It’s almost that time again, on September 8th, there will be a Super Bowl 50 rematch to kick off the new NFL season. This series is being used to go through each division to do a preview of each team and where each team is going to place within each of their divisions.
This division will be a two team race between two of the best teams in the NFL. Seattle has been to two of the last three Super Bowls and was arguably the best team in the NFC for the second half of the regular season last year. Arizona had the misfortune of having some key injuries towards the end of last season. The Rams are back in LA and they should be better this year, but are they good enough to make it a three team race? San Francisco blew up the team from last year, but it will be interesting to see where they are going into the future.
San Francisco 49ers
It’s almost hard to believe that just a couple of years ago the 49ers were in the upper echelon of the NFL. After a failed year with Jim Tomsula, the 49ers decided to go with a polarizing coach in Chip Kelly. Kelly certainly made some mistakes in Philadelphia and he didn’t inherit a very talented team. There is currently a quarterback competition between Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert, neither of which are really that good. Carlos Hyde is a decent runningback and Torrey Smith is a decent receiver, but there really aren’t any other playmakers on this offense. The offensive line had trouble with run-blocking last year and it should continue this season as well. Joe Staley is a good offensive lineman, but the unit isn’t that good as a whole. Maybe Chip Kelly’s scheme can help cover up some of the weaknesses.
The defense isn’t really that exciting for this team either. The secondary is average, but they were probably the best part of this team last year. Jimmie Ward and Eric Reid were good players last year and should be pretty good again this year. Tramaine Brock hasn’t been at his best in the last couple of years and he needs to bounce back for this defense to be any good. Antoine Bethea is also a decent piece to sure up the safety position. The 49er defensive line should get a shot in the arm by the addition of the first round pick DeForest Buckner. He has excellent length and ability to make an impact on any defensive unit and should be a dominant defensive end once he gets some repetitions. Hopefully, NaVorro Bowman can bounce back from his injury issues and make an impact for this defense and can help the rest of the front seven play at a higher level.
Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles has a franchise again, and the Rams have a new quarterback with their number one pick in Jared Goff. So far in the preseason it doesn’t look like Goff will be the starting quarterback, but it will be Case Keenum instead. It looks like sitting Goff would help because he needs to get used to the speed of the NFL and learn more from the bench. Whichever quarterback is starting has the fortune handing the ball off to one of the best young running backs in the league, Todd Gurley. Gurley was the shining spot of this offense last season and ended up winning offensive rookie of the year. The rest of this offense doesn’t look very good though. The offensive line and receiving corps both have a lot of problems. Their best offensive lineman, Garrett Reynolds, has been a journeyman in the last couple of years and hasn’t started all sixteen games in a season during his entire career. The receiving corps don’t have a number one option. Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin are number two options at best, probably number threes on better teams.
The Los Angeles defense revolves around their wonderful front seven. Aaron Donald is still one of the best defensive tackles in the entire league. Robert Quinn is a really good defensive end that has dropped off a little bit in the last two seasons, but should be able to bounce back with all of this talent around him. They also have depth along that defensive line as well with guys like Dominique Easley. The Rams linebackers should be interesting with all of the changes. Alec Ogletree is moving to middle linebacker and Mark Barron is moving to linebacker after playing safety for his career. If those two can adapt to their new positions, then they could be pretty good with a solid player in Akeem Ayers.
Their secondary is the weakness of this defense. They let Janoris Jenkins walk in favor of making Trumaine Johnson their number one corner, who is good, but there are some questions around everyone else. Lamarcus Joyner isn’t very good overall and EJ Gaines had a good season in 2014, but he missed all of last season with a foot injury so it’ll be interesting to see if he can come back. Safety TJ McDonald has had flashes of good play, but he hasn’t been a consistent player. Their other safety Maurice Alexander hasn’t been good and causes for some concern with this secondary.
The Seahawks have been one of the best teams in the NFC for the last five years and they finally have an identity on offense. There seemed to be a rift in the last few years between running back Marshawn Lynch and quarterback Russell Wilson. Now that Lynch decided to hang it up, this is now Russell Wilson’s team. Russell Wilson might not be the best quarterback in the league, but he makes plays when it matters and seems to get better each year. Thomas Rawls did a good job last year when Lynch was injured, but it will be interesting to see if he can be the main running back or if CJ Prosise or Christine Michael will take some snaps from him.
