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2018 NFC West Preview: Garoppolo Brings Hope to 49ers, but Rams Favored to Repeat

Jimmy Garoppolo
Finally out of Tom Brady's shadow, Jimmy Garoppolo is ready to lead a revitalized 49'ers squad. Garoppolo is one of many young, exciting quarterbacks to watch in the NFC West. Photo By: Casey McNeil {Wiki Commons) [CC License]
  • Can the LA Rams improve on last year’s success and make a Super Bowl run?
  • Will Jimmy Garoppolo pick up where he left off last season and get San Fran to the playoffs?
  • With largely new rosters what can we expect from Seattle and Arizona?

The LA Rams were last year’s NFC West winners and after some impressive offseason acquisitions look primed to repeat as champs. Optimism is high in San Francisco with Jimmy Garoppolo, while Seattle and Arizona are both embarking on rebuilding seasons. We take a look at the odds from BetOnline and Bovada to win the NFC West in 2018 and preview each of the four teams.

NFC West Odds to Win Division

Team BetOnline Odds Bovada Odds 2017 SU Record 2017 ATS Record 2017 Divsion Rank
Los Angeles Rams -140 -135 11-5 9-7 1
San Francisco 49ers +250 +280 6-10 9-7 4
Seattle Seahawks +500 +400 9-7 6-9-1 2
Arizona Cardinals +1200 +1400 8-8 6-9-1 3

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams’ second year back in Los Angeles and first under Head Coach Sean McVay was their best season since 2003. Their 11-5 record was enough to win the NFC West division title, something they had not done since that season 14 years ago. The Rams were also road warriors in being one of only three teams to be 7-1 on the road. Reaching the playoffs was also a first since 2004. Unfortunately their time in the postseason was short-lived by losing 26-13 to the Atlanta Falcons in the Wild Card Round.

Along with the Patriots and Steelers, the Rams had the best road record in the NFL last year at 7-1.

LA’s offense didn’t top the league in average yards/game at tenth overall, but they were the highest scoring team with 478 points. That offense is lead by third-year QB Jared Goff who tied for fifth in passing TDs last with with 28. LA was equally dangerous on the ground with RB Todd Gurley rushing for the second-most yards in the league with 1,305 and topping all rushers with 13 TDs.

The Rams said goodbye to WR Sammy Watkins and his eight TDs from a year ago, but welcome Brandin Cooks from New England. Cooks has 27  TDs so far in his four-year career. The Rams will also be adjusting to a new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

With Gurley under a new contract, the attention now shifts to the defense where DT Aaron Donald is holding out from training camp for the second year in a row. Donald is widely regarded as one of the top players at his position and has 39 sacks over the course of his four-year career.

Their defense ranked 19th overall in yards/game and was given an infusion of talent in the offseason. All-Pro additions Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters all bring big personalities to the team, but add unquestioned ability to help the Rams repeat as division champs.

Rams’ Key 2018 Additions/Departures

Rams’ Key 2018 Additions Rams’ Key 2018 Departures
Ndamukong Suh (DT) Sammy Watkins (WR)
Brandin Cooks (WR) Robet Quinn (DE)
Marcus Peters (CB) Alec Ogletree (LB)
Aqib Talib (CB) Kayvon Webster (CB)

San Francisco 49ers

The arrival of QB Jimmy Garoppolo last season completely flipped the script on the 49ers’ season. Nine straight losses to start the year and a 1-10 record in their first 11 seem to be long forgotten. Garoppolo made his first appearance off the bench in a Week 12 loss to Seattle, but went a perfect 5-0 as a starter to close out the year.

Confidence is high in the Bay Area, so much so that the NFC West’s last place team in 2017 are now second-favorites to win the division. The Niners will also have the benefit of playing the seventh easiest schedule.

Big things are expected from Garoppolo as evidenced by him being sixth-favorite to both record the most passing yards (+1400) and be named league MVP (+1500) at Bovada.

With Garoppolo behind centre the team averaged 28.8 points per game in their five wins, compared to the 17 they averaged in the 11 games prior. Overall they ranked 12th in offensive yards/game. San Fran didn’t change much on offense in the offseason but did bring in dual-threat RB Jerick McKinnon from Minnesota and parted ways with Carlos Hyde. A shaky offensive line which allowed the tenth-most sacks also has some new pieces.

Cornerback Richard Sherman was signed to a three-year deal but is recovering after undergoing surgery to repair a torn achilles.

A 24th ranked defense could be improved with the signing of ex-Seahawk Richard Sherman at cornerback. Sherman was signed to a three-year deal but is recovering after undergoing surgery to repair a torn Achilles.

San Fran will also start 2018 without their second-leading tackler on defense. Linebacker Reuben Foster will be serving a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s conduct and substance abuse policies.

