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Last But Not Least – 2023 NFC West Preview

2023 NFC West Preview

Scott Logush

Associate Editor

Last but certainly not least in the division preview series is the NFC West. This division has been quarterback storyline-central over the past year. From Kyler Murray’s homework clause, Matthew Stafford going from Super Bowl Champion to almost a broker body, Brock Purdy forcing Trey Lance out of town and Geno Smith not writing back, some of the best quarterback stories have all come from here. How important are these stories as we head toward week one? Let’s take a look.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are on the inside track to the first overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft, and it has everything to do with how poor this roster is. There’s only a handful of players outside of Murray, who will miss some time as he continues to recover from his ACL injury that occurred last season, that are legitimately good and better starters. Safety Budda Baker, tackle D.J. Humphries, and wide receiver Marquise Brown. Outside of them, this roster is largely made up of very fringe starters or backup-caliber players. 

James Conner was another case study as to why you don’t pay runningbacks, and Arizona paid him. The team continues to erode, and they gave away Isaiah Simmons for peanuts. The only thing to look forward to for Arizona this season is a high draft pick in April.

Los Angeles Rams

A fall from grace as the Los Angeles Rams, from Super Bowl champions to barely fighting their way out of the division basement. They embraced a studs and duds approach to win the Super Bowl, and they deserve all the credit for that but are paying a heavy price now. They lack good young talent, with all of their best players on the wrong side of 30. Stafford is coming off a string of injuries, Copper Kupp is nursing a hamstring injury and we’re just over a year removed from Aaron Donald contemplating retirement. They traded away Jalen Ramsey in the offseason, they know their Super Bowl window has shut.

There’s not too much left to say. This team needs an infusion of young talent, and needs it quickly. The Sean McVay offense lives and dies by the play of the offensive line. They only have one good offensive lineman in Rob Havenstein. The rest of the line is either a question mark in rookie Steve Avila or are established guys that are just meh at best in Brian Allen, Tremayne Anchrum Jr., and Joseph Noteboom. They traded for Kevin Dotson, but there’s going to be an adjustment period and the Steelers basically just gave him away. The Rams won’t be contending again any time soon, but the Super Bowl win does wonders for how we look at this team.

San Francisco 49ers

Now we’re getting to the fun team to talk about. Brock Purdy started as the third-string quarterback this time a year ago. Now, he’s why the team was more than comfortable trading away former third-overall pick Trey Lance. The 49ers have assembled arguably the best group of offensive weapons in the game. With Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle with Kyle Shanahan pulling the strings. Purdy played a very safe style of football in 2022, with only three big-time throws and a 1.7 percentage to seven turnover-worthy plays and a 3.5 percentage. Purdy did well consistently with being accurate in the short game while only taking 13 attempts that targeted more than 20 yards down the field. The one group that can hold this offense back is the offensive line. They have arguably the best tackle in the game with Trent Williams, but the rest of their line leaves a lot to be desired.

Their defense is another strength of the team, and with one massive extension, Nick Bosa will be back. Bosa put up a career year in 2022 that saw him tally 18.5 sacks, 90 pressures, both career-highs and only two missed tackles. Bosa took home Defensive Player of the Year Honours and was a First-Team All-Pro. They also have the best linebacker in the league in Fred Warner. Warner has always been a strong run defender, good in coverage, and avoids penalties well. They signed Javon Hargrave in free agency from the Philadelphia Eagles to a handsome contract. Hargrave is coming off the best pass-rushing years of his career, with 57 pressures in 2022 and 61 in 2021 and back-to-back seasons of over 30 run stops. They have a solid secondary with Charvarius Ward as their best outside corner and Isaiah Oliver in the slot. Safety Talanoa Hufanga ranks incredibly highly on the fun-to-watch scale. The 49ers are seen as one of the best teams in the league for a reason, and they should cruise to another NFC West division title.

Seattle Seahawks

Geno didn’t write back and experienced a breakout year in his early thirties. We got full gunslinger Geno in 2022, with the second most big-time throws in the league at 34 (behind Josh Allen’s 44) and tied for the most turnover-worthy plays with Josh Allen at 29. With a great wide receiver trio in DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, gunslinger Geno should absolutely be back in full force in 2023. Seattle has a young and improving offensive line, headlined by second-year tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas who both had fine rookie seasons. The offense looks to be better in 2023 as Geno gets another year as the guy, an improved supporting cast, and a new three-year deal that he signed in the offseason.

Their defense might hold them back. They lack a great defensive lineman but have solid edge defenders in Uchenna Nwosu, Boye Mafe, and Darrell Taylor. Nwosu is coming off a career-high 61 pressures with the Seahawks in 2022. Cornerback Tariq Woolen had an exciting rookie season, with amazing highlight plays. Quandre Diggs has consistently been a good safety, and Jamal Adams is working on recovering from a torn quad. They brought back Bobby Wagner after a one-year study abroad program with the Rams. Wagner may not have the physical tools he once had, but his mind is what keeps him as one of the top linebackers in the game.

Final Prediction

The NFC West had some of the best quarterback storylines of recent memory, and all four teams have interesting stories heading into the 2023 season. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m picking San Francisco to win the division with Bosa back, and the Seahawks to finish second. I think the Rams and Cardinals are a lot closer to each other than people want to admit. With Cooper Kupp’s hamstring injury having increased complications and Matthew Stafford’s injury history, the Rams are not far from Arizona in terms of a lack of quality young players.

Standings

  1. San Francisco 49ers
  2. Seattle Seahawks
  3. Los Angeles Rams
  4. Arizona Cardinals
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