The Rams made plenty of noise this offseason, but one year after going out with a whimper in the playoffs, are they ready to meld all these new faces and take the next step? Jimmy Garoppolo will lose a game at some point, but he should win enough to put the 49ers in the playoffs, especially with the typical Year 2 boost in a Kyle Shanahan offense. The Legion of Boom is no more, and the Seahawks are trying to find a new identity on the fly. And as good as Russell Wilson is, he might not be capable of carrying this team back to the postseason. In Arizona, there’s a regime change and a new quarterback (two, actually). David Johnson is back, but the Cards will have a tough time scoring enough points to lift a defense in flux.
Odds to win NFC West:
Los Angeles Rams -150
San Francisco +275
Pick to win NFC West: Los Angeles
Best NFC West Value: San Francisco +275
Los Angeles Rams
2018 Regular Season Wins Prop: OVER 10 (-105) / UNDER 10 (-115)
OFFENSE: 2017 Coach of the Year Sean McVay quickly turned around L.A.’s offense with an effective running game and a unique passing attack. Todd Gurley was unstoppable as a rusher and receiver, leading the league in touchdowns (19) and yards from scrimmage (2,093), despite playing just 15 games. Gurley’s success allowed Jared Goff to blossom as a play-action passer, and the arrival of wide receiver Brandin Cooks gives McVay one more dynamic weapon to utilize.
DEFENSE: Legendary coordinator Wade Phillips will work with a rebuilt defense in 2018. Robert Quinn, Alec Ogletree and Trumaine Johnson are out, but Ndamukong Suh and corners Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, all former All-Pros, are in. The new arrivals have reputations for gambling to make big plays (while also allowing some). Meanwhile, Aaron Donald is one of the game’s best defenders, though the run defense struggled at times last season.
BOTTOM LINE: Coming off an 11-win season with a QB still on his cheap rookie deal, the Rams are going all in for 2018. Suh, Talib and Peters are volatile personalities, but they’re unlikely to cause trouble if Los Angeles keeps winning. The Rams are easily the NFC West’s best team entering 2018. OVER 10
San Francisco 49ers
Regular Season Wins Prop: OVER 8.5 (-110) / UNDER 8.5 (-110)
OFFENSE: Head coach Kyle Shanahan is a genius play designer, and once Jimmy Garoppolo got under center in November, the Niners offense started to click. Garoppolo played at a 4,934-yard, 19-TD pace in five starts, all of which were San Francisco wins. Excellent pass-catching back Jerick McKinnon should be a strong fit in Shanahan’s system, and while the receivers aren’t great, his offenses win with scheme rather than talent.
DEFENSE: Coordinator Robert Saleh has some pieces in place to build an effective Cover-3 defense. The young D-line trio of DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead is oozing with potential, while Reuben Foster’s off-the-field issues are the only thing holding him back from being a perennial Pro Bowler. If former Seahawks star Richard Sherman has anything left in the tank, the secondary will get a huge boost.
BOTTOM LINE: San Francisco ended the 2017 season on a five-game win streak, including strong performances against playoff teams in Tennessee and Jacksonville. In Year 2 under Shanahan, the offense is sure to thrive, while the defense has enough promising young talent to compete for a Wild Card berth. OVER 8.5
Regular Season Wins Prop: OVER 8 (+110) / UNDER 8 (-130)
OFFENSE: Seattle has a flimsy O-line, but Russell Wilson is one of the greatest on-the-move passers in league history, not to mention his prowess as a runner. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin is a true No. 1 and the only proven asset in the receiving group. After three seasons of futility in the running game (no Seattle RB reached 250 rushing yards last season), the Seahawks have high hopes for first-round draft pick Rashaad Penny—and also Chris Carson, who missed 12 games in 2017.
DEFENSE: The Legion of Boom has been largely dismantled as Seattle parted ways with so many key contributors this offseason—Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett and coordinator Kris Richard, to name a few. The outstanding linebacking duo of Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright will continue to anchor the defense, while emerging stars defensive end Frank Clark and defensive tackle Jarran Reed will have to rise to the occasion.
BOTTOM LINE: The window on Seattle’s run as a dominant defense has shut. Too many stars are gone to expect a return to the defense’s 2012-2015 form. Wilson is a fantastic quarterback, but seems to have three or four real clunker games each season. He doesn’t have the roster around him to survive that. UNDER 8
2018 Regular Season Wins Prop: OVER 5.5 (-163) / UNDER 5.5 (+140)
OFFENSE: The offense will be built around David Johnson, who led the NFL in touchdowns and yards from scrimmage in 2016 but suffered a season-ending wrist injury in Week 1 of last year. Quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen both come to Arizona with injury concerns and inherit a flimsy offensive line. Catch-and-run passes to Larry Fitzgerald and Johnson are likely to be featured. The Cards have very little skill-position talent beyond their two stars.
DEFENSE: New head coach Steve Wilks is implementing a more basic defense than what James Bettcher ran in his three seasons as coordinator. Wilks and new coordinator Al Holcomb aim to force opponents to adjust to them and out-execute, rather than outsmart, opposing offenses. With All-Pro performers in Chandler Jones and Budda Baker, not to mention shutdown corner Patrick Peterson, Arizona has the talent to remain a top-10 defense.
BOTTOM LINE: Arizona has a brand-new coaching staff and uncertainty under center—not a promising combination. While neither Bradford nor Rosen are likely to implode, they have little proven talent to work with. Defensively, a strong unit may have growing pains adjusting to a new system. UNDER 5.5