Arizona Cardinals: 13-3 in 2015 (1st in NFC West)
There has been a changing of the guard in the NFC West as the Arizona Cardinals now sit on top of the division. This has really been a long time coming as the Cardinals have been steadily building an elite team on both sides of the ball. The defense plays lights out and added a huge boost with pass rusher Jamie Collins. The offensive side of the ball features Carson Palmer distributing the ball to what might be the best group of wide receivers ever assembled on one team. Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown could each be a #1 receiver on a number of NFL rosters. Head Coach Bruce Arians has gotten this team focused on a Super Bowl while GM Steve Keim has done an excellent job of filling the few holes on the roster. The Cardinals should be prohibitive Super Bowl favorites in 2016. This is a very tough team to bet against.
Prediction: 12-4 (1st in NFC West)
Los Angeles Rams: 7-9 in 2015 (3rd in NFC West)
The Los Angeles Rams are starting over in a new town after a much publicized break up with the city of St Louis. With a new lease on life (and new contracts for Head Coach Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead), the Rams are focused on re-defining this team. Of course, the Rams will remain a defensive team for the foreseeable future. However, the drafting of quarterback Jared Goff #1 overall in 2016 says a lot about the direction this team is trying to head in. Jeff Fisher is a well-respected coach in the NFL, but the truth is that his tenure with the Rams has been extremely disappointing as the “Greatest Show On Turf” lost its dynamic offense and became a more classic ground and pound team banking on its defense. That kind of football can win some games, even some championships as Denver showed, but it won’t get the fan base in LA excited. The Rams have to become flashy and entertaining. That will take some time.
Prediction: 6-10 (3rd in NFC West)
San Francisco 49ers: 5-11 in 2015 (4th in NFC West)
The San Francisco 49ers ended up on the losing side of their breakup with Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. While Harbaugh has gone on to revitalize the football program at Michigan, the 49ers have fallen into the depths of the NFL basement. Now San Fran is turning to Chip Kelly to fix things. However, we have already seen that Chip Kelly has his own way of doing things, and it doesn’t tend to go well with someone else calling the personnel shots. This has to be Kelly’s last shot at an NFL career, so he is going to give it all he has. Can he work well with others, or is he determined to do things his own way? Very few coaches in the NFL are able to handle the duties of coaching and personnel management. Kelly has already failed at it once.
Prediction: 4-12 (4th in NFC West)
Seattle Seahawks: 10-6 in 2015 (2nd in NFC West)
It is hard to imagine the Seattle Seahawks without “Beast Mode” Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. That is what Seattle is going to have to overcome in 2016. The Seahawks are no strangers to losing talent as they have been one of the most poached teams in the NFL for years now. However, the team has continued to win and find ways to replace departing star talents. That is going to catch up the Seahawks at some point, but it doesn’t look like it will be in 2016. Granted, Seattle is no longer the class of the NFC West as the Cardinals have surged to the top of the division. The Hawks are no pushovers either, though, and will still be able to hold their own against just about any team in the league. Seattle should make another postseason appearance this year, but will they be able to advance without the reliable Lynch in the backfield?
Prediction: 11-5 (2nd in NFC West)
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