2018 NFC West Outright Odds, Preview and Prediction
NFC West Preview and Predictions
The Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks all have a chance at the postseason in 2018. The Rams improved their roster from a season ago and enter the year as the favourite to win the NFC West. Their roster has less experience than Seattle, who missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record in 2018. If the Seahawks help Russell Wilson more in 2018, they have the best chance at upsetting the Rams for the Division crown.
The 49ers are the real Wild Card of the Division. If Jimmy Garoppolo is as good as advertised over a full season of football, the 49ers could find themselves atop the NFC West come late December. Last is the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona is good enough to steal some wins, but not good enough to bet on to win the NFC West in 2018.
NFC West Outright Winner Odds
Despite opening the season with pretty unremarkable odds to win the Division, the Rams surprised many last season when they won the NFC West, Now the Rams will try to repeat as Division champions for the first time since they won seven straight between 1973 and 1979.
*Odds as of July 28, 2018, from Sports Interaction
The odds suggest the Rams biggest competition in 2018 comes from the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers have intriguing upside with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Seattle is still a good team with the best quarterback in the Division. However, with much of their Super Bowl-winning defence gone or old, it is difficult for Seattle to maintain consistency. Rounding out the odds are the Arizona Cardinals, who enter a rebuilding phrase in 2018.
NFC West Team Previews
Even if the Los Angeles Rams are the best team going into the 2018 NFL season, three teams in the NFC West could win the Division in 2018. The Rams, 49ers and Seahawks all have a shot at the playoffs in 2018. Of course, only one team can win the Division, and the Rams with all their young talent on offence are hard to bet against in 2018.
Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams ended the longest playoff streak in the NFC last season as they won the NFC West for the first time in 14 years. Now they look to take another step forward in 2018. If third-year quarterback Jared Goff improves and the offseason additions on defensive side of the ball play well, the Rams are a Super Bowl contender.
Much of the credit for the Rams’ success last season is due to the head coaching of Sean McVay. As the youngest head coach in NFL history, many did not believe McVay would have such an impressive coaching season so early in his career. However, his youthful approach and offensive mind captivated the Rams young offensive players, helping them develop into burgeoning stars.
While the Rams are developing their offence, they are investing big on defence. The Rams defensive additions in the offseason include cornerbacks Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The three players have a combined seven Pro Bowls and give the Rams quality pieces to pair with defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who is arguably one of the three best defensive players in the National Football League. Overall, if everything goes right for the Rams in 2018, they could represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
San Francisco 49ers
The central question surrounding the 49ers in 2018 is whether there is enough talent around Jimmy Garoppolo for the 49ers to field a playoff-level team. While Kyle Shanahan worked very well with Garoppolo in five starts with the 49ers last season, it is not a large enough sample size to declare the combination of the two as the next “big thing” in the NFL.
The talent around Garoppolo is less than what the Rams surround Jared Goff with. The 49ers lost one of their more reliable offensive players in running back Carlos Hyde. They replaced Hyde with Jerrick McKinnon. McKinnon is a flashy back but has not had to carry the load for a team. If he cannot adjust into a capable lead back, the 49ers offence could fail to make much of an improvement in 2018.
The 49ers defence is a big question mark coming into the 2018 season. They have not used much capital in recent years to build it to into an elite unit. They have some youth in the linebacking core that should improve in 2018. However, the group is worse than the Rams and the Seahawks.
The Seattle Seahawks five-year playoff streak came to an end in 2017. While they still finished with a winning record, the franchise no longer has the defence or running game from their Super Bowl years. It is now on quarterback Russell Wilson to get the Seahawks back in the playoffs.
In fact, if one player should not take much blame for the Seahawks missing the playoffs last season, it is quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson accounted for an NFL record over 80% of his team’s total offseason. The Seahawks could do nothing without Wilson on offence, failing to generate any running game or even provide their Super Bowl-winning quarterback with much protection.
The defence is where the Seahawks have the most concern entering 2018. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is the team’s best player on the defensive side of the ball. While he can play at a “Defensive Player of the Year” level in 2018, he cannot make up for the losses in the secondary.
The Seahawks said goodbye to Richard Sherman this offseason (who is now on the 49ers) and have two ageing safeties who do not seem overly happy entering the season. Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are also injury risks and without as much depth as in previous years, any injury to them opens up the floodgates in Seattle. Overall though, if Wilson gets some help on offence (especially from rookie running back Rashaad Penny) and the defence is healthy, Seattle can compete in 2018.
New head coach, new quarterback and ageing stars all add up to make up a team entering a rebuilding season. The Cardinals are that team in 2018. The Cardinals do have talent (David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald), just not enough talent in the right places to make the Cardinals good enough to compete in 2018.
They should focus their efforts in 2018 in developing first-round pick Josh Rosen. Rosen has great upside in his career but needs some time to adjust to the NFL lifestyle. If Rosen shows potential in 2018 and David Johnson is healthy and rebounds to 2016 form, the Cardinals have two pieces to build around for the next few seasons.
Defensively, the Cardinals are on the old side. They built much of their team through older free agent veterans, who now are not much more than role-players. Overall, Arizona is not built to contend in 2018, but could overachieve (i.e. 8-8) if their roster is healthy.
NFC West Outright Winner Prediction
Barring injuries, the Rams should only improve on their 11-5 season in 2018, which means for Seattle or San Francisco to pull off the upset and win the Division they probably need to win at least 12 games. While they are both quality NFL teams, they do not have as high of a ceiling as the Rams, and 12 wins is likely out of reach.
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