The NFC West should once again produce some excellent football this season, although fans who love high-scoring, pass-heavy offensive attacks may not enjoy it as much as others.
The Los Angeles Rams, fresh off a Super Bowl appearance, are the preseason favorites once again. They’ll be challenged heavily by the Seattle Seahawks, who just added a huge piece to their defensive line in Jadeveon Clowney, as well as the young San Francisco 49ers, who will be lead by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
While the Arizona Cardinals are expected to bring up the rear, the team does have an exciting young quarterback in Kyler Murray and an eager young coach in Kliff Kingsbury, and they could surprise some folks.
Here is a preview of each team in the NFC West ahead of their first game of the 2019 season.
Los Angeles Rams (Pred: 11-5)
Key Additions: S Eric Weddle, LB Clay Matthews, QB Blake Bortles
Key Subtractions: S Mark Barron, OL John Sullivan, DT Ndamukong Suh
First game: @ Carolina Panthers
The Los Angeles Rams found themselves in the Super Bowl last season, their second under coach Sean McVay. Although they lost the game, this team has the potential to make their way back to that level again in 2019.
After making a ton of high-profile roster moves last offseason, the team laid pretty low in 2019, looking to make small changes but keeping the rest of their core intact.
The additions of veteran safety Eric Weddle and linebacker Clay Matthews could end up both being bargains when the year is up, even though both of them are up there in age.
LA must have liked what they saw out of the University of Washington last year, as they took safety Taylor Rapp and defensive tackle Greg Gaines in the draft. Both could serve as solid depth pieces this season.
The Rams are on their way to another 10+ win season, and although Carolina is a solid team I think they’ll take care of business on the road on their way to an 11-5 record.
Seattle Seahawks (Pred: 10-6)
Key Additions: DE Jadeveon Clowney, DE Ezekiel Ansah, WR DK Metcalf, K Jason Myers
Key Subtractions: FS Earl Thomas, WR Doug Baldwin, DE Frank Clark
First game: Vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The Seattle Seahawks had a whirlwind of an offseason, punctuated by a surprising trade of star defensive end Frank Clark, two massive, record-breaking contract extensions for Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, the loss of franchise icons Doug Baldwin and Earl Thomas, the selection of uber-hyped receiver DK Metcalf, and then finally the last-minute trade for star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Ultimately this team is even better than the team that surprised everybody by winning 10 games and making it to the NFC wildcard game last year. Their run game is still excellent with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny, Russell Wilson is still an elite quarterback, and the additions of Ansah and Clowney in front of Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks gives them a formidable front seven.
The secondary isn’t what it used to be, and the receiving corps is extremely young, but this team has all the tools to win double-digit games and make a run in the playoffs.
Their first game against the Bengals should be a breeze, even if Clowney and Ansah are still learning the playbook up front.
San Francisco 49ers (8-8)
Key Additions: DE Nick Bosa, DE Dee Ford, RB Tevin Coleman, LB Kwon Alexander
Key Subtractions: P Bradley Pinion, WR Pierre Garcon, RB Alfred Morris
First game: @ Tampa Bay
The 49ers did a lot to improve their roster this offseason, signing a pair of quality defensive players in Kwon Alexander and Dee Ford, while also using the second overall pick to snag Nick Bosa.
The fact that they lost very little talent from last year’s squad (their punter was the biggest loss) is a great sign for this team going forward.
Of course, their success will hinge on how quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo looks in what the team hopes will be his first full season in the Bay.
Garoppolo has played in nine games for San Francisco over the last two seasons, with a nice 64.8% completion rate but a subpar 12/8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. If he can develop into the stud QB the fans envision, this team should play over .500 ball this year. If he cannot, it could be another ugly year in San Francisco.
Their first game over in Tampa Bay will give fans a good look at which Jimmy G they are going to get this year.
Arizona Cardinals (Pred: 5-11)
Key Additions: QB Kyler Murray, CB Byron Murphy, EDGE Terrell Suggs, TE Charles Clay
Key Subtractions: QB Josh Rosen, EDGE Benson Mayowa, FS Antoine Bethea
First Game: vs. Detroit Lions
Last but not least, the Arizona Cardinals will look to climb out of the cellar in the NFC West. Lead by their new coach, Kliff Kingsbury, and new quarterback Kyler Murray, this team does have some intrigue as a sleeper pick – even in the top-heavy NFC West.
Arizona made some shrewd moves on defense, signing free agent Terrell Suggs and drafting former UW cornerback Byron Murphy – although the losses of Benson Mayowa and Antoine Bethea will definitely hurt them.
They did their best to shore up the offensive line as well, and a healthy David Johnson should be a huge asset in 2019.
They get a nice litmus test in their season opener against the Lions, another young team attempting to re-brand themselves to get out of the cellar.
Perhaps Murray and Kingsbury can move the Cardinals in the right direction going forward.