NFL Season Outlook: NFC West
Arizona Cardinals –
Ceiling: 15-1, 14-2. If Carson Palmer holds up, this is the team to beat this year. They can easily win the whole damn thing. The defense should be even better than last year with their offseason additions of Chandler Jones and Robert Nkemdiche and the offensive skill position players are all playing at a high level, with David Johnson solidifying the running back spot.
Floor: If father time finally catches up to Palmer and he sputters, you’re probably still looking at a ten win team, but their Superbowl chances will diminish greatly. They seem to have all the pieces around him to make that run, it’s really up to the quarterback to keep steering the ship.
Storyline: Carson Palmer. Plain and simple. Where he goes, so goes the Cardinals.
Best Game on the Schedule: Week eight against the Panthers, the NFC championship game rematch. Can the Cardinals get revenge for last year’s embarrassment?
Worst Game on the Schedule: Week fourteen against the Dolphins will probably only attract the attention of hardcore Cardinals fans or degenerate gamblers betting on Bruce Arians’ choice of headgear for that game.
2016-2017 finish: First in the West, First Seed in the NFC Playoffs
Seattle Seahawks –
Ceiling: Every year with Seattle, it’s Superbowl or bust, and this year is no different. I can see 13-3 or 12-4 with a high seed in the playoffs if the Cardinals regress a bit. Regardless, if the Cardinals are not on point, Seattle will be there to overtake them.
Floor: I can’t see the Seahawks losing more than six or seven games unless Russell Wilson goes down in the opener and is replaced with an actual Seahawk at quarterback.
Storyline: Can the Seahawks challenge a stacked Arizona team for the West? Is there a point where age and attrition will finally catch up to the defense?
Best Game on the Schedule: The two games against the Cardinals should be heavyweight fights and will go a long, long way to determining the entire NFC playoff seedings.
Worst Game on the Schedule: Every game should be interesting, but if anyone watches week one against Miami with anything beyond a passing curiosity, then they have just been deprived of football for way too long.
2016-2017 finish: Second in the West, Fifth Seed in the NFC Playoffs.
LA Rams –
Ceiling: I don’t see this team making the playoffs this year, but I do see a similar record to last year (7-9) as Goff gets his feet wet.
Floor: The defense should be pretty good, and Todd Gurley should continue his ascent to the running back elite, so it al l rests on the shoulders of the quarterback. The Rams could only win four or five games if the quarterback situation turns out as poorly as last year.
Storyline: Is the move to Los Angeles going to provide a distraction for the players? How long does it take for Jared Goff to establish that he’s “the guy”. What is the win total, even with a rookie quarterback, that will keep Jeff Fisher employed as head coach?
Best Game on the Schedule: Week seven against the Giants intrigues me as the two teams seem to be fairly evenly matched. If the Rams defense can contain Beckham, and Goff has progressed in the first half of the season, this could turn into a very interesting matchup.
Worst Game on the Schedule: The Panthers and Patriots games…the Rams just aren’t there yet. Yes, it would be interesting to see just how far off they are, but in the interim, this will probably be a sad day at the office for Rams fans.
2016-2017 finish: Third in the West
San Francisco 49ers –
Ceiling: This will not be a good team this year. If they can eke out a 3-11 record I would be surprised..
Floor: 1-15 is a possibility. The schedule is not easy, and while they play their division rivals tough, they have neither the talent, nor the experience in the Chip Kelly system to light the world on fire this year.
Storyline: Who plays quarterback? Can Chip make it work in his second NFL stop?
Best Game on the Schedule: There is no best game, honestly. They have a good chance to win against the Dolphins and Bears (weeks 12 and 13 respectively) but that’s no guarantee. Because those games come later in the year, maybe they have a grasp on Chip’s system and can squeeze out a win or two, but I’m not supremely confident in that.
Worst Game on the Schedule: This is quite possibly the worst team in the league. Every game could be the worst.
2016-2017 finish: Fourth in the West