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Good Teams, m.A.A.d Division: 2020 NFC West Preview
Photo Courtesy of The San Francisco Examiner

Good Teams, m.A.A.d Division: 2020 NFC West Preview

“Imagine if the hit had you foaming at the mouth, they was straight tweaking that weekend…my team broke even. I made an allegiance that made a promise to see you leaving without a win.” – good kid, m.a.a.d city (NFL Remix)

Go listen to “good kid, m.a.a.d city”  by Kendrick Lamar and this line will make sense as it explains the hectic yet poetic chaos of the NFC West division.

It’s not too far fetched to believe that the NFC West will produce the Super Bowl winner this season. This division has the best of both worlds on each team, the question is which will put it all together?

Whichever team that can create opportunities for their offense through their defense will win this division and most likely the World Championship.

 

Arizona Cardinals

Record in 2019: 5-10-1

Key Player: Quarterback – Kyler Murray

Player To Watch: Wide Receiver – Kristian Kirk

Not too many teams can say they had a good season when they finish 5-10-1 but the Cardinals can. Rookie Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury had the offense improve drastically from dead last in 2018 to 16th this past season. That was in no small part to outstanding rookie QB Kyler Murray, who played well enough without many weapons around him.

The Cards have remedied that this year trading for All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins. He, along with the ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald and third year man Kristian Kirk should boast one the best groups of hands in the NFL. Kenyan Drake will also be returning, giving Arizona as potent an offense as we may see this season.

Defense is also going to be one of the most improved units for this team and may carry them for the first part of the season. Veteran pass rusher Chandler Jones we know can produce but new addition Isaiah Simmons will be manning the middle of this athletic defense. He and newly extended Safety Budda Baker will be around the ball often with their speed.

The Cardinals may be the most improved team in the NFL this season. They addressed both the offense and the defense to be able to compete in a tough division. Don’t be surprised if they come up and make a run at a Wild Card spot this year. Prediction: 8-8

 

 Los Angeles Rams

 Record in 2019: 9-7

 Key Player: Running Back – Cam Akers

 Player to Watch: Defensive End –  Ogbonnia Okoronkwo

The Rams are an enigma. They have a ton of talent on both sides and seem to play below that talent level, which describes their 2019 season. Some of their losses were due to the offense being lethargic at times and some the defense just looked overmatched.

They can’t afford that this year in a division that is much improved from last year. With departures of former star running back Todd Gurley and Edge Dante Fowler, they will need to get production from young players if they hope to compete early.

Two of those names that need to produce and will have a big chance to are Cam Akers and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. Akers is explosive out of the backfield and is shifty in the hole: he should be plug and play this year and see a bulk of the carries. Okoronkwo will have to show what made him a big name coming out of Oklahoma and make an impact rushing the passer.

If they can get production from those two along with the All-Pro veteran talent on both sides of the ball the Rams could compete this year. I still think they take a fall though and end up out of the playoffs for a second season in a row. Prediction: 4-12

 

San Francisco 49ers

Record in 2019: 13-3

Key Player: Quarterback – Jimmy Garoppolo

Player To Watch: Wide Receiver –  Brandon Aiyuk

The 49ers were a healthy surprise last season. They started the season hot going 8-0, on the back of their defense and imposing run game. This year they are looking to improve the passing game with the addition of first round selection Brandon Aiyuk, to pair with second year standout Deebo Samuel.

If the Niners plan to repeat their 2019 success, they will have to get more out of QB Jimmy Garoppolo. At times last year he looked lethargic and out of sorts throwing the ball but with the excuse of few weapons outside of George Kittle gone, we should see a drastic improvement. The injury to Jalen Hurd hurts but the combination of Tavon Austin and Kendrick Bourne should fill the slot position out.

The defense is the least of the 49ers worries as they return most of their unit from last season. Even though they traded All-Pro Defensive Lineman Deforest Buckner, Rookie Javon Kinlaw will fill in nicely, surrounded by veteran talent along that stout defensive front.

I don’t see much of a struggle for the 49ers to return to form this season. Not much roster shuffle, and improvements to weak areas will have them playing deep into February this year. Prediction: 14-2

 

Seattle Seahawks

Record in 2019: 11-5

Key Player: Wide Receiver – D.K. Metcalf

Player to Watch: Running Back – Chris Carson

The Seahawks are a team many felt over achieved last year. At 11-5, the team made it through a tough Wild Card game against Philly, then were ousted by the Packers in the Divisional round. Most of that success was from the highly potent passing game headed by top-tier QB Russell Wilson.

Wilson wasn’t alone in his efforts, though, with rookie giant D.K. Metcalf emerging as a reliable target as well as Tyler Lockett. Injuries in the backfield severely hindered the true potential of Brian Schottenheimer’s offense. With Pro-Bowl RB Chris Carson returning healthy along with Rashaad Penny, the ‘Hawks should see another improvement in offensive efficiency.

The most glaring area for this team is the defense, more specifically the pass rush. The team was 16th in pass rush win percentage in 2019. The departure of Jadeveon Clowney didn’t help but they did add former Jets’ Safety Jamal Adams.

Adams adds a dynamic playmaker on defense that can cause headaches for opposing offenses. If they can sign a veteran pass rusher, I see their team making another run at the playoffs. Prediction: 10-6

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