- Los Angeles Rams
The Rams made it to the super bowl last season, so they are clearly a very talented team. However, they did lose some really key players this offseason including Rodger Saffold, Ndamukong Suh, and LaMarcus Joyner. However, the Rams still have a terrific offense as they have young starting quarterback Jared Goff and a very talented group of receivers including Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods. The Rams also have terrific running back Todd Gurley and they just added Darrell Henderson in the 3rd round of the draft this offseason. The Rams have an explosive offense and nothing about that changed this offseason. Meanwhile, the Rams defense did experience some turnover this offseason. The loss of Ndamukong Suh hurts the Rams front 7, but they still have superstar defensive tackle Aaron Donald and talented defensive end Michael Brockers as well. They also still have Dante Fowler as a good pass rusher and they added veteran Clay Matthews to add even more pass rush. The Rams also lost safety LaMarcus Joyner this offseason, yet that won’t matter too much since they replaced him with pro-bowl caliber safety Eric Weddle. The Rams also have Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and Nickell Robey-Coleman forming a terrific trio of cornerbacks. Overall, the Rams still have a stacked roster and that is why they are the heavy favorites to win the NFC West in 2019.
2. Seattle Seahawks
Just when we thought the Seahawks were rebuilding last season and then they somehow ended up making the playoffs yet again. The Seahawks are built around running the football on offense and that’s the way it’ll be again this season. Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny form a terrific running back duo that should help to carry the offense. However, we can’t forget that Russell Wilson is still among the best quarterbacks in the NFL and he doesn’t need much talent around him to succeed. Sure, Wilson doesn’t have many targets to throw to especially after Doug Baldwin abruptly retired this offseason. That being said, Tyler Lockett has turned into a terrific receiver and their rookie 2nd round pick D.K. Metcalf should make a big impact right away as well. The Seahawks offense still has some holes to fill, but it will likely be covered up by the brilliant play of star quarterback Russell Wilson and the terrific running backs that Seattle has. Meanwhile, the Seahawks defense has a really new identity heading into next season. Star defensive end Frank Clark is now gone and star safety Earl Thomas departed this offseason as well. Free agent signing Ziggy Ansah has shown that he can be a tremendous pass rusher, but he is really inconsistent. The Seahawks also drafted L.J. Collier in the 1st round this offseason and he could be ready to make a big impact on Seattle’s pass rush right away. Seattle also has a couple of really good linebackers with Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright as the two remaining players from what was once a really dominant Seattle defense. The Seahawks are inexperienced in the secondary, but they will still likely play well in 2019 even without Earl Thomas. Overall, the Seahawks might not be in a position to challenge the Rams for the division title, but Seattle does have enough talent to make a playoff run once again.
3. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers had a really rough 2018 season, but that was mostly due to injuries especially the one that caused starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to miss most of the season. If Garoppolo can stay healthy then that should be enough to make the 49ers playoff contenders again. He will certainly have some good weapons to throw to especially with tight end George Kittle who had probably the most dominant season by a tight end in NFL history. Also, the 49ers have plenty of depth at wide receiver with Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis returning. Also, they drafted Deebo Samuel in the 2nd round and Jalen Hurd in the 3rd round to add even more competition to the wide receiver group. The 49ers also have plenty of depth at running back with Jerick McKinnon returning from an injury and the free agent signing of Tevin Coleman this offseason. Also, San Francisco has Matt Breida who turned out to be a terrific find as an undrafted free agent. The 49ers offense might not be great, but it will be much better with Garoppolo back from injury and a better supporting cast around him. Meanwhile, the 49ers defense could be much improved in 2019. In fact, the 49ers could easily claim that they have the best defensive line in the NFL. The selection of defensive end Nick Bosa in the 1st round of the draft and the trade for Dee Ford this offseason could create a really dynamic pass rushing duo. Also, the 49ers still have former 1st round picks Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner as terrific run-stopping defensive tackles. The 49ers are so strong on the defensive line that they even have 2017 1st round pick Solomon Thomas as a rotational defensive end. The 49ers also made a big splash in free agency by signing star inside linebacker Kwon Alexander who will be a major upgrade at the position and he’ll instantly become one of the leaders on the defense. The 49ers could still use some help in the secondary, but they do have Richard Sherman to at least provide some stability in that unit. The 49ers have some work to do before they become a real threat to the Rams in the NFC West, but the 49ers could be a playoff contender as long as Garoppolo and the rest of their key players can stay healthy in 2019.
4. Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals had a very wacky offseason and it just shows the level of dysfunction within the organization right now. New head coach Kliff Kingsbury should at least bring some excitement and energy to the Cardinals offense if nothing else. Arizona also drafted quarterback Kyler Murray with the 1st overall pick while they traded away last year’s 1st round pick Josh Rosen to the Dolphins in a strange turn of events. Murray should provide a spark to the Cardinals offense right away because of his athleticism, although he doesn’t have a great supporting cast around him. David Johnson is still an elite running back in the NFL and he’ll help take a lot of pressure off Murray in 2019. Murray will also have Larry Fitzgerald to throw to and learn from even though Fitzgerald isn’t nearly the player that he once was. The Cardinals are hoping that Christian Kirk can take the next step and provide a reliable target for the Cardinals offense. Also, the Cardinals drafted Andy Isabella in the 2nd round and Hakeem Butler in the 4th round to add even more depth to the wide receiver group. The main issue for the Cardinals remains the offensive line though especially since Josh Rosen was under duress consistently last season. The addition of veterans Marcus Gilbert, Justin Pugh, and J.R. Sweezy should help improve the offensive line. However, it likely won’t even come close to solving the issues that they have on that unit. Overall, the Cardinals offense should be better this season, but it is still very much a work in progress with rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and new head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Meanwhile, the Cardinals defense has a chance to be pretty good in 2019. Chandler Jones still anchors the front 7 for the Cardinals as he is still one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. However, the Cardinals added some more to their linebacker group by signing Terrell Suggs and Jordan Hicks in free agency. The Cardinals secondary actually could be a big concern though especially with star cornerback Patrick Peterson being suspended for the first six games of the season. The Cardinals will need rookie 2nd round pick Byron Murphy and free agent signing Robert Alford to make a big impact at the cornerback position especially while Peterson is out. Overall, Arizona has tons of reasons for optimism with the young talent that they got in the draft. However, the Cardinals are going through a transition phase in 2019 and it’s difficult to expect them to be very competitive especially in a tough NFC West division.