Joy Divisions – NFC West

Before the season starts, myself and good friend of the podcast Lee Wakefield (@wakefield90) will give a summary of each division, how we see it playing out over the season along with some players to target in fantasy in each.

NFC West:

The final divisional preview see us go west.

The Rams are most peoples pick and most people are expecting Seattle to fall after the mass exodus on both sides of the ball. opinion is split on how good the 49ers could be this year and most are ready to dismiss Arizona. What do we think?

TIM

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams were derailed by the Falcons in the wildcard round last year at the coliseum so it will be interesting to see how they bounce back from that

The Rams made a lot of moves in free agency to beef up the defence. There are so many stars now in this defence that I hear they have the support for the astronomy community. The question is, can Wade Phillips get them all to gel and perform. Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Ndamukong Suh to name but a few will now be licking their lips at the prospect of some of these offensive lines within the division.

On offence, Brandin Cooks replaces Sammy Watkins and is another who is dividing opinions in the fantasy football community. Myself, I think Sean McVay would not have invested what he did in Cooks if they weren’t going to make him some sort of focal point other than Gurley so it will be interesting to see what he can deliver. Not sure if the draft price of round 4 is what I want to be paying though. Talking of Gurley, he is going #1 overall in most fantasy drafts this season and it’s no surprise why.

Of the rest, it’s hard to establish how many targets there are to go around to Woods, Kupp, Josh Reynolds (in deeeeep leagues) and the Tight Ends Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett.

I was on the right end of my Jared Goff prediction, but people are way overdrafting him this year. A lot of passes were ripped off for long TDs by Gurley, do not fall in to the trap of thinking this year will be the same. Goff is a prime candidate for underperforming on their draft ADP this year. I don’t see a replication of his 28TDs/8INT, 3804 yards performance and the stat that interests me was his completion percentage, which was in the low 60s.

Whilst the Rams should win this division with relative ease this year, the divisional games are usually played tough so expect a bump or two along the road.

Key Storyline:  What do Sean McVay and Wade Phillips have dialed up this year?

Seattle Seahawks:

Legion of Boom is no more. The offence said goodbye to Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson, who accounted for almost half of their TDs last season.

Their offensive line remains one of the worst in the NFL and you cant expect Russell Wilson having to perform some more Houdini acts to escape pressure. It’s ok though because their Center, Tackle, Guard, Running back drafted in the 1st round will help solve everything. Not.

Penny has picked up a hand injury and is doubtful to start the season so everyone rush to the waivers to pick up Chris Carson. Or Dont.

Let’s think about this, this is going to be an awful team this season.

They struggled to run the ball last season, they dont have the defence to employ a power running game and Russell Wilson barely has anyone to throw too (Baldwin is struggling with a knee injury). Oh and add in a new OC for a full house.

Stay away from Seattle both with your money and your fantasy teams.

Whilst the Rams and 49ers are trending up, don’t be surprised if Seattle prop the division up after week 17. Problem is, the bookies may feel the same way.

Seattle fans better start reminiscing their Super Bowl win, because another visit to the biggest game of them all may take a while.

San Francisco 49ers

49ers are the trendy team in 2018 with Jimmy G finishing last season on a hot streak.

Not so fast though new 49ers fans.

Yes, you have Kyle Shanahan, yes you have Jimmy Garoppolo BUT the defence is not quite there yet despite Richard Sherman coming over from rivals Seattle and I’m not overly convinced Jerick McKinnon is what they want him to be judged by his time in Minnesota.

He doesn’t strike me as a heavy workload type between the tackles nor has he ever been asked to be the number 1 lead back for a whole season. The wide receving group doesn’t have a star. For all of the ridicule Carlos Hyde got in his time in the Bay Area, I think they’ll miss the top 10 fantasy RB last year and averaged over 10 points per fantasy game.

Marquise Goodwin stepped up when Pierre Garcon went down a couple of weeks into the season (much to my dismay in PPR leagues), ending up with 56 rec for 962 yards but only 2 TDs (Carlos Hyde had the most receptions in this team with 59). George Kittle did OK in his first season so expect him to improve for the run at the tight end position (43 red 500+ yards in his rookie year) and Garrett Celek had the most receiving TDs on this team last season with 4.

