2021 NFL Preview: NFC West Division Win Totals

by Wayne Root

Los Angeles Rams, Win total: 10.5
The Rams made a huge splash early in the offseason when they traded Jared Goff and draft picks to the Lions for Matthew Stafford. This is an upgrade over Goff, but the Rams salary cap situation resulted in them having to part ways with the likes of defensive end Michael Brockers, linebacker Sam Ebukam, cornerback Troy Hill and safety John Johnson. Aaron Donald keeps that defense competitive, but they took a big hit on depth. Injuries can be tricky to factor into projections, but the Rams seem like the team that will get pumped up this offseason only to fall flat.
Coach Sean McVay
QB Matthew Stafford.
RB Darrell Henderson, Xavier Jones
Defense: Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd 
The Los Angeles Rams had a dominating defense under Brandon Staley last season, but their offensive luck with Jared Goff at the helm finally ran out. Head coach Sean McVay seemed to lose all trust in Goff at the end of last year and they ended up trading him and draft picks for the Lions Matthew Stafford. The fit should be a good one, but we’ll still need to see results. The most notable move this offseason was trading Goff plus two first round draft picks to the Lions for Stafford. They also re-signed edge rusher Leonard Floyd and brought in wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
San Francisco 49ers, Win total: 10.5
The 49ers also made a huge splash this year, trading two future first round picks to move from No. 12 to No. 3 in the 2021 NFL Draft. They’re going to draft a quarterback with the pick, but continue to insist Jimmy Garoppolo is their guy for the coming season. The 49ers did a great job retaining key talent, re-signing Trent Williams, Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams, and Kyle Juszczyk among others, but betting this comes down to the QB situation. Are you comfortable taking either the over or under with Jimmy G?
Coach Kyle Shanahan 
QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance
RB Raheem Mostert, Tray Sermon
Defense: Nick Boza, Jimmy Ward, 
DJ Jones
The 49ers had the worst injury luck in the league in 2020 and it was impossible to overcome as they ended up finishing last in the NFC West at 6-10. The injuries are too numerous to list them all, but Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Dee Ford, Ezekiel Ansah, Richard Sherman, and Soloman Thomas all missed big chunks of time. They’ll hope for better injury luck and a strong start to rookie QB Trey Lance’s career in 2021. The 49ers re-signed left tackle Trent Williams and brought in center Alex Mack. They also re-signing cornerbacks Jason Verrett, Dontae Johnson and Emmanuel Moseley and they’ll likely lose CB Richard Sherman. But the biggest move was trading up to pick QB Trey Lance third overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Seattle Seahawks, Win total: 9.5
The Russell Wilson drama has overshadowed the offseason for Seattle. It seems highly unlikely he’s going anywhere, and the additions of center Ethan Pocic guard Gabe Jackson should assuage some of his concerns. The team also added tight end Gerald Everett and re-signed running back Chris Carson. Losing Shaquil Griffin is a big blow to the defense and is one reason I’m hesitant on this. That being said, Wilson consistently gives this team a puncher’s chance and ten wins is very possible.
Coach Pete Carroll
QB Russell Wilson. Geno Smith.
RB Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny
Defense: Brian Mone, Bobby Wagner,
Jamal Adams
The Seattle Seahawks put together another solid season under Pete Carroll, but their postseason run was short with a Wild Card round loss to the Los Angeles Rams. It was a bit of a rough offseason as Russell Wilson showed his frustration with the franchise, but both sides seem ready to move on and contend for another NFC West title in 2021. The Seahawks re-signed edge rusher Carlos Dunlap and brought in Kenny Hyder and Aldon Smith in free agency to help their pass rush in 2021. Seattle brought back running back Chris Carson and signed tight end Gerald Everett. The Seahawks traded for guard Gabe Jackson to help protect Russell Wilson.
Arizona Cardinals, Win total: 8
I wouldn’t put money on long term futures beyond 2021, but the Cardinals have loaded up this offseason to make an immediate move up the standings. The team added a ton of talent, signing defensive end JJ Watt, wide receiver A.J. Green, guard Brian Winters, and cornerback Malcolm Butler, while also trading for center Rodney Hudson. They’re all great additions for 2021, but not much beyond that. They added over 30 talent that could put them over the top in 2021, but is not a recipe for long-term success. Injuries and general skill break-down is a concern and Kliff Kingsbury’s coaching acumen remains questionable, but for 2021 win totals, I’m willing to bet on them taking a least a small step forward.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury
QB Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy
RB Chase Edmonds, James Conner
Defense: JJ Watt, Shawn Williams and Malcolm Butler
The Cardinals were the most active team in free agency this offseason. They were able to land J.J. Watt and A.J. Green, two veterans that will immediately pay dividends toward a young roster. They acquired Rodney Hudson and signed Brian Winters to improve the offensive line and altered the secondary by signing safety Shawn Williams and cornerback Malcolm Butler -- better fits for the man-coverage scheme defensive coordinator Vance Joseph likes to run. 
Arizona is the wild card in this division. The Cardinals are good enough to steal the division title and will be a problem all year long. If the defense doesn't improve, they could be staring at another 8-8 record.

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