Tha Sports Junkies 101

2016 NFC West Projected Order Of Finish

Jack Kurzenknabe via Flickr


 Back to Back for the Cardinals?

2016 NFC West Preview: Consistently Competitive

In 2010, the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record and upset the New Orleans Saints in the divisional playoffs thanks to a run by Marshawn Lynch that will never be forgotten.  Since that season, the worst record an NFC West champion has had was 11-4-1 by the San Francisco 49ers in 2012, and that team made it to the Super Bowl.  This year’s Arizona Cardinals were actually the first NFC West champ since 2011 to not make it to the Super Bowl, and they still made it to the Conference Championship.

Clearly, this is a division to be reckoned with.

2016 looks to be no different for this dominant division.  Arizona looks improved and is coming off an NFC Championship game appearance, Los Angeles found a new city and their franchise QB, Seattle is consistently a solid team with Pete Carroll at the helm, and San Francisco hired Chip Kelly to revamp the offense and pair with Colin Kaepernick.

Projecting how a competitve divsion will finish out is a challenge, but here is a writer’s best guess:

1. Arizona Cardinals

2015 Record: 13-3 (NFC West Champs, Lost NFC Championship)
Major additions: DE Chandler Jones (Patriots), DT Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss)
Major loss: G Jonathan Cooper (Patriots)

Analysis: Arizona made it to the NFC Championship game and only got better this off-season, so there’s no reason to think they won’t at least win the NFC West despite how good of a division it is.  Robert Nkemdiche will fit great into the Cardinals‘ defense, and Chandler Jones instantly upgrades their pass rush.  The defensive secondary will still be great going forward with Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu leading the way, and the offense, with RB David Johnson being a potential breakout player. The Cardinals will still be explosive with Carson Palmer, Michael Floyd, and Larry Fitzgerald.

Projection for 2016: 14-2

I think Arizona will most likely be the best team in the NFL next season, and this prediction reflects that.  They have 6 challenging games on their schedule, and the only ones I’ll think they’ll lose are visiting Minnesota and visiting Los Angeles.  Arizona is my early Super Bowl favorite, and they should definitely win the NFC West.

2. Seattle Seahawks

2015 Record: 10-6  (Lost in Divisional Playoffs)
Major Additions: OT Germain Ifedi (Texas A&M), DT Jarran Reed (Alabama)
Major Losses: LB  Bruce Irvin (Raiders), DT Brandon Mebane (Chargers), OT Russell Okung (Broncos)

Analysis: Seattle, led by successful head coach Pete Carroll, will consistently be a solid football team with him at the helm.  However, at least on paper, the Seahawks look weaker this year.  They lost their best lineman in OT Russell Okung, their best LB in Bruce Irvin, and a decent lineman in DT Brandon Mebane.  While they attempted to replace the latter two in the first two rounds in the draft, both are almost certainly downgrades for next year.  While the team is still led by Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, they lost some key players.

Projection for 2016: 9-7

Seattle lost about a game’s worth of talent in the offseason, and their schedule is challenging.  They have about 9 games that should be close ones.  However, they did not lose enough and the Rams did not gain enough for Los Angeles to jump the Seahawks to the number 2 spot, at least for this year.

3. Los Angeles Rams

2015 Record: 7-9
Major Additions: QB Jared Goff (Cal), DT Dominique Easley (Patriots)
Major Losses: S Rodney McLeod (Eagles), DT Nick Fairly (Saints), CB Janoris Jenkins (Giants), DE Chris Long (Patriots)

Analysis:  The Rams moved out west this offseason, and managed to find their franchise QB out there as well.  Cal QB Jared Goff looks to be NFL-ready immediately for a Rams squad depending on him.  LA’s defense took so hits in the offseason, however, losing half their starters in the defensive backfield and losing disruptive DT Nick Fairly.  The defense will continue to depend on one of the best D-Lines in the NFL, led by DT Aaron Donald and DE Robert Quinn, while the offense looks young and ready to take off with Goff and RB Todd Gurley.

Projection for 2016: 8-8

Los Angeles looks ready for future success, but the hits taken short-term on the defense will prevent huge success for 2016.  However, a significant upgrade at QB should lead to a 1-game improvement.

4. San Francisco 49ers

2015 Record: 5-11
Major Additions: DE DeForest Buckner (Oregon), G Joshua Garnett (Stanford), G Zane Beadles (Jaguars)
Major Losses: G Alex Boone (Vikings)

Analysis: San Francisco is a team in rebuild, and this offseason, they acquired some key pieces to that process.  DeForest Buckner and Joshua Garnett are both perfect fits in the defensive and offensive, respectively, schemes.  Zane Beadles is a solid player who could start on the O-Line.  The key to success going forward for the 49ers is their QB situation, which currently is a hot mess.  Blaine Gabbert has taken all of the 1st team reps so far through OTA’s and 11-on-11’s while Colin Kaepernick has been nursing a shoulder injury, so Gabbert seems to be the current starter.  If Gabbert does indeed start Week 1, Kaepernick will be moved either before the trade deadline or next offseason.  The 49ers seem to think Gabbert is a better scheme fit than Kaepernick, which is hard for me to believe considering how mobile Kaepernick, but only time will tell how the situation plays out.

Projection for 2016: 5-11

San Francisco acquired good prospects and can look for future success, but short-term, this team is simply not ready to compete in the NFC West.  The new rookies will prevent an even worse record from happening.