The NFC West is one of the toughest divisions in football. The Super Bowl Champion LA Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, and Seattle Seahawks all made big moves this off-season. With three of the four teams believing they can win the division this year, there’s a lot to break down. Let’s see who each team lost and added, as well as predict their 2022-23 season in this NFC West preview.
NFC West Preview
4. Seattle Seahawks
Key loses – QB Russell Wilson, LB Bobby Wagner, CB DJ Reed Jr., DE Carlos Dunlap, OT Duane Brown, TE Gerald Everett, C Ethan Pocic
Key additions – LB/DE Uchenna Nwosu, QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant, DE Shelby Harris, CB Artie Burns, DEN 2022 first (OT Charles Cross) and second (LB Boye Mafe), DEN 2023 first and second round picks
Re-signed – QB Geno Smith (1-year), FS Quandre Diggs (3-years), DT Al Woods (2-years), TE Will Dissly (3-years), C/G Kyle Fuller (1-year)
Extensions – WR DK Metcalf (3-years, $72 million)
The Seahawks finished with a losing record of 7-10 for the first time in the Russell Wilson era. That was good for last in the NFC West. So, they decided to start their rebuild. They shipped Wilson to Denver for a plethora of picks and players, and released longtime linebacker Bobby Wagner.
While fans hate to see their leaders of the past ten years go, the franchise is excited for the rebuild. However, with quarterbacks Geno Smith and Drew Lock on the roster, they know this year will be tough.
While they did bring in Charles Cross to hopefully be their left tackle for the future, the rest of the offensive line is still a question. Gabe Jackson had a good rookie season, but during his sophomore season he took a step back.
Drew Lock and Geno Smith will have help in the skill positions. With DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, both QBs have reliable and exciting targets. The backfield looks to be between Rashaad Penny and rookie Kenneth Walker III. Penny finished last season with a 92-617-6 line in the last five games. Seattle finished with the 26th most rushes per game last season, but we should expect that to increase this season.
The defense is a mess for Seattle. The linebacker corps of Jordyn Brooks, Darrell Taylor, and Cody Barton is expected to take a big step back with the loss of Bobby Wagner. The defensive line could improve the addition of Harris and Nwosu. However, I wouldn’t expect it to.
The secondary is where they will get hurt the most. They ranked second-to-last in the NFL last season in passing defense, while also being in the bottom 11 in interceptions. The trade for Jamal Adams hasn’t panned out so far, and while they do have Quandre Diggs across from him, the tandem has shown struggles in coverage.
I have the Seahawks finishing the year tied for last in the league with a record of 3-14. With a tough NFC West, they will go 1-5 with their only win divisional coming Week 9 at the Arizona Cardinals. It’s a rebuild year for Seattle, as they look to gain a top 3 pick and hopefully get their quarterback of the future in the 2023 NFL draft.
3. Arizona Cardinals
Key loses – DE Chandler Jones, ILB Jordan Hicks, DE Jordan Phillips, WR Christian Kirk, RB Chase Edmonds
Key additions – WR Marquise Brown, OG Will Hernandez, TE Trey McBride, DE Cameron Thomas, CB Trayvon Mullen Jr.
Re-signed – TE Zach Ertz (3-years), RB James Connor (3-years)
Extensions – QB Kyler Murray (5-year, $230.5 million), LT D.J. Humphries (3-year, $66.6 million)
Last season Arizona started off hot, as they went 7-0 before losing to the Packers in week 8. The second half of the season didn’t treat them as well, as they went 4-5. They finished the season with a record of 11-6, which was good enough for the fifth seed in the NFC and second in the NFC West.
They would go on to lose their playoff game 34-11 versus the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. Kyler Murray struggled in that game going 19/34 for 137 yards with two interceptions.
The offense for the Cardinals lost an important piece for the first few weeks as wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is suspended for the first six games. They did bring back running back James Connor and tight end Zach Ertz to help carry the load again. The addition of Marquise Brown should open the field up more for Murray as well.
The offensive line is a mixed bag. DJ Humphries and Rodney Hudson are both very solid starters. They do, however, have one of the worst guard combos in the league with Will Hernandez and Justin Pugh. With their division having guys like Aaron Donald and Nick Bosa, the offensive line could struggle keeping the pocket clean for Murray. After ranking eighth in total offense last season, the Cardinals are looking for more of the same.
The Cardinals lost some key players on the defensive side of the ball with Jones and Hicks. They didn’t do a lot to fill those holes by bringing in defensive end Cameron Thomas and cornerback Trayvon Mullen Jr. For a defense that finished 11th in total defense last season, they look to take a small step back.
Their major issue on the defensive side of the ball was against the run, and that isn’t expected to change. With aging JJ Watt being the focal point, they will be looking for the rookie Cameron Thomas and defensive tackle Zach Allen to step up.
Their secondary should still be a force with Byron Murphy Jr and Budda Baker headlining. Their linebacker corps is interesting, as they have Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins, who haven’t lived up to the expectations yet. The defense should be solid this season, but nothing spectacular.
