Can Kyler Murray lead the Cardinals to the playoffs in his sophomore season? Photo from @pff (Twitter)
- The San Francisco 49ers won the NFC West last season with a record of 13-3 but haven’t won the division in back-to-back years since 2012 and 2013
- Between the Seahawks, Rams & Cardinals this has the chance to be the most competitive division in 2020
- See below for a preview of NFC West with a pick to win the divisional odds and win totals
The San Francisco 49ers went from outhouse to penthouse last year, going 13-3 and winning the NFC just one year after finishing 4-12.
Heading into 2020 the question remains will they remain a contender, or fade like so many other NFC Super Bowl representatives like the Los Angeles Rams in 2018, Philadelphia Eagles in 2017 and Atlanta Falcons in 2016.
2020 NFC West Odds and Win Totals
|Team||Odds at FanDuel||Win Total at FanDuel||SBD Win Probability|
|San Francisco 49ers||-105||10.5||11-5 (22.2%)|
|Seattle Seahawks||+230||9.5||10-6 (20.3%)|
|Los Angeles Rams||+450||8.5||8-8 (20.2%)|
|Arizona Cardinals||+800||7.5||7-9 (20.8%)|
Odds taken Sept. 8th
San Francisco 49ers
- 2019 record: 13-3
- Points per game: 29.9 (2nd)
- Points allowed per game: 19.4 (8th)
- Yards per game: 381.4 (4th)
- Yards allowed per game: 281.8 (2nd)
- Turnover differential: +4 (T10th)
After winning the NFC but falling short in the Super Bowl, the 49ers didn’t rest on their laurels as they were active in the offseason.
On offense, they picked up formerly disgruntled left tackle Trent Williams via trade from Washington and also traded DeForest Buckner to the Colts for draft capital and future assets. They filled Buckner’s spot by drafting South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw, and also selected Brandon Aiyuk out of Arizona State in the draft to complement speedster Deebo Samuel at wideout.
#49ers rookie DL Javon Kinlaw getting ready for Week 1 in a block recognition period
— Fourth and Nine (@fourth_nine) September 2, 2020
With so much consistency year-over-year, there is good reason to expect another season of double digit wins. The coaching staff has put in place an excellent system and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo executes it very well. This is a team that finished second in rushing yards per game (144.1) and if the young wide receivers develop, the passing game could bring balance.
49ers Key Additions and Losses
|Javon Kinlaw, DL||Emmanuel Sanders, WR|
|Brandon Aiyuk, WR||DeForest Buckner, DL|
|Earl Mitchell, DL||Mike Person, G|
|Jason Verrett, CB||Garrett Celek, TE|
Many people forget that 2019 was Garoppolo’s first full season as a starter. If he continues to develop as a decision maker and downfield passer, the running game can remain reliable and the defense should once again be among the league’s best. This will again be one of the top teams in the NFC.
Prediction: 11-5 (1st)
- 2019 record: 11-5
- Points per game: 25.3 (9th)
- Points allowed per game: 24.9 (22nd)
- Yards per game: 374.4 (8th)
- Yards allowed per game: 381.6 (26th)
- Turnover differential: +12 (4th)
We’ve come to expect that the Pete Carroll-Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks will be right in that nine-to-11 win range each season – that’s exactly where they’ve been in the last five seasons.
In terms of the offseason, we haven’t really seen anything that will indicate otherwise.
The Seahawks are hoping their defense can be even better in ’20 as they added All-Pro safety Jamal Adams and first-round pick Jordyn Brooks to improve their speed and toughness.
However, the team let Jadeveon Clowney walk and that’s a huge concern with their lack of big time edge rusher. The Seahawks ranked second-last in sacks last season (28) and three of their leaders in that category last year (Clowney, Quinton Jefferson and Mychal Kendricks) are now gone.
On offense, the team is still limited by an offensive line that ranked 27th in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus. However, Wilson can make up for it with his ability to scramble and keep plays alive. While the running game should remain strong, the team only added Phillip Dorsett and 35-year-old Greg Olson to compliment DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett as receivers.
Seahawks Key Additions and Losses
|Greg Olsen, TE||Quinton Jefferson, DT|
|Phillip Dorsett, WR||D.J. Fluker, DT|
|Quinton Dunbar, CB||George Fant, OT|
|Josh Gordon, WR||German Ifedi, OT|
|Cedric Ogbuehi, OT||Marshawn Lynch, RB|
|B.J. Finney, OT||C.J. Prosise, RB|
|Josh Gordon, WR|
|Justin Britt, C|
|Ezekiel Ansah, DE|
|Mychal Kendricks, LB|
This is a well-coached team with some stars on both side of the ball. While questions linger about their pass rush and offensive line, I have them slotted in to finish behind the 49ers.
