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2023 Best-Case/Worst-Case: NFC West Edition


D.J. Humpries returns to the Cardinals for a eighth season, but he probably wishes he hadn't.

Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Arizona Cardinals


Arrivals

  • HC Jonathan Gannon

  • LB Kyzir White

  • CB Rashad Fenton

  • RB Marlon Mack

  • WR Zach Pascal

Departures

  • HC Kliff Kingsbury

  • DE JJ Watt

  • WR DeAndre Hopkins

  • OLB Markus Golden

Notable

  • QB Kyler Murray will miss at least the first month of the season while recovering from a knee injury

Impact Draft Picks

  • LT Paris Johnson – Rd. 1 (#6)

  • OLB B.J. Ojulari – Rd. 2 (#41)


Best-Case: 6 - 11, 3rd in NFC West


Okay, positives about the Arizona Cardinals…positives about the Cardinals…Alright, so there aren’t a ton of positives, but Budda Baker is still around at safety! He’s been an All-Pro. J.J. Watt is still…okay wait, he retired. Isaiah Simmons moved from linebacker to slot corner/safety. That’s…interesting. Kyler Murray is…injured (and wasn’t playing well before his injury). They added…Kyzir White? He’s sorta recognizable.


Ahh, I’ve got it, they fired Kliff Kingsbury and replaced him with former Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon! That’s promising! Maybe they have a chance to win some games in the second half of the season this year. That would be something! But really, it will take a miracle for the Cards to finish with more than a handful of wins in 2023.


Worst-Case: 2 - 15, 4th in NFC West


Without question the Cardinals are the consensus worst team in the NFL right now. There’s not a position group on this entire roster that looks even average at this point. Murray will miss at least the first four games of the season and his backup Colt McCoy is far from inspiring. To make matters worse, the group of receivers McCoy has at his disposal are some of the worst in the league too. The offensive line is full of castoffs, retreads and unknowns. The defense is going through a massive transition. And remember when the Eagles D screwed up against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half of the Super Bowl last year? Yeah, the architect of that defense is your new head coach, Arizona. Have fun with Caleb Williams next year!


Matt Stafford & the Rams will need to turn back the clock to avoid falling to the bottom of the NFC West

Photo Credit: Sewageboy, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Los Angeles Rams


Arrivals

  • S John Johnson

  • CB Ahkello Witherspoon

  • WR Demarcus Robinson

Departures

  • CB Jalen Ramsey

  • LB Bobby Wagner

  • OLB Leonard Floyd

  • S Taylor Rapp

  • DT A'Shawn Robinson

  • S Nick Scott

  • DT Greg Gaines

Notable


Impact Draft Picks

  • LG Steve Avila - Rd. 2 (#36)

  • OLB Byron Young - Rd. 3 (#77)

  • DT Kobie Turner - Rd. 3 (#89)


Best-Case: 8 - 9, 2nd in NFC West


For a team that looked like a shell of its Super-Bowl-winning self in 2022, the Los Angeles Rams still have as much star power as anyone. Aaron Donald is still in a tier of his own amongst NFL defensive tackles, and until he retires for good, the Rams will have a menace in the interior of their defense. The Matt Stafford-Cooper Kupp connection was non-existent last year as both players dealt with injuries that crippled their seasons, but the last time we saw them at full-strength, Stafford was elbowing his way into the Hall of Fame conversation and Kupp was on the short list of best wideouts in the game. To top off everything, head coach Sean McVay put aside his retirement talk for at least one more season. The Rams might not look as scary as they did back in 2020, but they can still put up points.


The defense, though, has undergone a significant talent departure and the offensive line hasn’t recovered from the retirement of left tackle Andrew Whitworth. His replacement Joe Noteboom was an utter disaster last year. Unless he takes gigantic steps forward this year, the line still appears to be a weak link. The Rams have enough talent to surprise a contender here or there but approaching .500 and upsetting a team or two feels like the ceiling for the 2023 Rams.


Worst-Case: 4 - 13, 4th in the NFC West


Does this team have anything left? This team mortgaged everything to win Super Bowl LVI. Now they're living out of their car. Retirement talk abounds. Plus, Stafford missed much of the season with a spinal cord contusion, and there’s no guarantee he’s the same player this year that he’s been in the past. In fact, I can almost guarantee that he won’t be the same player.


The departure of Jalen Ramsey created a massive hole in the secondary too, and one that won’t be filled adequately this year. Along with the loss of safeties Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott, the Rams might be lining up the worst secondary in the league. The wide receiver group too is incredibly thin, especially with Kupp and slot receiver Ben Skowronek already dealing with injuries in training camp. Arizona will be tough to catch for the #1 pick, but the Rams lack of depth could make it a fascinating race to the bottom.