I have the Cardinals finishing 7-10 in the NFC West, going 2-4 in the division. Kliff Kingsbury could be on the hot seat after this season if the team doesn’t make the playoffs. Arizona is looking to prove the doubters wrong and make it back to the playoffs in a weak NFC.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Key loses – OG Laken Tomlinson, DL DJ Jones, CB K’Wuan Williams, OL Tom Compton, RB Raheem Mostert, DE Arden Key, C Alex Mack
Key additions – CB Charvarius Ward, DL Hassan Ridgeway, WR Ray-Ray McCloud, DE Kerry Hyder Jr., DL Drake Jackson, RB Tyrion Davis-Price, WR Danny Gray
Re-signed – RB Jeff Wilson Jr. (1-year), OL Jake Brendel (1-year), CB Jason Verrett (1-year)
Extended – WR Deebo Samuel (3-year, $73.5 million)
After finishing last season 10-7, good for the 6th seed in the NFC, the 49ers went on a run in the playoffs, losing in the NFC Championship game to the Los Angeles Rams. It was a successful season for the 49ers, but wasn’t good enough for them. They are looking to make some noise again this season, but with a different leader on offense. The change of their quarterback could make improve their stance in the NFC West.
The 49ers announced that Trey Lance will be their starting quarterback this upcoming season. They restructured Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract, making him the highest paid backup in the league. It will be interesting to see how the offense changes with Lance at the helm. They finished with the seventh best total offense last season behind a fantastic breakout year from Deebo Samuel.
They lost two pieces of their offensive line in Tomlinson and Mack. Those will not be easy pieces to fill, either. But, with Kyle Shanahan as their coach they should be just fine in that department.
Outside of Lance taking over, the skill positions on offense stayed almost the exact same. Elijah Mitchell comes back to lead the backfield, while Brandon Aiyuk looks to break out next to Deebo Samuel this season. The offense should still be a force with the Shanahan playbook.
Deebo took over the spotlight for this team, but the defense was still the best side of the ball. Finishing third in total defense last season, they are looking to be even better this season. Nick Bosa is leading the defensive line again this year. With defensive tackles Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw, who is coming back off of an ACL sprain a season ago, they should be a great front again.
While having one of the best linebackers in the league in Fred Warner, the 49ers are looking to wreak havoc against opposing offenses for another year. Ambry Thomas had a good rookie season, but the corners are still a question for the 49ers. Charvarius Ward came over from KC and, while he is a solid corner, having Emmanuel Moseley across from him is still a major concern.
The 49ers are looking to improve upon their 10-7 record. I have them doing that by one game. I see them going 11-6, finishing with a record of 4-2 against the NFC West. They will be hoping to get past the NFC Championship game and return to the Super Bowl to avenge their 2020 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
1. Los Angeles Rams
Key losses – OLB Von Miller, CB Darious Williams, NT Sebastian Joseph-Day, OG Austin Corbett, P Johnny Hekker, WR Robert Woods, LT Andrew Whitworth
Key Additions – WR Allen Robinson, LB Bobby Wagner
Re-signed – K Matt Gay (1-year), LT Joseph Noteboom (3-years), C Brian Allen (3-years), OL Coleman Shelton (2-years)
Extended –QB Matt Stafford (4-years, $160 million), WR Cooper Kupp (3-years, $80 million)
The winners of Super Bowl 56, the Los Angeles Rams are looking to repeat after their glorious run. They went all-in getting Matthew Stafford and it paid off. After finishing the regular season 12-5, Stafford finally got his ring in his first season out of Detroit, and he got rewarded with a major extension.
They also gave an extension to Super Bowl MVP and superstar wideout Cooper Kupp. While they lost superstar Von Miller to Buffalo, this team still has plenty of talent from their 2022 championship team.
The Rams 2021-22 offense was phenomenal. While they only finished ninth in total offense, they finished third in passing offense. The passing attack is expected to be just as good, if not better, with the substitution of Allen Robinson over Robert Woods next to Kupp — who just put up the second-best statistical season by a wide receiver in NFL history.
The run game is still a question, as Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr. look to each take a jump in 2022-23. The offensive line took a hit with Whitworth retiring and Corbett leaving. Though, they brought back Brian Allen, Joseph Noteboom, and Coleman Shelton to help protect Stafford. 2022-23 should be fun for Rams fans watching this offense as they look to finish in the top 10 again.
There is no question who the leader of this defense is: Aaron Donald. Arguably the best defensive player ever, he helped lead the Rams to the sixth-best rushing defense in the league. While they did finish 17th in total defense, they made a few changes.
They replaced a future Hall of Famer in Von Miller with another future Hall of Famer in Bobby Wagner. This gives a big boost to an interior linebacker corps that had Ernest Jones and Christian Rozeboom set to take the reins.
The secondary is still solid highlighted by All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey with Troy Hill opposite of him. The Rams should expect the defense to finish in the top 20 again, and maybe top 10.
I have the Rams repeating as NFC West champs going 12-5 again, 5-1 in the division. The Rams are looking to go back-to-back and become the first team since the 2004-05 New England Patriots to do so. Will this team full of Hall of Famers be able to do it? We’ll have to wait and see.