Neil Reynolds' Division Preview - NFC West

The NFC West has provided the last two NFC representatives in the Super Bowl and there is every chance it could be three in a row in 2020. San Francisco are intent on bucking recent NFL history and returning to the big game, Seattle are always competitive under Pete Carroll and Arizona are an exciting team on the rise. And let's not write off Sean McVay's offense in LA. It's all to play for in the West this season.

Neil's Predicted Finish

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

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

State of the Franchise

The 49ers face the toughest of all NFL challenges – getting back to the Super Bowl after losing the title game the previous season. Of the last 25 Super Bowl losers, 24 have failed to make it back to the big game with New England being the only exception in Super Bowls 52 and 53. The 49ers have the talent to get back to the big dance but we will only find out their mental strength once the games start being played.

Star Man

With the demeanour of a WWE wrestler and an all-around game that is elite, tight end George Kittle is like a young Rob Gronkowski in his prime. Equally happy blocking and catching, Kittle is a team-first star.

Secret Superstar

A nagging foot injury could slow his start to 2020, but look out for wide receiver Deebo Samuel when healthy. He grew to become one of San Francisco's key passing game targets in the second half of 2019.

By the Numbers

49.2… The 49ers ran the ball on 49.2 percent of all offensive plays in 2019 – second-highest rate in the NFL.

69.2… Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has much to prove after compiling a passer rating of 69.2 in last season's Super Bowl loss to Kansas City.

169.2… San Francisco's pass defense was the best in the NFL a year ago, allowing just 169.2 yards per game.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

State of the Franchise

Don't bank on the Seahawks being too far away from the NFC Super Bowl race. I expect them to be in the thick of the charge to Tampa. In Pete Carroll's 10 years in charge, the Seahawks have reached the playoffs eight times, played in two Super Bowls and won one Vince Lombardi Trophy. Russell Wilson is at the absolute height of his powers at quarterback and the trade for safety Jamal Adams boosts the defense.

Star Man

If not for Lamar Jackson's heroics in 2019, Russell Wilson would have been the league's MVP. We know all about his scrambling and deep-ball skills, but his greatest asset might be never knowing when he is beaten.

Secret Superstar

Tight end Will Dissly could become one of Wilson's favourite targets when healthy this year. He played in just six games in 2019, catching 26 passes for 262 yards and four scores.

By the Numbers

107.6… Since entering the NFL in 2012, Russell Wilson has a league-best QB rating of 107.6 in the fourth quarter or overtime. He also leads with 77 TD passes and 28 game-winning drives.

121… Russell Wilson has thrown 121 touchdown passes over the past four seasons – most in the NFL during that time frame.

137.5… Seattle averaged 137.5 rushing yards per game in 2019 – fourth-best in the league.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

State of the Franchise

There are some real positive feelings coming out of Arizona as we move closer to the 2020 season kickoff, and not because this team won five games and progressed last year. The excitement centres on the continued growth of quarterback Kyler Murray, the re-signing of running back Kenyan Drake and the surprise arrival via trade of All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The Cards are thinking of the playoffs.

Star Man

With 60 sacks over the course of his four seasons in Arizona, defensive end Chandler Jones has become one of the most devastating defenders in the business. He is relentless when chasing quarterbacks.

Secret Superstar

He's not all that secret but the biggest breakout player in Arizona this year should be promising quarterback Kyler Murray. The athletic thrower and runner is the real deal and will improve further in 2020.

By the Numbers

31… DeAndre Hopkins has scored 31 receiving touchdowns over the past three seasons – most in the NFL.

643… Kenyan Drake rushed for 643 yards (6th in the NFL) from Weeks 9-17 in 2019. He also scored 8 rushing touchdowns to rank second in that span.

1,441… Kyler Murray threw for 1,441 yards in the no-huddle offense in 2019 – by far the most in the NFL ahead of Dallas' Dak Prescott (809).

LOS ANGELES RAMS

State of the Franchise

The shine came off the Rams in 2019 – one year after they reached the Super Bowl – and the concerns heading into 2020 start with a defense that lost a number of key personnel in the offseason. But it does not end there. Jared Goff must pick things up on offense and the quarterback needs help from a struggling line and a running game that no longer features Todd Gurley. The Rams are an unknown quantity in 2020.

Star Man

Forget about positions, Aaron Donald is the best player in the NFL today. The five-time All-Pro defensive tackle is simply unblockable and has 72 sacks in 94 career games. While facing mostly double teams!

Secret Superstar

The Rams need fresh talent to step forward on defense and safety Taylor Rapp could do just that. Rapp showed more than enough in 10 rookie starts to suggest he will be a key piece in LA for years to come.

By the Numbers

24.6… The Rams scored an average of 24.6 points per game in 2019, compared to 31.4 points per game across the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

33… Aaron Donald has 33 sacks over the past two seasons – most in the NFL.

86.5… Jared Goff posted a quarterback rating of 86.5 in 2019 to rank 22nd in the NFL.

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