How The West Was Won: 2018 NFC West Preview

Eric Urbanowicz
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Since 1999, the NFC West has been one of the most unpredictable divisions in the NFL. Every team in that time frame has not only made it to the playoffs multiple times, every team has made it to the Super Bowl at least once. It’s also seen the births of several memorable teams such as the “The Greatest Show On Turf” then St. Louis Rams, the “Legion of Boom” Seattle Seahawks, and the “Shock The World” Arizona Cardinals. Now in Los Angeles, the Rams hope to distance themselves more than last year. After a close division race, the division looks to up the ante in what may be the closest division in the NFL.


 Arizona Cardinals

Record in 2017: 8-8

Key Player: Running Back- David Johnson

Player to Watch: Defensive End- Markus Golden

To say the Arizona Cardinals lost a lot this offseason would be an understatement. After another injury plagued season, veteran quarterback Carson Palmer called it a career and they let star players like safety Tyrann Mathieu and Tyvon Branch walk. The biggest blow however, was that head coach Bruce Arians decided to walk away from the game. It’s now up to first time NFL head coach, Steve Wilks, to right the ship. Leading the change are three new quarterbacks: Sam Bradford, Mike Glennon and rookie Josh Rosen. It also helps that they’ve acquired offensive tackles Justin Pugh and Andre Smith, as well as wide out help in Christian Kirk. They’ve even convinced star receiver Larry Fitzgerald to play one more year. However this could be a bumpy season full of growing pains for “the red sea.” Prediction: 5 – 11


 Los Angeles Rams

Record in 2017: 11-5

Key Player: Running Back- Todd Gurley

Player to Watch: Defensive Tackle- Ndamukong Suh

On paper, the Los Angeles Rams had one of the best offseasons recent years, acquiring major star talent like cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and wide receiver Brandin Cooks. However, as we’ve seen with the 2011 “Dream Team” Philadelphia Eagles, on paper doesn’t always equate to success on the field. The biggest problem with this team is they gave up a lot to make these moves. The Rams traded one of their defensive anchors, linebacker Alec Ogletree, to the New York Giants, as well as star linebacker Robert Quinn to the Miami Dolphins. The offense alone will be fine, as quarterback Jared Goff has the talent around him to succeed with names like running back Todd Gurley and wide receivers Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Cooks. The defense is what will make or break this team; If it works out, they may have a defense with as much energy as the 2015-16 Denver Broncos. If it fails, they have a disgruntled mess of ego. Prediction: 10 – 6


 San Francisco 49ers

Record in 2017: 6-10

Key Player: Cornerback- Richard Sherman

Player to Watch: Defensive End- DeForest Buckner

The San Francisco 49ers acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots last year. Ever since, the hype has been real for this kid and it’s paid off. Going into his second year in the Bay, he is currently perfect through five games as the 49ers starting signal caller. What’s going to be interesting is that San Francisco slightly improved their offensive weapons, acquiring wide receiver Pierre Garcon and running back Jerick McKinnon. If he can channel his “inner Brady” then they’ll be fine on the offensive side of the ball. Meanwhile on defense, the team acquired a much needed veteran voice in cornerback Richard Sherman. This is a very young defense and as such, needs a voice. If Sherman can’t lead this squad, expect another voice to be brought in next year. Prediction: 10 – 6


 Seattle Seahawks

Record in 2017: 9-7

Key Player: Cornerback- Byron Maxwell

Player to Watch: Running Back- Rashaad Penny

Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” is no more. The problem with Seattle is that there are so many new pieces to this team that it could derail what was once one of the top defenses in the NFL. Defensive end Michael Bennett is in Philadelphia and cornerback Richard Sherman is in San Francisco. The only ones left from their glory days on defense are linebacker Bobby Wagner and cornerback Byron Maxwell. Meanwhile, the Seahawks offense has improved from their loss of running back Marshawn Lynch by drafting running back Rashaad Penny. With a quarterback like Russell Wilson, the Seahawks will always be in games, it’s just a matter of if the defense can regroup and rival what they once were. Prediction: 7-9

Eric Urbanowicz


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