The Seattle receivers, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Tyler Lockett are some good options for Wilson. Last year, it seemed like they didn’t know how to use Jimmy Graham properly and he had some injury concerns. If they could figure out how to use him properly, this offense would be even better. The Achilles heel of this team is the offensive line. They need to work better together and not make Wilson have to run or get hit. If Wilson goes down for a significant amount of time, then this team will fall fast.
The Seattle defense is still really good and starts with the secondary. Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas combine to make the best safety combination in the entire NFL. Richard Sherman is still one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league, but there are some questions at the other cornerback spots. Jeremy Lane is a solid corner, but not as good as the rest of the secondary and the third corner spot is a big question. DeShawn Sheed wasn’t very good last year and Tharold Simon missed the 2015 season with an injury, but wasn’t all that great towards the end of the 2014 season anyway. Luckily for Seattle fans, their front seven more than makes up for the questions in the secondary. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril make for a devastating pass rush and it will be interesting to see how rookie Jarran Reed adapts to playing in the Seattle 4-3 defense. He should be able to help sure up the run when he adapts to the NFL game. You mix their line with linebackers K.J. Wright and Booby Wagner and you make one of the best defensive front seven in the entire league.
Carson Palmer is drinking from the fountain of youth. He has looked better than ever for the last two seasons and should be even better this year with his incredible supporting cast. Larry Fitzgerald is still a top receiver in the league and Michael Floyd is a good number two. David Johnson was a breakout star last year and could really become one of the premier runners in the league this year. Johnson’s backup, Chris Johnson, is still a solid runner that can enter the game to keep Johnson’s legs fresh. Arizona’s offensive line is one of the best run-blocking units in the league, but they need to improve in the pass-blocking department. They need to keep Palmer healthy because if he goes down for more than a game or two, then this team could be in trouble with Seattle in their division.
The Cardinal defense is also one of the best in the league. Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson are two of the best secondary players in the entire league. Peterson is also a difference maker on special teams. Mathieu’s injury last year was horrendous for this team at the end of last season. These two also make the rest of the secondary significantly better. Justin Bethel and Tony Jefferson produced their best seasons of their respective careers last season and there isn’t any reason why they will not be even better in 2016.
The Arizona front seven isn’t the best in the league, but they are very solid and should be able to get the job done. Calais Campbell and Chandler Jones should help make their pass rush better. Marcus Golden had a very successful rookie campaign and should be better in his second season. Kevin Minter is not the best linebacker in the league and needs something to motivate him to play better. An interesting player on this team to watch will be their first round pick Robert Nkemdiche. At one point, he was considered a top fifteen pick, but dropped due to some character question. If he can keep his head on straight, he could make a real difference on this defense.
4th Place: San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers are in for some trouble this season. They don’t know who their quarterback is going to be, and whoever they choose won’t be that great anyway. They don’t have enough good weapons for that quarterback and the offensive line might cause some problems as well. Hopefully, DeForest Buckner can develop for the future, but the defensive players around him shouldn’t make that much of an impact. San Francisco should win either three or four games.
3rd Place: Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams have a lot of problems all over their team. They have one of the best running backs and front sevens in the entire league. Everything else on this team is troubling currently. Jared Goff might be one of the best quarterbacks in a couple of years, but he has a lot of work to do before he gets to that level. The receiving corps, offensive line, and secondary will bring this team down and will cause them to win only six or seven games.
2nd Place: Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks are going to be very good again this year. This defense is still one of the best in the league between the secondary and front seven. Russell Wilson should take another step forward in the 2016 season with his weapons Baldwin, Kearse, Graham, and Lockett. The combination of Rawls, Prosise, and Michael should be able to fill the void left by Marshawn Lynch retiring. The big thing that could hold this team back is the offensive line troubles. Despite that weakness, the Seahawks should win ten or eleven games.
1st Place: Arizona Cardinals
This Arizona Cardinal team is one of the most complete teams in the entire league entering this season. Between Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, and Duke Johnson, this team could be really good offensively. They have arguably the best secondary in the entire NFL and should be able to help make the front seven better. Overall, if this team stays healthy, then they should win eleven or twelve games and win this division.
My name is Sean, I have been a fan of the NFL for at least 25 years and want to get my thoughts out to the public. Please visit the main site for more posts