49ers’ Key 2018 Additions/Departures

49ers’ Key 2018 Additions 49ers’ Key 2018 Departures
Jerick McKinnon (RB) Carlos Hyde (RB)
Weston Richburg (C) Daniel Kilgore (C)
Jonathan Cooper (OT) Trent Brown (OT)
Richard Sherman (CB) Eric Reid (S)
Jerry Attaochu (DE) Leon Hall (CB)
Korey Toomer (LB) Elvis Dumervil (DE)
Mike McGlinchey (OT) – Rookie Brian Hoyer (QB)

Seattle Seahawks

2017 saw Seattle finish second in their division and out of the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Seattle finished at 9-7 straight up, 6-9-1 ATS and had the league’s 15th ranked offense and 11th ranked defense. The improvement of their division rivals, departure and ageing of many longtime stars and the over-reliance on Russell Wilson to carry the offense have muted their expectations for 2018. Bookies have them lined as third favorites to win the division and at an average of only eight total season wins with juice on the under.

For Seattle to be successful they will need to a) do a better job of protecting Wilson and b) find some more players to help shoulder the load. The ‘Hawks had 43 total touchdowns last year and Wilson had a hand in 86% of them (34 passing/3 rushing). He also lead the team in rushing.

And let’s add c) they’ll have to transition into molding a largely new roster. The Legion of Boom era is over as one-by-one the unit has been dismantled. The team parted ways with Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril was released due to failing a physical designation and Kam Chancellor was placed on the PUP list for 2018. Earl Thomas remains, but is currently holding out from training camp.

On offense Doug Baldwin emerged as Wilson’s go-to guy with a team-leading 75 receptions. However with the departure of WR Paul Richardson and TE Jimmy Graham the team loses their second and fourth-leading receivers. Veteran WR Brandon Marshall who’s coming off ankle surgery has been added and first round pick Rashaad Penny was drafted at running back to take the burden off Wilson.

From a coaching standpoint both Offensive (Brian Schottenheimer) and Defensive (Ken Norton Jr.) Coordinators will be new, in addition to six other new assistants.

Seahawks’ Key 2018 Additions/Departures

Seahawks’ Key 2018 Additions Seahawks’ Key 2018 Departures
Jaron Brown (WR) Richard Sherman (CB)
Dontae Johnson (CB) Thomas Rawls (RB)
Maurice Alexander (S) Paul Richardson (WR)
Tom Johnson (DT) Jimmy Graham (TE)
Brandon Marshall (WR) Luke Wilson (TE)
Ed Dickson (TE) Luke Joeckel (G)
D.J. Fluker (G) Michael Bennett (DE)
Shamar Stephen (DT) Cliff Avril (DE)
Barkevious Mingo (LB) Sheldon Richardson (DT)
Sebastian Janikowski (K) Michael Wilhoite (LB)
Rashaad Penny (RB) – Rookie Jeremy Lane (CB)
Deshawn Shead (CB)
Blair Walsh (K)

Arizona Cardinals

Outside of Cleveland, expectations are no lower anywhere in the NFL than they are in Glendale with both teams’ Projected Win Totals sitting at 5.5. 2017 saw Arizona finish 8-8, third in the division and out of the playoffs. The Cardinals weren’t helped by being one of the league’s most injured teams especially in critical positions like quarterback, running back and offensive line.

With Carson Palmer retiring, Sam Bradford was signed and will begin as the starter. However, it seems almost inevitable he’ll get injured. Bradford only played two games last year and has a long injury history. First round draft pick Josh Rosen was chosen tenth overall and was widely regarded as the most pro-ready QB in the draft.

Palmer played just seven games and running back David Johnson only one and Arizona’s offense predictably struggled. The Cards’ offense was 22nd overall and scored the fourth-fewest touchdowns in the league with 29. Without Johnson, Arizona only managed six touchdowns on the ground which was only better than Seattle and Miami’s four. The quarterback carousel of Palmer, Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton was also sacked a 29th worst 52 times.

New Head Coach Steve Wilks along with new OC Mike McCoy have a big task on their hands in overhauling the offense. Overall 11 full or part-time starters are gone from last year. Two new additions have been made along the offensive line and two of their top five receivers have departed.

Without [David] Johnson, Arizona only managed six touchdowns on the ground which was only better than Seattle and Miami’s four.

The Cards’ defense held up their side of the ball finishing sixth overall. Carolina’s linebackers’ coach Al Holcomb takes over as the new DC and will be switching to a 4-3 scheme. He’ll be dealing with the loss of several key players in the secondary including Tyrann Mathieu. He will still have one of the league’s top cornerbacks at his disposal though in Patrick Peterson.

With so many new faces all across the organization it’s hard to expect too much from Arizona this season especially considering they will face the league’s toughest schedule.

Cardinals’ Key 2018 Additions/Departures

Cardinals’ Key 2018 Additions Cardinals’ Key 2018 Departures
Sam Bradford (QB) Tyrann Mathieu (S)
Mike Glennon (QB) Tyvon Branch (S)
Justin Pugh (G) Karlos Dansby (LB)
Andre Smith (OT) Tramon Williams (CB)
Bruce Butler (WR) Carson Palmer (QB)
Marcus Williams (CB) Blaine Gabbert (QB)
Bene Benwikere (CB) Drew Stanton (QB)
Jamar Taylor (CB) John Brown (WR)
Josh Rosen (QB) – Rookie Jaron Brown (WR)
Justin Bethel (CB)
Adrian Peterson (RB)
Xavier Williams (DT)
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Ryan has always enjoyed playing, watching, writing about, and betting sports. Though winning is always the end goal—he enjoys the whole process of doing the research, finding value, and putting together the pieces of the puzzle that make up placing a bet.