Four years ago the NFC West was the NFL’s best division. Three teams finished with at least 10 wins, and the St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams weren’t terrible, either, finishing with a 7-9 record.
It’s a much different situation now. The Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals have remained competitive squads, but neither seems quite as strong as it was for the past few years. The LA Rams and San Francisco 49ers are clearly in the process of rebuilding.
How exactly will each of these teams fare in 2017? Let’s preview all four squads and then offer a final recommendation as to which team is the smartest to wager on with the sports betting USA sites.
Seattle Seahawks (2016 record: 10-5-1, No. 1 in NFC West, Lost in NFC Divisional Round)
We might as well begin with the offensive line here, because that was (and still is) easily the biggest issue for the Seahawks in 2016. Quarterback Russell Wilson might be one of the five best quarterbacks in the NFL, but he looked pretty average at points last season when his blockers were playing particularly badly.
One thing that could help with the line play in 2017 is the addition of running back Eddie Lacy, who could diversify the offensive attack. Other than that, the offense’s ceiling is just being pretty good until the line improves.
Seattle’s defense remains one of the best in the league. Pro Bowl talents litter the unit, including defensive end Cliff Avril, linebacker Bobby Wagner, safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman.
The Seahawks are still fortunate to have just one major weakness, though. None of the rest of the teams in the division can say that.
- Record Prediction: 12-4
- Best Odds: -250 at Intertops.
Arizona Cardinals (2016 record: 7-8-1, No. 2 in NFC West)
The Cardinals were one of those major statistical anomalies last season. Despite finishing ninth in offensive yards and second in yards allowed, the squad had a losing record. It’s because they had a bunch of trouble pulling out close games, made costly turnovers and were an all-around disaster on special teams.
Expect somewhat of a return to the mean in 2017. With somewhat of an aging roster, they aren’t the 13-3 squad that tore through the 2015 season anymore, but they are a talented squad on both ends of the ball.
Quarterback Carson Palmer had a down year by his standards, but it’s important to remember that he’ll turn 38 in the 2017 NFL season. He is bound to slow down at some point. Arizona would love to get a better year from the veteran signal-caller and a leaky offensive line that couldn’t keep him on his feet at times.
Running back David Johnson, receiver Larry Fitzgerald and a beastly pass rush lead the way for this Cardinals squad. Can the run defense stay strong with some offseason losses? Will Palmer control the turnovers? Will the special teams rebound from a disgusting performance last year?
The answers to those questions are the difference between a 7-9 season and a 13-3 one.
- Record Prediction: 10-6
- Best Odds: +300 at Bovada.
Los Angeles Rams (2016 record: 4-12, No. 3 in NFC West)
The Rams are turning to 31-year-old head coach Sean McVay to turn around their struggling franchise. McVay is the youngest head coach in league history, but he was key to the development of Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Los Angeles’ new head man on the sidelines has another tall task in front of him: improving second-year quarterback Jared Goff. The No. 1 overall pick in 2016 didn’t look anywhere near ready for the NFL in his rookie season, losing all seven of his games and registering a pathetic passer rating of 63.6.
The rest of the roster is respectable. The wide receiver and secondary groups are certainly below-average, but the Rams should generate a very good pass rush and have a much-improved running game. Running back Todd Gurley had a major sophomore slump after a fantastic rookie season, but he has an upgraded offensive line and (hopefully) a slightly better passing game in 2017.
Throw in the fact that new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has extensive history with coaxing huge improvements out of defenses, and the Rams should be a bit better than last year.
- Record Prediction: 6-10
- Best Odds: +2500 at 5Dimes.
San Francisco 49ers (2016 record: 2-14, No. 4 in NFC West)
The best way to describe the 49ers is that they’re in a state of flux. Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch move into new head coaching and general managing roles respectively and only a small number of starters will return from last year’s 2-14 squad.
The offense is definitely a weak spot in San Francisco. There are no major playmakers that make opposing defensive coordinators nervous, and probably their most dynamic one (running back Carlos Hyde) has missed an average of nearly five games per year due to injury in his first three NFL seasons.
The 49ers’s defense doesn’t look much better, though it should get a shot in the arm from first-round draft selections in defensive end Solomon Thomas and linebacker Reuben Foster. It has shown flashes of being an aggressive, hard-hitting unit in preseason, but this is still a relatively inexperienced group transitioning from the 3-4 to the 4-3. Don’t expect anything special from San Francisco’s defense – yet.
- Record Prediction: 4-12
- Best Odds: +4500 at 5Dimes.
Our Preview’s NFC West Betting Predictions & Picks
The Rams and 49ers are in no position to challenge either of this division’s top two teams, as they both have poor offenses that should struggle to move the ball against the often dominant Seattle and Arizona defenses.
Arizona is an intriguing team, because it did finish 13-3 two years ago and had some fluke losses last season. A new kicker in the veteran Phil Dawson should help the Cards nail down more close games, and the team was also a decent special teams away from a couple more wins. They are by no means the favorite here because of the Seahawks’ consistency, but they do have a legitimate chance to win the division if some things go their way.
- Considering their odds are much longer than Seattle, this NFC West preview’s recommendation is to put down money on the Cardinals winning the NFC West @ best odds of +300 with Bovada Sportsbook.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.