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Additions like Stafford and Watt could have the NFC West put three teams in the postseason

Additions like Stafford and Watt could have the NFC West put three teams in the postseason

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Image for article titled NFC West: Stacked division gets tougher with additions like Stafford and Watt

Illustration: Getty/Deadspin

The NFC West will come down to quarterback play and which defensive unit can get to the quarterback more often this season.

On paper, the L.A. Rams look like the front-runner to do just that, now having a QB in Matthew Stafford who can genuinely stretch the field and compile gaudy stats with the best of ’em. Paired with a top 5 defense led by the best non-QB player (Aaron Donald) in the league, the Rams have all they need to make a run to the Super Bowl.

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Even with such high expectations for Stafford and the Rams, the team in the division with the best player at the most pivotal position in football is the Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson and the Seabirds won the NFC West last season but fell in the wildcard game to the Rams.

After a drama-filled offseason (Wilson trade talk & players holding out), Seattle seems poised to take a step or two back. While Wilson represents a top 5 QB in the league, question marks for the Seahawks on the offensive line, the defense, and running game leave much to be desired.

Left tackle Duane Brown is still a holdout, which, if this continues into the season, will mean a tough road ahead for Wilson, running back Chris Carson, and the rest of the Seahawks backfield. If the Seahawks can improve their offensive line play, they might be back in the Super Bowl sooner than later. Wilson was the third-most sacked (47) QB in the NFL last season.

Having Jamal Adams back officially after signing him to a four-year extension should go a long way in helping the defense. Although I don’t think it will matter because, at best, this Seahawks team may have only the third strongest defense in this division.

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This Seahawks defense just doesn’t stack up to that of the Rams and the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners finished last in the NFC West and still ranked 5th in the league in yards allowed. Their QB situation could be a little murkier than any other team in the division after drafting Trey Lance 3rd overall in April’s draft. Head coach Kyle Shanahan made this decision even with starter Jimmy Garoppolo returning from injury.

Shanahan has not only threatened fans with running a two-QB system, he even showcased it during the preseason. He’s so confident in his ability to game plan that we should all take Shanahan seriously about running this offense during the regular season.

Just by moving up to draft Lance, Shanahan sent a message to the football world telling us that Jimmy G’s time is almost up in San Francisco. Garoppolo knows this, but he’ll do the right thing and be a good teammate until he’s shipped out of town.

I’m looking at the Niners to have a bounce-back year no matter which QB takes more snaps under center. If the Niners get quality QB play this year, I’m looking for them to bounce back, surpass the Seahawks and challenge the Rams for the division crown. With Nick Bosa

returning to the defense, this team is in an excellent position to be back in the playoffs after missing out in 2020.

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The Arizona Cardinals are a team that may need to make the playoffs this year if they want to keep head coach Kliff Kingsbury around. QB Kyler Murray has shown flashes of greatness during his first couple of campaigns in the league.

Murray and Kingsbury will need to show they can lead this Cardinals franchise to success in the form of the postseason. Otherwise, Kingsbury could be looking for employment by the end of the season. The passing game is intact even without veteran Larry Fitzgerald (semi-retirement?) on the field to begin the season. The Cardinals added A.J. Green to a passing attack that already included DeAndre Hopkins, so the team will be as explosive as ever in that regard.

Offensively the question marks remain in the backfield for Arizona. Can Kingsbury take pressure off Murray by producing a formidable run game with Chase Edmonds and James Connor?

The defense figures to be improved with the addition of J.J. Watt and the return of Chandler Jones, who had his season ended early in 2020 due to a right biceps injury. The Cardinals also look forward to big things out of first-round pick Zaven Collins at the inside linebacker. Even with the additions on defense, it will still be an uphill battle for the Cardinals to compete within this division.

In my opinion, this West division looks to be a solid three-team race, with the Rams coming out on top of it. But I feel the toughest division in football should be able to get three teams into the postseason, with the Niners, Seahawks, and Rams all jockeying for position down the stretch.

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