For the overall 2017 NFL Preview click here, and see the links at the bottom of the page for the rest of the divisional previews.
After representing the NFC in consecutive Super Bowls, Seattle has lost to the eventual NFC champion in the last two postseasons.
Russell Wilson is in the best shape of his career and many believe he’s got his best bounty of receivers yet. The Seahawks will need both to be true. An already suspect offensive line will miss left tackle George Fant for the season and the Seattle’s ground game is hoping either Thomas Rawls or Eddie Lacy will emerge as a consistent running threat.
The vaunted Seahawks defense has weathered a few offseason storms, most notably some bad ink for Richard Sherman. Second round pick Malik McDowell will miss the season because of an ATV accident but Seattle beefed up their line with a Friday trade for Sheldon Richardson. Earl Thomas’s return to the lineup will keep this defense among the NFL’s elite (though that assumption may run out after 2017 considering the relative age of the line).
The NFC is going to come down to the Seahawks and Packers. If the championship game is played in Seattle there won’t be a third straight playoff loss to the eventual NFC champ.
Arizona is becoming my NFC equivalent of the Bengals.
I’ve done these previews for nearly a decade, and every year I get Cincinnati loud and embarrassingly wrong. Last year the Cards did that to me too when I picked them to go to the Super Bowl.
This year, I think this is a playoff team. David Johnson is a legit threat to top 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving, and the Carson Palmer/Larry Fitzgerald duo has at least one good run left in them. The rest of the receiving corps is strong so this balanced attack should be among the league’s best.
The defensive line lost Calais Campbell to free agency but Robert Nkemdiche was drafted for the purpose of replacing that production. Free agency robbed them of a lot of depth in the secondary but the Cardinals still have playmakers at every level of the defense. I expect to see both sides of the ball rank in the Top 10 and for Arizona to return to the postseason.
Los Angeles has something fun brewing.
Rams have the only staff with DC on Medicare and HC in Daycare
— Wade Phillips (@sonofbum) February 2, 2017
Sean McVay — the 31 year-old former Redskins offensive coordinator — is the youngest head coach in the NFL, and the wunderkind has surrounded himself with some very good assistant coaches, none more impactful (or older) than 70 year-old defensive coordinator Wade Phillips (whose swagger is off the charts these days). Under his direction, the Rams D should be much improved (assuming Aaron Donald’s holdout doesn’t undermine Phillips’ efforts).
McVay and offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur will have the task of making Jared Goff look like an NFL quarterback, which he didn’t as a rookie in 2016. This year, Goff should have a healthy and productive Todd Gurley (the scheme alone should help the latter) and a much improved receiving corps: Sammy Watkins comes over in a preseason trade (he already seems to be fitting in nicely) and third-round rookie Cooper Kupp might be a draft steal. L.A. should get out to a strong start and be surprisingly competitive.
San Francisco gambled big on rookies at their two most important positions: General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan each got six-year contracts to turn around the 49ers after a rock bottom 2016 season. Shanahan is already getting rave reviews but Lynch is actively trying to avoid repeating some pretty awful history.
Offense is Shanahan’s specialty, but it’s where the Niners engaged in some tomfoolery. Shanahan has no offensive coordinator and — perhaps worse — is relying on Brian Hoyer rather than Colin Kaepernick at QB. Hoyer is an obvious placeholder for either a young QB (third-round pick C.J. Beathard?) or Kirk Cousins, but San Fran spent big money on Pierre Garcon and Kyle Juszczyk –a 30 year-old WR and a fullback at a time when fullbacks are football’s equivalent to dinosaurs. This unit is almost sure to struggle.
If nothing else, the defense found what they believe will be the cornerstones of the unit for good draft value. The 49ers traded back and still got Solomon Thomas third overall, while 31st pick Rueben Foster was thought to be a Top 10 talent. Offseason acquisition Malcolm Smith is out for the season so they’ll need immediate contributions from Thomas and Foster to be even remotely competitive.
I expect Shanahan to do well in San Francisco. Just not well enough in 2017 to make Lynch’s daughter wrong.
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