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You know that weird thing some married couples do when it’s over but they still cohabitate even though they’re legally separated? Well, that’s basically what the Niners are doing with Jimmy Garoppolo.
Jimmy G is not only staying in San Fran; he’s taking a pay cut to back up Trey Lance. Given the young passer’s lack of experience (and I don’t just mean in the NFL — Week 1 will be his 20th start in college and the pros combined), this could be a potentially combustible (if not volatile) situation at QB if Lance struggles.
But I don’t see that playing out. With Kyle Shanahan doing his offensive magic and Trent Williams leading a nasty offensive line, I see the Niners doing plenty of damage — especially with a defense that was third in total defense and tied for eighth in scoring defense, and seems poised to remain at least in the top 10. I don’t know whether Lance is ready to make noise in the playoffs, but I believe he’ll be dynamic enough to push San Francisco to the top of the NFC.
The rich just keep getting richer.
As if the Super Bowl champion L.A. Rams didn’t have enough star power on a defense that boasts Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, the champs got longtime rival Bobby Wagner to come home to California, and he’s already a leader in a locker room chock full of them. Assuming he’s still got gas in the proverbial tank, that stifling Rams defense just got a whole lot more dominant.
So the key to whether L.A. is the NFL’s first repeat champion in 18 years is the status of Matthew Stafford’s bum elbow and whether the O-line, which boasted the league’s best pass block win rate in 2021, will survive Andrew Whitworth’s retirement. If Stafford’s somewhat mysterious ailment adversely affects his ability to properly run the offense or, worse yet, puts backup John Wolford on the field for any extended period of time, this could be a good-but-not-great season, at best.
Here’s the book on Arizona during the Kliff Kingsbury era: Great starts, awful finishes.
Despite that, the Cardinals doubled down on the duo of Kingsbury and Kyler Murray, handing each lucrative contract extensions — the latter drawing a deal that makes him the second-highest paid QB in the league, even though he’s (allegedly) a lousy study.
Both will earn their money if the Cardinals still start the season fast — they’ll be without DeAndre Hopkins while the star receiver serves out a six-game drug suspension. The defense lost Chandler Jones, and as great as J.J. Watt has been in his career, he can’t seem to stay healthy.
So absent their typical great start (and I have them starting 1-5 without DHop in the lineup), things will fall apart in the desert very quickly.
Sleepless in Seattle? More like winless.
OK, I don’t have the Seahawks going 0-17 but they might be damn close if their preseason performance is any indication. As if it weren’t bad enough that the last ties to the Legion of Boom era left with Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner this offseason, the new-look ‘Hawks are starting retread Geno Smith at QB with Drew Lock as the faulty backup option.
The new era of defense includes rookie Tariq Woolen (who sounds eerily similar to Richard Sherman) but lacks the sort of playmakers that can make the unit great enough to overcome the lousy situation at quarterback.
But even if general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll have another stash of mid-round picks poised to become the next batch of Seahawks stars, the hopes of being competitive in 2022 is basically nullified by one other factor: Seattle will log the most travel miles of any NFL team this season (nearly 30,000 miles). So if the lack of elite talent doesn’t destroy their season, the frequent flier miles will.
Don’t be surprised if at season’s end, Seattle is unofficially on the clock with the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.