Go West! – 2023 NFC West Preview

Eric Urbanowicz
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Over the last few years, the NFC West has been seen as the final boss of the conference. If you wanted to win the conference and advance to the Super Bowl, you had to face the NFL’s equivalent of Goro. If you wanted to face Shang Tsung (the AFC Champions), you had to test your might with a boss that at times may have been seen as harder to defeat.

While the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers have traded being the division’s top representative off over the years, the Seattle Seahawks have also knocked on the door as well, often just missing out. However, there can only be one sheriff in this town. Who will win this showdown in the Wild Wild West?


Arizona Cardinals

Record in 2022: 4-13

Key Player: Quarterback – Josh Dobbs

Player To Watch: Defensive End – Jonathan Ledbetter

To say last year was a disaster for the Arizona Cardinals would be like saying Alabama is a good college football team. Between all of the circumstance surrounding quarterback Kyler Murray, the dismissal of Kliff Kingsbury and Michael Bidwell taking over as the worst owner in the league (following Dan Snyder’s sale of the Washington Commanders), things couldn’t get worse. So this is when it starts to get better, right?

The answer to that is both yes and no.

The hiring of former Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon to be their head coach, as well as his former linebackers coach Nick Rallis to be the defensive coordinator shows they’re committed to patching up a defense that had the second most points per game allowed.

Newly hired offensive coordinator Drew Petzing should help back-up quarterback Josh Dobbs hold down the offense until Murray is healthy enough to return. Their biggest hindrance will be a lack of explosive weapons and that could hurt them. If they do well, it would definitely be a shock because as is, they look like a team drafting in the top ten next year. Prediction: 5-12


Los Angeles Rams

Record in 2022: 5-12

Key Player: Safety – John Johnson III

Player To Watch: Quarterback – Stetson Bennett IV

Last year the Los Angeles Rams had such a bad Super Bowl hangover, you’d swear they were hanging out with Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms (seems even more likely since they messed with a tiger in the Super Bowl). If a disappointing season wasn’t bad enough, the effects of Les Snead’s “F Them Picks” mantra are starting to surface. This is not an ideal situation for them.

While players like wide receiver Cooper Kupp, quarterback Matthew Stafford and most of the offensive line returning from injury, things should look up for them. That said, if Stafford starts to struggle again, watch for them to switch to rookie Stetson Bennett IV. This may be a bigger make or break season for some players than originally thought. Prediction: 8-9


San Francisco 49ers

Record in 2022: 13-4

Key Player: Offensive Tackle – Colton McKivitz

Player To Watch: Defensive End – Clelin Ferrell

Last year, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback room looked like King Ghidorah: no matter how many heads you cut off, they still kept coming back to fight. Starting with Trey Lance (suffered season ending surgery in week two), the team used Jimmy Garoppolo until a foot injury forced him to miss the rest of the season, leading the team to play Brock Purdy. Purdy defied expectations and got San Francisco within one game of the Super Bowl before an injury sidelined him.

Purdy and Lance have since healed, but now Garoppolo is with the Las Vegas Raiders (replaced by former New York Jets and Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold). On paper, this should be a team that makes it back to the NFC Championship game: their defense hasn’t changed much, head coach Kyle Shanahan is still leading the charge and mostly everything is intact on offense. The only real question is: can Brock Purdy had a repeat performance or will he be a one-hit wonder? Prediction: 13-4


Seattle Seahawks

Record in 2022: 9-8

Key Player: Linebacker – Bobby Wagner

Player To Watch: Running Back – Zach Charbonnet

Last year, the Seattle Seahawks felt like the Little Giants: losing someone who was seen as their top player (Russell Wilson) to a team that was seen as a contender that needed that position (QB) while being left with the players who were a mixed bag of good and rough. The only difference is that Rick Moranis wasn’t coaching the Seahawks, Pete Carroll was and he rallied the troops like no other. Instead of confirming everybody’s suspicions of a rebuild, they went 9-8 and made the playoffs.

While their defensive line looks drastically different, they added pieces that not only replace but potentially enhance their ability to bring pressure. The addition of a second running back (Charbonnet) and a potential stud receiver (Jaxon Smith-Njigba) should also add more firepower to an offense that really has fired on all cylinders when faced with big situations. The next step for Seattle is to challenge for the NFC West crown and while they don’t necessarily need to win it, putting that fear into the other teams could go a long way in the development of this team. Prediction: 10-7

Eric Urbanowicz


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