The Seattle Seahawks may have led the NFC West last season, but it’s time for them to step aside so we can see a different team reign supreme this year.
Why I don’t like Seattle to win NFC West
Russell Wilson is no doubt a fantastic quarterback. He’s the only player to throw 30-plus passing touchdowns in each of the last four seasons. Wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett were both top 20 in receptions and receiving yards, and top 10 in receiving touchdowns. Sounds great. What’s the problem?
Here’s the problem with that: When the Seahawks run more, Wilson’s production drops. Using information drawn from Warren Sharp’s 2021 Football Preview, in the last two seasons, Wilson has averaged 291.1 passing yards and totaled 45 touchdown passess in the first eight games of the season. However, if you look at the final eight games of both seasons, Willson’s numbers drop to 228 average passing yards and 26 total passing touchdowns. Why the change? The Seattle offense tends to come out firing in the first half of the season, passing at a 60 percent clip on early downs, but that drops to 50 percent in the second half of the season. It’s a yearly pattern and if that pattern continues this season, that could spell trouble.
The Seahawks are expected to face the toughest schedule of offenses in the league. The team won last year because it benefited from playing a soft slate of opposing quarterbacks. The Seahawks defense faced an injured Kyler Murray, Carson Wentz, Colt McCoy, Sam Darnold, Dwayne Haskins, Jared Goff, John Wolford, and CJ Beathard.
Wilson and Co. are also expected to face the second-most difficult schedule of opposing defenses. Nine games will be against top-10 defenses from last year. With a questionable offensive line, a tougher schedule, and a coach who thinks “run more, pass less” is the answer, it could be a rough go for the ’Hawks.
Why I like the Los Angeles Rams to be a threat in the NFC
The Rams were second in the NFC West last season and that was with Jared Goff behind center. Well, Goff is gone and instead they now have Matthew Stafford. They not only have Stafford, but also added some additional weapons in WR DeSean Jackson and Louisville WR Tutu Atwell in the second round.
To say that Stafford is an upgrade from Goff is an understatement. What Goff was unable to do (effective early down passing, successful use of play-action, and ability to throw downfield), Stafford can. With the Lions, Stafford had the seventh-most pass attempts of 20 yards or more. He wasn’t only attempting the long ball but he was connecting, ranking 12th in target rate.
The health of DT Aaron Donald, CB Jalen Ramsey, OT Andrew Whitworth and LB Leonard Floyd will be key, but with Stafford, players like WR Cooper Kupp and TE Tyler Higbee could see a boost. An improved offense could help mitigate the pressure from the defense.
Unfortunately, the squad did recently lose RB Cam Akers to a torn Achilles but hope is not lost. The Rams do still have a much improved quarterback with more big-playmaking ability at his disposal, a quality defense, and one of the best coaches in the league in Sean McVay. Asking to win over 10.5 games is steep, so instead I’ll look at their chances of making the playoffs.
Best Bet: Los Angeles Rams to make playoffs, Yes (-195)
What about the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers?
Here are some tidbits that could come in handy once the season gets underway.
Under head coach Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals at home have allowed 13 of 16 teams to go over their game team total. The Cardinals face one of the more efficient offenses in the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2. The trio of RB Dalvin Cook and WRs Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen could help the Cardinals continue this trend.
Also under Kingsbury, the Cardinals are a combined 3-9 against division rivals. Against just the Rams and 49ers, the Cardinals are 1-7. The Cardinals play at Los Angeles in Week 4.
Lastly, one of the best bets last season was taking QB Kyler Murray “anytime touchdown” props. He had 11 rushing touchdowns, second most of any quarterback behind Cam Newton (13). In Week 1, the Cardinals face the Tennessee Titans, who were bottom 10 in defending rushing touchdowns
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have a new offensive coordinator, new defensive coordinator, new quarterback on the roster in Trey Lance, and a new running back in Trey Sermon. That’s a lot of new parts to consider when making a prediction.
Can this year’s squad stay healthy? Last year, the 49ers played just two games with Jimmy Garrapolo, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk all healthy and on the field. The 49ers’ season win total is 10.5. They are expected to face the easiest schedule in the NFL, but being plagued by injuries year after year, I’d look to make in-season wagers if things are looking up for them health-wise.
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