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2018 NFL Forecast: NFC West Roundtable

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Los Angeles Rams v Tennessee Titan Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

After a 12 year postseason drought, the Rams broke through to win the division with 11 wins under rookie head coach Sean McVay in 2017. Elsewhere in the West, Seattle failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and have seemingly embraced a rebuild this offseason. Jimmy Garoppolo’s 49ers are heading in the opposite direction after finishing the season on a five game winning streak, while the Cardinals are hoping to regain relevance under new head coach Steve Wilks.

We begin our 2018 NFL forecast with the NFC West:

1. Los Angeles Rams

After adding a pair of opportunistic corners in Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, along with Ndamuking Suh to partner with Aaron Donald on the interior of Wade Phillips’ front, their defense is well equipped to protect any leads their offense provides. Todd Gurley is hoping to repeat his exceptional 2017 campaign in Sean McVay’s scheme and Jared Goff will utilize newly acquired Brandin Cooks to stretch the field in Sammy Watkins former role. Overall, the Rams should be considered one of the Super Bowl favorites in 2018. - Vasilis Lericos

After winning this division in the first season following the endless 7-9 epoch that was the Jeff Fisher era, the already rich Rams got richer. When the only real question surrounding your team is maintaining chemistry after you acquired maybe too many superstars, you know you’re sitting pretty. Even if Sean McVay doesn’t have the clout to manage personalities like Marcus Peters or Ndamukong Suh, it’s hard to imagine L.A. not falling backwards into at least 10 wins. - Jake Louque

While the Rams unexpected 2017 success ended with a wild card weekend defeat, the youngest head coach in the modern NFL in Sean McVay is poised to continue to develop the Rams into a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Jared Goff will look to build off his impressive sophomore campaign, finishing the year with a 100.5 passer rating (up from 63.6 in 2016), 28 touchdowns (up from just five in his rookie year) and passing for 3,804 yards (over three times his 2016 production). The front office is clearly committed to a win now approach, bringing in a notable list of new players this offseason including Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Ndamukong Suh and Brandin Cooks. - Sage Morander

The Los Angeles Rams seemingly had a perfect offseason. They were able to bolster their secondary by not only re-signing Nickell Robey-Coleman, but the Rams were able to acquire Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Los Angeles also improved their receiving corps by adding Brandin Cooks. Despite losing Sammy Watkins, their receiving corps, as a whole, should fare better in 2018. The Rams, arguably, now have the best defensive line in football as they added Ndamukong Suh to pair him with Aaron Donald. Any questions about Los Angeles heading into the 2018 offseason should have been answered. - Logan Levy

2. San Francisco 49ers

I’m not quite as high on the Niners as most others seem to be at this point, but I see no reason why they can’t snag a wild card spot in a transitional year for this division. Jimmy G certainly looks to be the man, but the pressure is really on this year, and his one problem is that he really has nowhere to go but down. People will be expecting big things out of him and this offense, and while I expect to him to deliver on a lot of that promise, San Francisco’s ceiling is probably 10 or 11 wins due to a continued rebuild of their defense.- Jake Louque

Expectations for the Niners season may be artificially inflated by the mystique surrounding Jimmy Garoppolo. Once a potential successor to Tom Brady in New England, Garoppolo has started just seven games over the course of his four-year career. In 2018, he will have the opportunity to be the starter for the entire season and justify his new five-year, $137.5 million contract. Look for Marquise Goodwin and Garoppolo to connect more as Goodwin enters his second season in San Francisco after spending four seasons in Buffalo. - Sage Morander

The 49ers win the offseason award for the most hyped up team. Despite finishing 6-10 last season, they ended the season on a five game winning streak, including an impressive win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. San Francisco is led by Jimmy Garoppolo, who many are touting as an early MVP candidate. They improved their secondary by adding Richard Sherman, and their draft was rather impressive as well. San Francisco drafted the best tackle in the class in Mike McGlinchey to sure up their offensive line, while also adding intriguing defensive back Tarvarious Moore. The 49ers may sneak into the postseason, but with a powerhouse Rams team in their division, it is unlikely they will be crowned division champions. - Logan Levy

