1. Arizona Cardinals– They got off to very hot starts two seasons in a row. The first problem arose when Carson Palmer tore his ACL once again and the Cardinals faltered when he went down. When he came back in 2015, the Cardinals won the NFC West, a division that the Seattle Seahawks have dominated the past few seasons and clinched a first-round bye and made it to the NFC Championship game (where they fell short to the eventual conference champion Carolina Panthers). The Cardinals made some moves this off-season. They traded offensive guard Jonathan Cooper to the Patriots in exchange for Chandler Jones and when you add Jones to an already excellent defense with Calais Campbell, Deone Bucannon, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, they enter the 2016 campaign in good shape to potentially win the division once again for the second straight season.
2. Seattle Seahawks– A roller coaster of a season I think is the perfect term to describe the 2015 Seahawks. The 0-2 start, Jimmy Graham struggling to find his spot within the offense and the defense showed to be human after all and we saw just how valuable Kam Chancellor is to the defense especially, to the secondary. But as always, they got the ship right and started rolling as we expected. Russell Wilson has established himself as an elite quarterback and he showed he’s more than capable of throwing the football from the pocket and not always relying on his legs to make a play. Marshawn Lynch has retired and Thomas Rawls will be the starting running back and he’s ready for this workload. The defense will remain intact once again and the Legion Of Boom is all back together even as the team decided to resign Brandon Browner.
3. Los Angeles Rams– They entered last season with some high expectations. They finally traded Sam Bradford to the Eagles for Nick Foles and come draft time, they selected Todd Gurley from Georgia and the move initially paid off big time as he stepped in, however the offense relied heavily on him to make plays week in and week out but when he was eventually shut down, the Rams had no type of balance. Defensively, Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald controlled things in the front seven. 2016 will be the start and return of two things; The Rams have their potential franchise quarterback in Jared Goff and they are back in California where they are known once again as the Los Angeles Rams. Football is back in the city of LA.
4. San Francisco 49ers– Let’s take a stroll down memory lane for one second. Just two years ago, the San Francisco 49ers were in their third straight NFC Championship game and Jim Harbaugh was still head coach. With so many guys from that successful team gone, it’s safe to say the 49ers are in rebuild mode. Jim Tomsula was fired as head coach after one season and the team hired former Eagles coach Chip Kelly to the same position. I think this move could be very beneficial for Colin Kaepernick considering he’s an offensive minded guy and this could help his career after struggling some the last few seasons. The 49ers may have some more depth this year, but I don’t see many improvements coming into this year.
1. Seahawks (12-4)
2. Cardinals (11-5)
3. Rams (7-9)
4. 49ers (4-12)
I like the Seattle Seahawks to bounce back and win the division for the
third time in four seasons. With Russell elevating his play, a healthy
Thomas Rawls and Jimmy Graham hopefully incorporated in the mix a bit more, this could a very consistent group on offense. The defense will still be the heartbeat of this team.