace Brandin Cooks, who they traded to Houston. Jared Goff threw for 4,638 yards and 292.4 yards per game, but tossed for just 22 TDs and had 16 picks (86.5 passer rating). He's mediocre without a strong running game. The passing game should be adequate with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods still around. They also drafted Van Jefferson from Florida at 57, who is a strong route runner. What they need is offensive line help, especially to improve a running game that produced just 94 yards (26th) per carry. Todd Gurley is now gone, which means the job could be shared by Malcolm Brown, who had 255 yards last season and second-year back Darrell Henderson. Cam Akers was taken in the second round and he's a player that could see action right away. The offensive line is another concern. Goff didn't have enough time to throw even a screen pass as the Rams' running backs combined for just 260 yards receiving, which was the lowest total in the NFL. LT Andrew Whitworth is now 38 and is finally showing decline, while at guard, last year's rookies Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen struggled. They brought in Austin Blythe (50.3 PFF grade) from the Colts, who could start right away at right guard.

Defensively, the Rams were decent last season, allowing 23 points per game (17th) and 340 yards per game (13th). They had a strong pass rush, ranking fourth with 3.1 sacks per game. But they lost Dante Fowler (11.5 sacks) in free agency. They did bring in 27-yard old OLB Leonard Floyd, who started for the Bears last season, but had just three sacks and has never lived up to his potential in four seasons since being taken ninth overall in 2016. They are solid up front on defensive line after re-signing Michael Brockers (after he nearly signed with the Ravens) and also picked up big DT A'Shawn Robinson (6-4, 330), as a nose guard to replace Sebastian Joseph-Day, who struggled alongside Aaron Donald (12.5 sacks) and Brockers. They also lost leading tackler Cory Littleton (135 tackles, 3.5 sacks) to free agency. They drafted OLB Terrell Lewis from Alabama in the third round. He's a first-round talent, who has been hampered by injuries. Safety Eric Weddle (108 tackles) also decided to retire and he was a leader in the secondary. John Johnson and rookie Jordan Fuller from Ohio State could be competing for that free safety spot. Terrell Burgess from Utah was added in the fourth round and can fill in at corner or safety.

Prediction: 8-8. The Rams are going to have issues defensive at linebacker and safety. The offensive line is still a concern and so is the running game. The Rams are trending down.

(some info from NFL.com, ESPN.com and PFF.com)