Prediction: 10-6 (2nd)
Los Angeles Rams
- 2019 record: 9-7
- Points per game: 24.6 (11th)
- Points allowed per game: 23.3 (16th)
- Yards per game: 374.9 (7th)
- Yards allowed per game: 339.6 (13th)
- Turnover differential: 0 (T15th)
The Rams are receiving the widest variety of predictions in this division as they’re pegged at various outlets from first to worst. This team was 13-3 two seasons ago and overcame a number of challenges last season to finish 9-7.
The Rams made some big changes, starting on the sidelines. They hired former Washington offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell to run the offense and swapped veteran Wade Phillips for relatively unknown Brandon Staley at DC.
Personnel wise, the Rams moved on from Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley, who were overpaid and unproductive last season.
Rams Key Additions and Losses
|Leonard Floyd, LB||Brandin Cooks, WR|
|A’Shawn Robinson, DL||Todd Gurley, RB|
|Cam Akers, RB||Greg Zuerlein, K|
|Van Jefferson, WR||Cory Littleton, LB|
|Dante Fowler Jr., LB|
|Clay Matthews, LB|
Beyond the key questions will be one important one about the offensive line. While they were the strength of the 2018 team, last year’s group was among the worst in the NFL. While quarterback Jared Goff was only sacked 22 times, he was frequently under pressure and his accuracy drops significantly when he doesn’t have time in the pocket.
Since 2017, Goff ranked sixth overall by PFF grades with a clean pocket. He ranks 20th when under pressure.
The offensive line was really banged up last season, so the Rams are mostly banking on a clean bill of health being the main difference.
The other key will be immediate production from their rookies on offense. Can Cam Akers immediately ascend to bell cow status, or will they be using him in a rotation with Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown?
Former Florida Gator Van Jefferson has also been receiving rave reviews out of camp, and could provide the offense with more production than Josh Reynolds was scheduled to put up as a third receiver.
My view is the offensive line will be better but inconsistent, and the defense will slip with Phillips gone. That means the Rams will land somewhere in the .500 range.
Prediction: 7-9 (3rd)
- 2019 record: 5-10-1
- Points per game: 22.6 (17th)
- Points allowed per game: 27.6 (28th)
- Yards per game: 341.7 (21st)
- Yards allowed per game: 402.0 (32nd)
- Turnover differential: -1 (T17th)
The Cardinals are viewed as a young team that’s on the rise but there are questions as to how good they can be in 2020. Of course, the first key will be the development of quarterback Kyler Murray.
He had an up-and-down campaign, throwing for 219 yards or less in five of his final six contests. He also had just four interceptions in his first four games but finished with eight in his final seven.
Murray was not only a rookie but he was paired with a rookie head coach in Kliff Kingsbury and an offensive line that ranked just 22nd, according to PFF. They were fourth-worst in terms of the run.
Are they better in 2020? The team did get a steal with tackle Josh Jones in the third round, but otherwise, this is virtually the same unit.
One thing that’s clear is that Murray will have better weapons this year after the team acquired DeAndre Hopkins from Houston in exchange for former starting RB David Johnson.
He’s a special talent and could change the entire dynamic of the offense by drawing double teams away from burner Christian Kirk, as well as opening up underneath routes for the ageless wonder that is Larry Fitzgerald.
Cardinals Key Additions and Losses
|DeAndre Hopkins, WR||David Johnson, RB|
|De’Vondre Campbell, LB||Brooks Reed, LB|
|Devon Kennard, LB||Charles Clay, OL|
|Jordan Phillips, DL||Damiere Byrd, WR|
The defense is a different story. This unit gave up more yards than any other team in the NFL last season, and finished dead last in interceptions and opposing quarterback rating. It’s unlikely that first-round pick LB Isaiah Simmons and free agent addition Dre Kirkpatrick can do enough by themselves to completely shore up the coverage.
A lot of people are bullish on the Cardinals, but there are still too many issues with the team to legitimately compete in 2020.
Prediction: 5-11 (4th)
Other division previews:
- 2020 AFC East Predictions, Odds, Projected Records, and Win Totals
- 2020 AFC North Predictions, Odds, Projected Records, and Win Totals
- 2020 AFC South Predictions, Odds, Projected Records, and Win Totals
- 2020 AFC West Predictions, Odds, Projected Records, and Win Totals
- NFC East Predictions, Odds, Projected Records, and Win Totals
- NFC North Predictions, Odds, Projected Records, and Win Totals
- NFC South Predictions, Odds, Projected Records, and Win Totals
For over 15 years, Dave has been working in mainstream media and sports betting. He hosted a station on Sirius Satellite Radio for four years, and is currently a senior writer for AskMen. He’s interviewed hundreds of hundreds of high-profile sports stars like Shaquille O’Neal and Floyd Mayweather.