The Los Angeles Rams captured their 14th NFC West title in franchise history in 2017. Will they repeat in 2018?
1. Los Angeles Rams
2017 Record: 11-5
No real surprises here. Over the last couple years, with the selection of Todd Gurley in the 2015 NFL draft, the selection of Jared Goff in 2016, and several key free agent signings (Brandin Cooks, Aqib Talib, Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, and Robert Woods in 2016 to name a few), as well as a new head coach in Sean McVay, the Rams have constructed a “dream team” destined for continued success in 2018.
Many questioned the Rams’ decision to take Gurley, who was recovering from a torn ACL, with the tenth overall pick. And there were concerns with Goff’s ability to develop into an elite, NFL-caliber quarterback. However, Los Angeles proved their doubters wrong, as in a span of just two years, Goff and Gurley have emerged as one of the league’s most dominant quarterback/running back tandems.
On the other side of the football, I expect Peters, Talib, and Suh, along with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald to anchor a scary defensive unit. I give this Rams team 12 wins in 2018 and the NFC West title.
2018 Record Prediction: 12-4
2. San Francisco 49ers
2017 Record: 6-10
It’s crazy how the addition of one player can completely transform a team into a playoff contender. Prior to the mid-season acquisition of Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco was 1-9 and well on their way to a top three pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. After he was given an opportunity to start, Garoppolo delivered, averaging 312 passing yards per game, while completing 67% of his passes and leading his team to five consecutive victories to close out the year.
https://t.co/J4ItjbKiYI These are better 😬— Jimmy G’s Beard 🧔🏻™️ (@jimmyGsBeard) June 14, 2018
Although Carlos Hyde departed for Cleveland in free agency, the 49ers signed ex-Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon, who they hope can replicate Hyde’s success in the running game, while also giving them a receiving threat out of the backfield. On the defensive side, they inked veteran cornerback Richard Sherman to a three-year/$42 million contract. In addition, they return 2017 first-round pick Reuben Foster, who appears to have resolved his legal matters for a second consecutive offseason, as well as wide receiver Pierre Garcon on offense.
Should this team remain healthy, they could be a dangerous wild card team. However, I don’t anticipate a first place finish in the NFC West just yet for this 49ers team.
2018 Record Prediction: 10-6
3. Seattle Seahawks
2017 Record: 9-7
There’s currently a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Seahawks, who amidst several key injuries in 2017, eventually left Russell Wilson to “carry” the team, still managed to accumulate nine wins. The departure of Richard Sherman and the potential forced retirement of Kam Chancellor (neck) essentially end the “legion of boom” era that haunted the other 31 NFL teams for the past seven years. Furthermore, on offense, they lost easily their best red zone target in Jimmy Graham to Green Bay.
KSO (@GemGrac) January 24, 2018
Fortunately, they return with their leader under center in Wilson, as well as wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. Seattle also drafted running back Rashaad Penny out of San Diego State to compete with second-year back Chris Carson. If this team stays healthy, they are capable of nine or 10 wins; however, the injury concerns, combined with the recent trade talks surrounding Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas, make the Seahawks a risky bet for a playoff berth in 2018.
2018 Record Prediction: 8-8
4. Arizona Cardinals
2017 Record: 8-8
While unfortunate, this prediction is anticipating yet another injury to the injury-prone Sam Bradford. Although, when healthy, Bradford has been a serviceable quarterback in the NFL, history doesn’t bode well for his chances of a full season, as Bradford has just two 16-game seasons under his belt in his eight-year career. Should Bradford go down, new head coach Steven Wilks would likely turn to 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen to handle the quarterback duties. Even though he’s had a strong offseason, Rosen could use some time to develop before he’s NFL-ready.
The good news for Cardinals’ fans is that Arizona returns All-Pro running back David Johnson from a wrist injury that forced him to miss 15 games in 2017. Along with Johnson, future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald is back for another year; however, the 34-year old won’t have much help, as the rest of the Cardinals’ receiving corps consists of Brice Butler (signed in free agency from Dallas), J.J. Nelson, and 2018 second-round pick Christian Kirk. In addition to their wideouts, Arizona is also thin at tight end (Ricky Seals-Jones is the only one currently on their depth chart), as well as cornerback. For these reasons, it tough to expect a winning season, much less a playoff berth in 2018.
2018 Record Prediction: 7-9
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- San Francisco 49ers
- Seattle Seahawks
- St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams
- Arizona Cardinals