Trent Williams & the Niners are hungry for back-to-back NFC Championship Games

Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels from District of Columbia, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


San Francisco 49ers


Arrivals

  • DT Javon Hargrave

  • DC Steve Wilks

  • QB Sam Darnold

  • CB Isaiah Oliver

Departures

  • DC DeMeco Ryans

  • RT Mike McGlinchey

  • OLB Azeez Al-Shaair

  • QB Jimmy Garoppolo

  • S Jimmie Ward

Notable

  • DE Nick Bosa is holding out of training camp in the hope of securing a new contract

  • QB Brock Purdy is projected to be ready for Week 1 after suffering an elbow injury in the NFC Championship Game

Impact Draft Picks

  • K Jake Moody – Rd. 3 (#99)


Best-Case: 13 - 4, 1st in the NFC West


The San Francisco 49ers might have the best collection of offensive and defensive starters in the league. There’s very little weakness or even unproven talent on this team – except at quarterback…that pesky position…


Fortunately for the Niners, QB Brock Purdy appears to be on track to return by Week 1 after undergoing offseason elbow surgery. The former Mr. Irrelevant was outstanding after being thrust into the starting role, and his composure and decisiveness are key to allowing head coach Kyle Shannahan’s offensive machine to continue rolling through defenses. With weapons like receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, running backs Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell, right end George Kittle and an offensive line headlined by monster left tackle Trent Williams, the Niners won’t have much trouble moving the football, even if backup QBs Sam Darnold or Trey Lance have to see the field.


The defense, too, appears poised to continue its run of dominance. Adding defensive tackle Javon Hargrave should have been illegal as he’s joining a defensive line that already featured 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa at defensive end. Linebacker Fred Warner remains the premier coverage ‘backer in the business, and rising star safety Talanoa Hufanga is already reminding people around the league of another outstanding Polynesian safety: Troy Polamalu. In a division that lacks a true peer, the Niners should coast to a division title, even if their QB situation remains muddled.


Worst-Case: 7 - 10, 3rd in the NFC West


Kyle Shanahan may be one of the brightest offensive minds in football, but his teams have been prone to wild, season-to-season swings. It would be a surprise, but the Niners having an off-year isn’t out of the realm of possibilities. The offensive line isn’t as strong as it’s been in years past, though Williams is still awesome. The interior is going through a bit of a transition and replacing five-year starter Mike McGlinchey at right tackle will not be easy. If there’s a place to attack this team on offense, it’s there.


The defense has few holes, but the secondary has seen some attrition over the past few seasons. Charvarious Ward is adequate at corner, but he’s not a shutdown-type that can dictate coverage and the rest of the options are unproven. The loss of defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans should not be understated either, although his replacement Steve Wilks was a smart get by the Niners front office. It might be hard to fathom with a roster this stacked, but history tells us that Shannahan and the Niners could be due for regression. If the QB position falters (and that’s entirely possible), then a 3rd-place finish and a sub-.500 record could await this squad.

Jamal Adams & the Seahawks are all smiles as they head into the 2023 season.

Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Seattle Seahawks


Arrivals

  • LB Bobby Wagner

  • DE Dre’Mont Jones

  • LB Devin Bush

  • DT Jarran Reed

  • C Evan Brown

Departures

  • C Austin Blythe

  • RB Rashaad Penny

  • LB Cody Barton

Notable

  • WR Dee Eskridge suspended for first 6 games of the season

Impact Draft Picks

  • CB Devon Witherspoon – Rd.1 (#5)

  • WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba – Rd. 1 (#20)


Best-Case: 12 - 5, 1st in the NFC West


Geno Smith, take a bow! What an incredible season for a player nearly everyone left for dead after a miserable four years with the New York Jets. The 2022 Comeback Player of the Year is the owner of a brand-new three-year contract that locks him up as the Seattle Seahawks starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. That stability bodes well for head coach Pete Carroll and Co., because this is one of the most talented rosters he’s had in years.


The trio of receivers in Seattle rivals any in the NFL, especially if rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba picks up where he left off at Ohio State. Tyler Lockett perpetually remains one of the most overlooked and underrated players in the NFL, and his running-mate D.K. Metcalf is on the short list of freakiest athletes in the game. Running back Kenneth Walker looked fantastic as a rookie, and the depth at the position was only strengthened with UCLA bowling-ball Zach Charbonnet added to the mix in the second-round of the draft. The defense was surprisingly stout last year, and the emergence of corner Riq Woolen gives the Seahawks a foundational piece to work with à la Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom. If the 49ers can’t get consistency from the QB spot, there’s a path for the Seahawks to steal the division.


Worst-Case: 8 - 9, 3rd in the NFC West


Okay really…are we all buying into the Geno Smith renaissance? One good season, that’s all it took, huh? Seriously though, this is a guy who nearly disappeared off the face of the NFL/Earth after 2016 – I’m all for comeback stories, but asking for two consecutive career years feels like a bit much.


Outside of Smith reverting back to the player he’s been his entire career, there’s not much else not to like about this Seattle team. The offensive weapons are excellent, so even if Smith struggles, the Seahawks should still be able to move the ball. The offensive line isn’t incredible, but it’s not a huge weak link either. The defense is full of rising stars and reliable vets. Of course, QB is far and away the most important position in the NFL (and all of sports), so if Smith can’t get it done and/or the Seahawks have to turn to backup Drew Lock, their playoff expectations could fall short.


2 comentários


Ian Altenau
Ian Altenau
22 de ago. de 2023

It could, but I'd be more worried about Geno regressing to "Jets Geno" than Smith-Njigba missing a few games. Lockett + Metcalf might be the most underrated duo in the entire league, especially Lockett. The dude is money for 8+ touchdowns and 1,000 receiving yards every year and I bet nearly all NFL fans would take DeVonta Smith over him, even though they had similar seasons in 2022.

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Colton Conover
Colton Conover
22 de ago. de 2023

Does Smith-Njigba getting wrist surgery impact the Seahawks at all? Could be ready for start of season but will be interesting to see who comes out on top between SF and Seattle. Purdy vs Smith. Not a battle for NFC West supremacy we could've imagined haha.

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