2018 NFL Preview: The NFC West | Def Pen
NFC West
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks face a tough task if they want to win the NFC West again. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Projected NFC West End-of-Season Standings

1 Los Angeles Rams

2 Seattle Seahawks

3 San Francisco 49ers

4 Arizona Cardinals

Los Angeles is as talented and deep a team the NFL has seen in years. These things don’t always translate to wins, though. They’re sort of tempting the Team Chemistry Gods. We’re going to slot them in first and trust the talent win out, however.

Seattle will have to figure out how to win games a little differently than they have grown accustomed to with the luxuries they’ve been afforded the past few years. They have some offensive fire power, though, with Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin (who should be healthy). Still, it feels like this year the Seahawks front office is comfortable taking a step back in order to evaluate and put the team in a better situation to compete in future seasons.

This is one of the more popular “sleeper” teams this season. Some of it is not without merit. Jimmy Garoppolo looked more than capable in fairly limited time late last season. Winning in the NFL is a process, though. The 49ers found a major piece of the puzzle in getting their quarterback, but there’s still plenty of holes on a roster that this time last year was thought to be one of the worst overall. Good things are on the way for this team, but asking for it now might be asking a little too much.

You know how when you pick teams in Madden and it shows the top-rated players from each team? If you go by that, Arizona might trick you into thinking they’re better than they are. They have star talent, to be sure, specifically in Patrick Peterson and David Johnson … and however we’re classifying Larry Fitzgerald these days. There’s not much to see beyond that, though. This team might have to give Johnson 40 touches a game to win, and that’s not good from a game-plan perspective nor great for Johnson’s long-term health.

QB Watch (Because It’s the Most Important Position)

Los Angeles: Year two is always a big year in terms of setting a developmental timeline for young quarterbacks. Jared Goff is no exception. He’s in an exceptionally talented offense but is sort of an afterthought in terms of where he ranks amongst the other QBs in the game. He needs to take the next step.

Seattle: Russell Wilson has been great for years. But his football life has never been this hard. For arguably the first time, Wilson will have to carry the team on his back.

San Francisco: Jimmy Garoppolo got a lot of buzz late last season and this offseason. He could be worthy of it all and yet still not meet expectations. And he could still be fine in the end. He should try to limit the off-field headlines he makes though because you don’t want your franchise quarterback to lose his love of the game.

Arizona: As it relates to the Cadinals’ quarterback situation, there are two big questions: 1) When will Sam Bradford get hurt, and; 2) How willing are they to go to Josh Rosen when it happens? They could play the long game and skip Rosen altogether for this year to let him watch and learn.

Non-QB Positions/Plater to Watch

Los Angeles: How great can this defense really be? Are we watching a historically great one?

Seattle: How far of a step back will the defense take? Can the offense make up for the lack of defensive production, relative to past years? The defense needs to find fresh, young players to mitigate the effects of all their losses over the years of players who took them deep into the playoffs consistently.

San Francisco: The offensive skill positions need to make a jump in order for Jimmy Garoppolo to do so also. They don’t exactly have big names at those spots, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be effective. The 49ers need to find some playmakers.

Arizona: David Johnson is football’s Swiss Army Knife. There isn’t a ton to be excited about with this team, but Johnson’s return to the field is at the top of the list.

Crazy-Wild Scenario

It’s possible everything goes wrong in L.A., leaving the door open for some other team. Seattle could also struggle and it might be a year early to ask a lot of the Niners. That leaves the door open for Arizona to take the division with something like an 8-8 record. That’d be fun, huh?

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