With NFL Training Camp and preseason games underway, on paper every team still has a chance to hoist the Lombardi trophy in February. While in reality, most teams will know their fate by about Week 3 or 4. However, there is always excitement for this time of year. Here’s why each NFC West fanbase should be excited.
The Cardinals come into 2018-19 with a potentially high ceiling in an unsteady NFC West division. After landing the serviceable, but often injured, QB Sam Bradford, the Cardinals managed to land Josh Rosen with the 10th pick of the draft. Whoever starts Week 1 will be joined in the backfield with a healthy David Johnson, a home run threat anytime he touches the ball, whether it be on the ground or through the air. Ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald tied a career-high in receptions, with 109 catches for 1,156 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2017 and could prove to be a safety blanket for whichever quarterback starts.
The defense ranked in the top-10 in yards allowed per game and rush yards per game. The NFC West is a confusing division, as the Rams are a team on the rise looking to defend its division title, the Seahawks seem bound for the basement after a turbulent offseason, leaving the 49ers and Cardinals somewhere in the middle. The Cardinals are a team that could shock people this season.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are without a doubt in the Super Bowl conversation. They made their first playoff appearance since 2004 last year and managed to get better this year. The Rams received a lot of praise despite being in the bottom half of yards allowed per game. I would expect that to be significantly different in 2018 after adding Marcus Peters, Sam Shields, Ndamukong Suh and Aqib Talib to go with Pro Bowler Aaron Donald. Quarterback Jared Goff took a major step forward in 2017, going from a guy who couldn’t read a playbook to being a Pro Bowler himself in his second year. Goff was a big factor in 2017 as was Todd Gurley, who signed a huge extension, earning every penny of it following his 2,000+ total yard campaign. The high-powered offense would factor to run rough shot over the NFC West as it was at the end of 2017, and then it added Brandin Cooks.
Los Angeles is a booming sports town, arguably one of the most successful across the American Big Four leagues. The Rams are no exception. In fact, they are leading the way, alongside the Dodgers. Get ready Rams fans, it should be a fun year.
San Francisco 49ers
They don’t give out Lombardi trophies for teams that win the offseason, but if they ever did, I think the 49ers would have to be in contention. First and foremost, resigning Jimmy Garoppolo gives this team instant credibility, and if you pay attention to the media, Jimmy G has had no issue spending a few pennies on “date night.” Good for him. San Francisco also managed to steal Richard Sherman from Seattle, as the Legion of Boom came to a screeching stop after 2017. For some, it may be hard to root for a team that started 0-9 last season and still carried the ninth pick of the draft. Although, that was before Jimmy G rode into town.
Since Garoppolo took over, the team is 6-0 and only getting better. Carlos Hyde has been replaced by Jerick McKinnon, the serviceable back from Minnesota, who will be running behind first-round pick Mike McGlichey out of Notre Dame. If there was ever a time to be on the rise in the NFC West, it’s now. The Seahawks are selling and restarting, as is Arizona. That leaves Los Angeles, the reigning division champion. 49ers fans should be excited for the race down the stretch, as this team may have struck gold with its QB, and the rest could fall into place.
Well this is awkward. Seattle, I am genuinely sorry. You had a great run for the better part of the 2010’s, but all good things must come to an end. Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. Two Super Bowl appearances and a championship is nothing to hang your head about. On a positive note, Seattle should still have a decent aerial attack with Russell Wilson at the helm, tossing the pigskin to guys like Doug Baldwin, Brandon Marshall, and Tyler Lockett. Beyond that there are more questions here than gas station sushi. It probably won’t be pretty, but there’s a small chance. One of the cool things when there is this big of a turnover is seeing what happens when hungry younger players mix in with vets who have an expectation of winning.
All in all, this rebuild could come to fruition a lot sooner than expected. Seattle ended up only having one pick in the draft that it originally owned, but managed to restock the defense, while also addressing running back and tight end, noted weak spots on this squad. Pete Carroll certainly has his work cut out for him this year, but if anyone in the NFL is used to having to restock a talented roster with unproven players, it will be the man who led USC to dominance.
Only one team will be lifting the Lombardi Trophy in Atlanta in February. Could it be your team? Let me know why you’re excited for your team in 2018.