The new NFL season begins in earnest at the beginning of September and all 32 teams are going through their preparations for the campaign.
The NFC West has been a hard-fought division in recent years as three different sides have won the crown in the last five seasons.
Three of those teams have gone on to reach the Super Bowl, with the Seattle Seahawks lifting the Vince Lombardi trophy back in the 2013 campaign.
Although it remained an intense battle within the four teams, the Seahawks won the division with a 10-5-1 record before being eliminated in the Divisional Round of the playoffs by the Atlanta Falcons.
Expect Pete Carroll’s men to be on form once again, but a challenge could come from a rejuvenated Arizona Cardinals outfit, while the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers start life under new head coaches.
The Seahawks had an inconsistent season in 2016, especially on offense where quarterback Russell Wilson had a slight regression from the previous term. Injuries to running backs Thomas Rawls and CJ Prosise limited production on the ground, with Marshawn Lynch’s retirement looming large.
On the defensive side of the ball, Seattle maintained the high level of their play for the majority of the campaign. However, Earl Thomas’ injury left them exposed in the playoffs against the Falcons, highlighting his importance to the club.
Carroll’s side have been dominant since he arrived in the Pacific North West in 2010, but their quest for a second title has been stymied. Cornerback Richard Sherman admitted Malcolm Butler’s goalline interception has been difficult for the Seahawks to get over, denying them a potential dynasty.
As long as the core of their defense remains they are still a threat to win the Super Bowl. Although some of their senior defensive players are beginning to get longer in the tooth. Reports suggested that Sherman was available for trade, while Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are nearing the end of their period at the peak of their powers.
There is great urgency for the Seattle to cash in on their window this year more than most. They’ve added depth to their offense during the off-season and should be locked in on winning the NFC West for the second season on the bounce at odds of -225 with SunBets.
The Cardinals were aiming to maintain their hold of the NFC West last season following a run to the NFC Championship game in the 2015 campaign. Bruce Arians’ men were hammered by the Carolina Panthers, but strengthened with the addition of Chandler Jones among others.
However, a defeat to the Patriots in their opener summed up their term, losing due to a missed field goal from Chandler Catanzaro. They were never able to find their rhythm, missing the post-season as a result, despite putting in impressive outings against the Seahawks, defeating them on the road in week 16.
Age and a lack of consistency is an issue with quarterback Carson Palmer as he regressed from this 2015 form, although that was an outlier from the majority of his NFL career. Should the 37-year-old find a resurgence in his play then the Cardinals will be contenders, but he needs support to do so.
David Johnson has established himself as one of the elite running backs in the NFL and has targeted 1,000 yards in receiving and rushing yards. The 25-year-old’s talent means that’s not out of the question, and if he has a strong year it will open up room for Palmer and the passing game to flourish.
Injuries loom large over the defense, none more so than Tyrann Mathieu. He finished the last campaign on injured reserve and needs a strong campaign to rediscover his best. There is more than enough talent for the Cardinals to be a top unit again and they will need to be on form to return their side to the playoffs, with odds of +163 with SkyBet.
The Rams parted company with Jeff Fisher towards the end of the 2016 campaign following the club’s horrendous campaign. Even though there was a great deal of turmoil moving the franchise from St Louis to Los Angeles, the performances on the field were not good enough, resulting in his departure with Sean McVay replacing him as head coach.
The club used a lot of draft capital to trade up to select Jared Goff first overall in the 2016 Draft. The 22-year-old had a difficult start to his NFL career in a struggling side. He threw five touchdowns and seven interceptions in his seven matches, losing all of the contests he started.
McVay, who served as offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins for three seasons, has been charged with bringing out the best in the quarterback. McVay is the youngest head coach in NFL history at just 31 years old, but he did impress with the Redskins, improving the play of Kirk Cousins.
Should he manage to raise Goff’s game to the standard expected out of the first-overall pick then the Rams will trend in the right direction in 2017. On the defensive side of the ball, the club snatched a coup in the hiring of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
The veteran coach moulded the Denver Broncos into one of the most formidable units in the NFL and has some talent available to him to attempt to bring stability in Los Angeles. However, it’s going to take more than one season to turn the fortunes of the franchise around.
The 49ers also have a new head coach in place as Kyle Shanahan takes the reins in the Bay Area. The 37-year-old brought out the best in Matt Ryan last season in Atlanta, guiding the quarterback to an MVP season that almost ended in a Super Bowl win.
Shanahan now turns his attentions to reviving the fortunes of San Francisco, who have endured a decline since the departure of Jim Harbaugh in 2014. Jim Tomsula was fired after one season and Chip Kelly suffered the same fate, with the 49ers posting a 2-14 record last term.
Quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert have left for pastures new, with Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley arriving in free agency along with CJ Beathard in the draft. The 49ers opted not to use the second-overall pick on a signal-caller instead trading the selection away to the Chicago Bears, who picked Mitchell Trubisky. The fate of that decision could loom large in the future, especially if the quarterback goes on to have a successful career.
Hoyer and Barkley are unlikely to inspire in 2017, although the former did produce his best football under Shanahan’s tutelage in Cleveland three seasons ago. Should he find his form then it might be good enough for the 49ers to keep their heads above the .500 mark.
Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster arrived in the 2017 Draft to become part of a promising defense. There’s enough talent to become comparable to the unit that reached the Super Bowl in the 2012 season, but it will take time for the franchise to rebuild. Taking the under on 4.5 wins with Bovada sportsbook at +130 may not be a bad bet to take in the circumstances.
Seattle Seahawks To Win NFC West
Arizona Cardinals To Reach The Playoffs
San Francisco 49ers To Win Under 4.5 Matches
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