Jimmy Garoppolo has plenty of weapons to work with in Kyle Shannahan’s offense. Pierre Garcon will return from injury to pair with ascending wideout Marquise Goodwin, San Francisco also signed receiving back Jerrick McKinnon while second-year tight end George Kittle is poised for a breakout season. First round rookie Mike McGlinchey should be a solid bookend opposite Joe Staley. DeForest Buckner headlines a stout defensive line and Richard Sherman was acquired to bring experience to a youthful secondary. The 49ers are headed in the right direction, but are probably still a year away from truly contending. - Vasilis Lericos

3. Seattle Seahawks

Having a special player like Russell Wilson leading your team means you’ll always be in the conversation. Unfortunately for the Hawks, I think the conversation only goes as far as the early rounds of the playoffs in 2018. A good franchise like this will soon be back into the big-picture mix but not before using this coming season as a stepping stone towards doing so as they begin a rebuild of their once great team. - Jake Louque

With the original Legion of Boom now a distant memory after the release of Richard Sherman in March, Seattle no longer touts the defensive prowess to bully the division like in years past. Russell Wilson will now have to compete against the emerging young talent in the NFC West; however, his experience and ability to turn broken plays into positive outcomes could potentially propel a transitioning franchise into a surprise team in 2018. - Sage Morander

Although Seattle has the best quarterback in this division, they will not be very competitive in 2018. After selling off most of their top-tier defensive talent, the Seahawks are in rebuilding mode. Their offensive line is still shaky at best, while their defense won’t be nearly as dominant as it was in previous seasons. Not to mention losing Paul Richardson will have a bigger impact than most anticipated. Seattle will be lucky to win seven games this season. - Logan Levy

The Seahawks appear to be embracing a mini rebuild after replacing both coordinators. However, Russell Wilson is a magician and should continue leading a high octane offense featuring receivers Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and rookie tailback Rashaad Penny. Seattle’s defense has lost some stalwarts but remain rock solid up the middle with linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright supported by safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. Despite the turnover, it would not be surprising if Pete Carroll’s squad exceed expectations in 2018. - Vasilis Lericos

4. Arizona Cardinals

Cardinal fans can’t be happy that the Bruce Arians/Carson Palmer partnership ended the way it did, but the consolation prize is they may now be set up for the future. When Josh Rosen takes over for the injured Sam Bradford, the question will quickly become whether he can carry some of the lackluster talent around him or if Arizona is facing a major rebuild next year. If Rosen is the real deal in year one, perfect... If not, this roster is poor enough that they may be picking someone first overall to help Rosen bounce back as a sophomore. - Jake Louque

Once a franchise with a promising future backed by a talented defense, the Cardinals are likely in for a season of growing pains as the offense transitions out of the injury-ridden Carson Palmer era with another fragile quarterback in Sam Bradford leading the team for the immediate future. While the retirement of Palmer and the release of safety Tyrann Mathieu did not come as a surprise, Arizona will be searching for a new identity with an almost entirely new coaching staff in 2018. - Sage Morander

The Cardinals have one of the worst rosters in the NFL. They are in full rebuild mode, and the loss of Tyrann Mathieu will hurt them. With a shaky offensive line and a horrendous wide receiver corps outside of Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona will have one of the worst offenses in the league. They will have a top five pick next season, if not higher considering the tough division they play in. Expect Josh Rosen to make his NFL debut sooner rather than later as their season will be over just as fast as it started. - Logan Levy

Arizona has some elite pieces, yet lacks the overall quality to compete. Running back David Johnson, corner Patrick Peterson and edge Chandler Jones all rank near the top of the league at their respective positions. Nonetheless, defensive minded head coach Steve Wilks will focus his first season on developing talented young defenders, including Budda Baker, Hasson Reddick and Robert Nkemdiche. - Vasilis Lericos

Poll

Who will win the NFC West?

This poll is closed

  • 69%
    Rams
    (200 votes)
  • 18%
    49ers
    (53 votes)
  • 8%
    Seahawks
    (26 votes)
  • 3%
    Cardinals
    (10 votes)
289 votes total Vote Now