Jimmy G could well put together an entertaining show with Kyle Shanahan – the master of getting the most out of all his offensive pieces, but he is going wayyy to high in drafts as the 11th QB off the boards ahead of Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan. Yuk.

Dante Pettis is a name to circle in dynasty and deep leagues, a player who can move around all the formation and is an absolute nightmare mismatch for opposing (and depleted divisional) defences. He may not see much in the early weeks, but with an injury to another wideout or perhaps an explosive passing attack in shootouts, he is worth a stash in your benches.

Overall, I think 2019 could be the year for the 49ers and this year could be a bit too soon. I think best case is a .500 record and it would shock me if they were in the playoffs this season.

Key Storyline: Can Kyle Shanahan work more magic with this team and lead them to the playoffs?

Arizona Cardinals:

Carson Palmer has left the franchise and is replaced by Sammy “watch my knees” Bradford and first round draft pick Josh Rosen. It’s anyones guess as to who starts week one but if Bradford is healthy, surely it’s him. Whichever one it is, they’ll be running for their lives Russell Wilson style behind this team’s offensive line which was one of the worst last season.

At running back, David Johnson returns after the whole of last season out. He will resume his quest to go 1000 and 1000 in terms of rushing and receiving yards. He is probably the riskiest of the top4 RBs that are going in drafts but I wouldn’t worry so much as it was his wrist that got injured and not his legs. Chase Edmonds is the backup for those that are interested.

Larry Fitzgerald returns for perhaps his final season and will be looking to move up the all time receiving leaderboards. He is a steal in dynasty drafts for what you’ll get this year and is someone I’ll happily pick up in the later rounds. Christian Kirk was drafted and could immediately see some volume in a passing attack that finally said goodbye to Jaron Brown and John Brown. Ricky Seals-Jones is a popular sleeper pick at the tight end position on the back of his flashes from the back end of last season. Not for me nor Jermaine Gresham (who had some interesting exposure with his acts of kindness over the last few months including helping to pay for a persons flight). as I feel that there are actually plenty of viable options at the position this year (who’d have thought)

Key Storyline : Do the Cardinals have too much to overcome to be competitive this year?

Summary: I think this division will be won by the Rams and the rest are fighting for positions. I dont think any other team are good enough for a playoff tilt but they fight hard in this division so don’t expect the Rams to have it all their own way. I think Seattle will prop up the division as a specualtive punt. Arizona have their future franchise QB, it’s just a case of fixing the offensive line and hopefully building for the future. 

For fantasy football, I don’t like any of the quarterbacks at their prices but there could be some value at the WR position in the late rounds.

Predictions:

  1. Los Angeles Rams
  2. San Francisco 49ers
  3. Arizona Cardinals
  4. Seattle Seahawks

LEE

Let’s dive straight into the NFC West and head to another absolutely stacked NFC team, the Los Angeles Rams who have turned from the absolute epitome of average under Jeff Fisher into being one if the NFL’s most complete teams. Through a series of trades, big name free agency signings and great hires, the Rams have an all star cast on offense, defense and on the sidelines.

The main talking points surrounding the offense is that Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks just got P.A.I.D by the Rams! Both will be looking to repay the faith shown in them this season.

Jared Goff also came on leaps and bounds under the tutelage of Sean McVay and I’ll be looking for him to prove last year wasn’t a fluke and improve even further in year three, he’s come a long way since the days where he didn’t know where the sun rose each morning.

Flipping over to defense, one guy still waiting to get his extension is Aaron Donald. It will happen though, won’t it? They aren’t going to sign Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and then let a contract dispute with the best none quarterback in the league drag on and effect their season, would they? The rest of the league will be hoping so.

L.A. really hit the trifecta for me by having who I consider as the best pair of play callers in the entire league in Sean McVay and Wade Phillips. I feel like these two are really what sets this team apart from any other team in the league; you can have all the talent in the world but a team has to have the right people at the helm of the ship. This collection of men have the chance to be really special.

Because of all this, I’m calling it now… the Rams win the West, come out on top in the NFC and will make it to the Superbowl.

Next and staying in California, the San Francisco 49ers, another team that lots of people are getting excited about. The excitement is mainly about one guy, Jimmy Garoppolo. The excitement seems to be well placed, since being installed as starter Jimmy G went out and won five straight and is now the apple of the eye of a lot of people. I’m going to tap the brakes on the Garoppolo hype train just a little bit though unfortunately… sorry to be a spoilsport.

