Seahawks back to form in deep NFC West
Jeff Griffith @Jeff_Griffith21
September 2, 2020
2019 Record: 11-5, 2nd NFC West
Playoffs: No. 5 Seed — Lost to Packers in Divisional Round
2020 Projected Record: 12-4, 1st NFC North
Playoff Prediction: No. 2 Seed
For years, it feels like we’ve been waiting for Seattle to return to its elite self from 2013 and 2014, while Russell Wilson is still in his prime. The Seahakws have hovered between nine and 11 wins in the years since, always being on the radar but never feeling like a team on the precipice of another trip to the Super Bowl.
Blame injuries, blame roster attrition, blame what you will, many variables took their toll. But this team feels poised to be back to form in 2020.
Russell Wilson is still elite. He’s put up top-10 numbers pretty much every year of his career, but 2019 was arguably his best statistical season yet; the now 31-year-old threw for over 4,200 yards while rushing for another 342, amassing 34 total touchdowns and throwing just five picks. Those interceptions were a career low.
Here’s the thing, though; his weapons are improving. Tyler Lockett is still a top-15 receiver and D.K. Metcalf is a rising star on the other side. Throw in Chris Carson — a lead back who has now rushed for over 1,000 yards in back to back seasons and is just 25 years old — and you’ve got a pretty dangerous offensive core.
And the Seahawks’ defense is still the Seahawks’ defense. Adding Jamal Adams only makes it scarier.
The NFC West has talent across the board, but Seattle’s taking it this year, and it’s not particularly close.
2019 Record: 5-10-1, 4th NFC West
2020 Projected Record: 8-8, T-2nd NFC West
We all know the big storyline here; the Cardinals fleeced Houston during the offseason, adding DeAndre Hopkins — arguably the NFL's best receiver, or close to it — for David Johnson and a second-round pick.
Arizona also had one of the league’s better drafts, picking up Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons at No. 8 overall and adding Josh Jones — an offensive lineman with third-round grades — in the third round. Jones, if he hits, will fill a huge need for Arizona.
It's been a good offseason in Glendale.
The Cardinals have begun to piece together the roster they want, with talent at most positions. Kyler Murray is poised to be a top-10 quarterback this year, Kenyan Drake showed flashes of being a productive starting running back, and a receiver trio of Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk should be one of the better units in the league.
Defensively, Chandler Jones and Patrick Peterson are still studs, and Budda Baker is two years into his career at safety with two Pro Bowls under his belt. Questions lie elsewhere throughout the secondary, as the Cardinals were the second-worst passing defense in the NFL last year; additions like Dre Kirkpatrick could help, but having to place Robert Alford on IR was a major blow.
But this team is young, and while the talent is there, it’s not all fully-proven talent, and may take time to reach its potential, if it does at all.
So, the Cardinals are looking to hover around .500 this year. There’s a playoff ceiling for this team if its young piece take big steps, but a winning record should be an accomplishment this season for an Arizona team looking to make its way back into the conversation.
San Francisco 49ers
2019 Record: 13-3, 1st NFC West
Playoffs: No. 1 Seed — Lost to Chiefs in Super Bowl
2020 Projected Record: 8-8, T-2nd NFC West
The 49ers, according to conventional wisdom and common discussion around the NFL community this offseason, have been a popular pick to take a significant step back in 2020.
The first concern seems to be the general concept of a “Super Bowl hangover.” Teams that fly high and get all the right bounces tend to regress back to the mean the next season. The Rams did it last year. The Eagles did it the year before. And the Falcons sort of did it the year before that.
Added to that equation, though, is the second main concern; just how legitimate was San Francisco’s run a year ago? Are all of these pieces quite as good as their 2019 outputs?
I’d say no. I don’t think this 49ers team is bad, but last year felt like it was a good bit above the mean for this team.
The defense should still be strong — although, the loss of DeForest Buckner stings.
But the offense will have many question marks. Will Jimmy Garoppolo replicate a solid campaign from a year ago? Who will he throw to, with Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk both currently nursing injuries? Will Raheem Mostert reach the potential he flashed in the postseason?
With all of this in mind, this team ultimately feels like a high-celing, low-floor proposition. So an average season — one likely marred by a little bit of frustration coming off the success of 2019 — seems like a good bet.
Los Angeles Rams
2019 Record: 8-8, 3rd NFC West
2020 Projected Record: 6-10, 4th NFC West
Okay, let’s get something straight. Jared Goff is still a good quarterback, and the Rams still have talent. Goff had a better completion percentage last year than he did in 2018, and threw for just 50 fewer yards. His TD-INT ratio took a step back, and his 12 interceptions were costly, but he’s still a strong and capable franchise quarterback.
He’s got weapons around him, too. Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp are all formidable targets.
But the Rams’ major offensive question, roster-wise, lies in the backfield. Todd Gurley’s major drop-off last year was the franchise’s major recurring story, and now he’s gone.
His replacement will be some combination of Darrell Henderson, Jr. — who has just 39 NFL carries under his belt — and Cam Akers — a rookie out of Florida State who, while certainly talented, was widely considered the fifth or sixth best in a deep running back class.
As a defense, last year, the Rams were fine — just fine. This is a team that was pretty middle-of-the-pack in all major defensive statistics. And they didn’t do a ton to retool. Aaron Donald, Taylor Rapp and Jalen Ramsey are all still great pieces, but the losses of players like Eric Weddle and Corey Littleton aren’t small potatoes.
These Rams feel pretty similar to the team they had last year. Maybe they’ll revert back to something closer to 2018? Who knows. For now, with quthe floor seems closer than the ceiling for Los Angeles.