Only one new Quarterback enters the NFC West this season while another stays after advising that he needed more protection. Hello J.J. Watt and welcome to the NFC! On paper one could say this division looks like one of the toughest. However, in 2020 it may have been a little underwhelming for the teams that made the playoffs. The Rams and Seahawks battled in Wild Card weekend only to have Los Angeles move on and lose in Green Bay in the Divisional Round. This divisional should have the eyes on a potential disruptor to another Brady-Rodgers NFC Championship game. Let’s get on with the NFC West 2021 preview!
- Key Additions: DL J.J Watt, WR A.J. Green, CB Malcolm Butler, QB Colt McCoy
- Key losses: LB Haason Reddick, RB Kenyan Drake, TE Dan Arnold
- Starting Quarterback: Kyler Murray
- Last season: 8-8
2021 outlook: It’s hard to say that the Cardinals didn’t have one of the better offseasons and addressed the bigger holes. With J.J. Watt and Malcolm Butler entering the defense gets veteran help that can still be effective at a high level. The Cardinals defense finished tied for fourth place in total sacks with 48 in 2020 (Tampa Bay also had 48 sacks). Murray has to take another leap as a young QB and adding A.J. Green as another veteran WR helps the case. It’s time for the Cardinals to land a spot in the playoffs but the division itself becomes an issue. Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco are on the schedule twice so division games are important for Arizona. They were 2-4 against the division in 2020. Kliff Kingsbury has a 5-10-1 and 8-8 record so far as Head Coach. I’m sure entering year three of a four year deal making the playoffs becomes a necessity for his career.
Los Angeles Rams
- Key additions: QB Matthew Stafford, WR DeSean Jackson,
- Key losses: QB Jared Goff, OLB Samson Ebukam, S John Johnson III, RB Malcolm Brown, TE Gerald Everet
- Starting Quarterback: Matthew Stafford
- Last season: 10-6
2021 outlook: As mentioned in our 2021 NFC North preview, the Lions and Rams did the QB swap. Both sides of the argument brings a fair point. Jared Goff is gone but he is also younger, better, and the Lions ran away with draft picks. Stafford (when healthy) is still considered a productive QB. After the Rams Super Bowl LIII (2018 season) the run game became more efficient but the passing game declined. Out went Goff and now insert Stafford. Sean McVay should be trusted to make this work with a new QB. The offense can thrive but ultimately the defense will be in question. The schedule for the Rams includes the Packers, Colts, and Ravens on the road and one game against the 49ers in San Francisco. A tough AFC team in Tennessee is also on the schedule. Division games would be just as important for any team in the NFC West at this point. We could say play the safe bet and don’t expect the Rams to win the division this season but a close runner-up.
San francisco 49ers
- Key additions: C Alex Mack, DE Samson Ebukam, WR Mohamed Sanu,
- Key losses: WR Kendrick Bourne, DE Kerry Hyder Jr., CB Ahkello Witherspoon, RB Tevin Coleman, RB Jerick McKinnon, CB Richard Sherman
- Starting Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo
- Last season: 6-10
2021 outlook: We should address adding Trey Lance as the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft meant Jimmy Groppolo ain’t the answer in San Fran. Well, the 49ers are giving it a shot with Garoppolo as the clear QB1 until further notice. However, Lance has looked nice in preseason. The biggest plus for the 49ers finishing ranked fifth in the NFL in total defense last season. This is on top of pass rushers Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and cornerback Richard Sherman, combined to miss 40 games due to injuries. However, the man behind the plan was Robert Saleh who is now the newest Head Coach of the New York Jets this season. The new Defensive Coordinator is DeMeco Ryans who enters his first year as a DC in the NFL. Richard Sherman’s NFL future is not looking great as he’s now a free agent. Nonetheless the 49ers will have the biggest question mark in the division. Can the offense keep the team afloat should the defense need some time under new leadership? If there is a team that competes but finish last in this division it’s probably the 49ers.
- Key additions: G Gabe Jackson, DE Kerry Hyder Jr., TE Gerald Everett, WR D’Wayne Eskridge, CB Ahkello Witherspoon, DE Aldon Smith
- Key losses: RB Carlos Hyde, WR Phillip Dorsett, CB Shaquill Griffin, TE Jacob Hollister, DT Jarran Reed, WR David Moore
- Starting Quarterback: Russell Wilson
- Last season: 12-4
2021 outlook: Russell Wilson is normally in the media for other reasons besides the NFL. Part of that is due to his wife being Ciara the R&B singer she is. However, earlier this year Wilson made things public about his feeling with the future of the franchise. He commented on being “hit too much” which created trade rumors galore of course. However, Russ has a point. Wilson has been sacked 394 times in 144 regular-season games. According to ESPN Stats & Information research. Fair point Mr. Wilson, fair point. Shane Waldron is a first-time offensive coordinator in Seattle this season. The turnaround for the Seahawks would be to move away from the run-heavy offense that Pete Carroll influences. Roster moves made didn’t quite upgrade Seattle more than what they were last season.There isn’t a true stud pass rusher unless one emerges this season for the Seahawks. However, Wilson’s abilities and resume clearly explains he will keep you in a game any given day. There shouldn’t be a surprise to see Seattle playing as a higher seed come Wild Card weekend or repeat as the Division winner in 2021.