People are getting way too ahead of themselves over Garoppolo in my book. I see a lot of people talking about him and rating him like a top 10 QB in this league and to me, I’m not really sure how. It’s not that I don’t think he’s a good player, because he is, it’s that the sample size is simply too small at this point. Garoppolo may be a top 10, or better, quarterback in the NFL at some point but everyone needs to stop getting so ahead of themselves at the moment.

So after getting all No Fun League on you all for a minute I’ll bring it back round to being positive. I’m actually pretty excited for the 9ers this season. They’re very up and coming, especially on offense and have a brilliant offensive play caller as Head Coach in Kyle Shanahan. Look for players like Trent Taylor, George Kittle and the now handsomely compensated Jerick McKinnon to have big years on offense.

Although the apple of my eye in red and gold in none of the above. I’m mainly going to be looking out for Dante Pettis this season. The former Washington Husky was also a top collegiate track star, actually having a rivalry on the Pac-12 tracks with former USC Trojan and current Tennessee Titan, Adore’e Jackson. I feel like Pettis clearly has the speed and athletic ability to be a deep threat but in training camp and now the pre season, he’s actually showing the sort of route running abilities that takes any speedster wide receiver to the next level.

On defense, I like what she Niners have been doing recently early on in the draft, really building a strong front seven. Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner and Reuben Foster are all testament to this philosophy. It’s worth noting that since 2015, Joshua Garnett and most recently, Mike McGlinchey were also drafted in the trenches on offense. Good teams are build from the inside out and Trent Baalke and John Lynch have clearly shared this philosophy as  General Managers with early draft picks.

I don’t feel like San Francisco are quite there yet but like I said, there’s plenty to get excited about in the bay area.

Unfortunately there’s not a lot to get excited about in the Pacific Northwest or in the desert of Arizona.

For Seattle there’s obviously the feel good story surrounding Shaquem Griffin, which is amazing but personally I’m actually getting tired of hearing “feel good story” when it comes to Griffin. The guy is just flat out an amazing football player and by all accounts a great dude. Just because the guy has a disability and he’s successful it doesn’t need to be labelled a feel good story. It doesn’t seem like Griffin let’s his disability affect him or define him so why should every fan define him that way? I think he’s going to have a great career and he has already flashed in the pre season to whet the appetite of fans, at one point having four straight tackles on a series of which two were for loss.

Griffin is part of a wide rebuild that the Seahawks roster is going through. Unfortunately the Legion of Boom us no more and this isn’t anything like the teams that went to consecutive Superbowls, which is a shame because despite not being a Seattle fan, I loved those teams.

I felt like they talked a lot and had the play to back it up.

A few of those players are still around, Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin and Bobby Wagner for example and now those guys will be the ones being looked to, to form what will be the next Seahawks team.

It’s going to take a while and it may be a long process because this team have lost a lot of good players and big characters from the locker room.

Don’t expect much joy from the guys at Century Link this year boys and girls.

Similarly, it could be a tough slog in the desert too as there’s a lot of holes on both sides of the ball for the Cardinals and they don’t have a coach with years of experience as a Head Coach like Seattle do with Pete Carroll.

Steve Wilks is facing a big battle and a big test in year one. Hopefully he’s given time to put his stamp on things by owner Michael Bidwill.

Wilks does have a few good players at his disposal; Patrick Peterson, Budda Baker, Haasan Reddick, Chandler Jones in defense and David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and exciting rookie Josh Rosen on offense and he’ll be hoping that these players will form the cornerstones of the Cardinals for years to come.

The Cardinals will be looking for some of their young guys and some of their experiences but underperforming veterans to step up and support their real quality players.

If I was a Cardinals fan, I’d be looking for Josh Rosen to really come out in the pre season and win the job from Sam Bradford. If he then played well in through his rookie year, Arizona could discard Bradford and what would then be a hefty back up salary and that would be exciting. Not only because it would mean the Josh Rosen era had begun but due to the fact that recently the winning formula in the NFL is to have a top QB on his rookie deal so that dollars can be spent elsewhere on the team.

We will have to wait and see on that one but it’s definitely something I’ll be keeping my eye on.

There we have it, there’s my preview for the NFC West.

Final prediction:

  1. Rams
  2. 49ers
  3. Cardinals
  4. Seahawks