2017 NFC West Season Recap: The Year of the Rams
The NFC West has not been the league of legend this year, to say the least. I will go through each team, and consider the best and worst things for each team, as well as what each team can look forward to in 2018.
San Francisco 49ers (4th in the NFC West)
Finishing on a high note, the 49ers had five straight wins and six of their last seven games to end the regular season. Surprisingly, Carlos Hyde looks to be back into Pro Bowl form (940 yards rushing with a 3.9 average).
Also, for the first time since Aldon Smith left town, the defense looked capable again (5 of 10 losses were by 3 or fewer points). and after a long drought, the 49ers finished in the top 10 in the league in team defense.
Finally, the trade for Jimmy Garoppolo (second round pick) looks like he may be the savior of the team, or at least Kyle Shanahan’s job.
The 49ers defined a ‘Rough Start’ by losing the first nine games to start the season, which is a franchise record. While the team was competitive in most of their games, Brian Hoyer continued to let the team down.
Combine that with the decision to leave Garoppolo on the bench for as long as he did. It took Kyle Shanahan 3 weeks to pull the ripcord on Jimmy G, with two of those games being losses. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, but could you imagine what would’ve happened in San Francisco had he pulled out a win against the ‘Hawks?
Finally, 2018 is going to be a tough year for John Lynch, since the 49ers are projected to be nearly $4 million over the salary cap. The Cap situation could break this team up before they even get started.
As teams go, there isn’t a brighter future than the one in San Francisco. The 49ers have found their QB. John Lynch has a top-10 draft pick to work with. They have an offensive minded genius for a coach. As long as they make the right moves to clear cap space, look for the 49ers to break .500 next season and make a push to the playoffs.
Arizona Cardinals (3rd in the NFC West)
For the ninth time in his illustrious career, Larry “The Legend” Fitzgerald went over 1000 receiving yards. Fitzgerald also tied his career-high mark for the number of catches in a season.
The Cardinals found ways to win enough to finish .500 on the season with Drew Stanton at QB and finished third in the NFC West.
The Cardinals offense was terribly injury prone this year, with Carson Palmer, David Johnson, and Adrian Peterson all ending their season on injured reserve. David Johnson aside, age is going to be a huge issue with the team having the oldest roster in the NFL in 2017.
Bruce Arians, AKA the most stylish coach in the NFL, is calling it a career. He will finish with the franchise record for most wins and best winning percentage. However, his sideline antics and overly cool interview behavior will be sorely missed.
Finally the Cardinals normally brilliant defense fell to 22nd overall in team defense. You can blame it on the lack of QB pressure, or inability to get off the field on 3rd down, the coaching change will do this defense some good.
Kip Kiem has his hands full this offseason trying to find a head coach. To help matters, he will have almost 17.5 million to spend this offseason, to mold this team into the new coaches image. From my perspective, it is way too early to know what or who will make up the Cardinals in 2018, but it will be interesting.
Seattle Seahawks (2nd in the NFC West)
With a 9-7 record, the Seahawks wound up finishing in 2nd place in the NFC West. Russell Wilson led the league in touchdowns this season and accounted for 37 of the teams 38 offensive touchdowns. Russell became the first QB in NFL history to have a winning record in each of his first 6 seasons. Additionally, he broke the league record for most wins in the first 6 seasons.
Jimmy Graham hit his stride in Seattle this year, breaking the team record for most touchdowns by a tight end in a season. At times, it seemed like he was the monster that he was in New Orleans, again.
Bobby Wagner has led this top ten defense again this year. His consistency and voice are finally giving him the national attention he deserves as one of the best linebackers to play the game.
First and foremost, poor kicking, and choking from Blair Walsh cost the Seahawks wins against the Redskins, Falcons, Cardinals this year.
Second, Injuries and age plagued the Seahawks defense this year. The esteemed LOB was down to just Earl Thomas until they brought back Byron Maxwell. The defensive line struggled to get pressure in 4 man rush situations. Adding to that, the serious injuries to Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor might actually end their careers.
On the other side of the ball, the offensive line was really, really offensive. They were the most penalized unit in the league. Unless you are counting the time when the Offense was in the 2-minute drill, the play calling was horrendous giving many 12s the new hashtag, #FIREBEVELL.
Finally, the Seahawks only had one touchdown scored by a running back this year. Sadly, Russell Wilson led the team in rushing with 586 yards, more than double the yards of their leading running back, Mike Davis, who only had 240 yards.
To every 12’s delight, the Salary Cap nightmare of 2017 is over. The ‘Hawks are projected to have around $18 million in cap room for 2018. Unfortunately, they have a lot of parts and pieces to renew, and some to go out and get. Look for Sheldon Richardson, KJ Wright, and Earl Thomas to get new contracts. Also, John Schneider could choose to restructure a few others to make the defense younger. Look for the Seahawks to be back in double-digit wins for 2018 and an NFC wildcard lock.
Los Angeles Rams (1st in the NFC West)
And Finally, the NFC West has its third champion in as many years. The Rams will be the third seed in the NFC playoff picture, which is incredibly good for the NFL. Most noteworthy, Todd Gurley and Jared Goff have the Rams offense roaring into their first winning season since 2003. Combined with Aaron Donald and that defense hitting their stride, this team may play into February.
Unfortunately, there isn’t too much bad to say, because they were that good. However, the Rams consistency of effort might come into question. Especially since 3 of their 5 losses came to teams, not in the playoffs.
First of all, they are at the height of a “Win Now, Win Later” mode. Furthermore, the Rams may have the best RB/WR/QB trio right now in the NFC. Above all, Les Snead has nearly $60 million to spend this offseason, and very few critical FAs to lock up, look for them to get better for the next few years.