Nick Wright Picks Every Game: NFC West
We are inching closer to the start of the 2020 NFL season, yet FOX Sports' Nick Wright has had his eye on the schedule since its official release back in May.
One day after the full slate was announced, Wright sat down and boldly picked a winner for all 256 games, division by division, including the NFC West.
What Nick Says: "The fourth division I realized that I have coming down to a Week 17 game between its two best teams. I believe Seattle comes in at 11-4, I believe San Francisco comes in at 11-4. Winner takes the division, winner ties Green Bay and Chicago for the best record in the NFC. And I believe, unlike last year, Seattle can win that Week 17 game in San Francisco to get to 12-4."
The Seahawks finished last season 11-5 and made it to the NFC Divisional Round before losing a barnburner at Green Bay. Where could they improve from last season? It looks like the defensive side of the ball.
Seattle finished the season 26th in total defense, and only recorded 28 sacks, good for 29th in the league. Only one other playoff team from 2019 – the Houston Texans – had a lower-ranked defense. When the Seahawks defense created havoc, the team won. Seattle forced at least one turnover in 13 games last season – it was 11-2 in those games. (*Editor's note: Wright made his picks before some major moves had been made, such as the Seahawks acquiring New York Jets All-Pro Jamal Adams.)
San Francisco 49ers
What Nick Says: "San Francisco, I don't think it's going to be some massive Super Bowl hangover. I think they are going to start the year off great ... But I think they lose at Seattle, I think they lose at New Orleans, lose at Arizona, and I think they end up losing to Seattle in Week 17 and that's how I think they get to 11-5, which is better than most teams end up after losing the Super Bowl."
In his first full season as a starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo showed that he was more than capable of being a franchise QB. He threw for 3,978 yards (12th in the NFL), 27 TDs (tied for 5th), and averaged 8.4 yards per attempt (3rd) on his way to a 102.0 passer rating (8th). However, his performance in Super Bowl LIV left much to be desired, as he completed 20-of-31 passes, threw one TD and one INT, and recorded a 69.2 passer rating in the process, his third lowest rating of the entire season.
But it wasn't all on Jimmy G. The Niners finished the regular season with the No. 2 ranked defense in the league, and in their first two postseason games, the defense gave up a combined 30 points. However, in the Super Bowl, San Francisco's defense gave up 31 to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, including 21 in the fourth quarter. For context, the Niners' defense had given up 21 or fewer points in an entire game 12 times on the season, playoffs included.
What Nick Says: "I know the Cardinals are going to be a trendy pick to make the postseason. I don't see it with this team defensively and I've got worries about their offensive line. Obviously I love the addittion of DeAndre Hopkins. The wide receiving corps should be great. Kyler should be a ton of fun. I think they are 7-9."
Wright's concerns about the offensive line are very real considering last season, the Cardinals gave up 50 sacks, tied for the 4th most in the NFL.
Still, despite those offensive line issues, Murray was the sixth player in NFL history and the second rookie ever to throw for more than 3,500 yards and run for more than 500 yards in a season, while also passing for 20 TDs and completing 64% of his passes. He was named Offensive Rookie of the Year after the season.
Los Angeles Rams
What Nick Says: "How the mighty have fallen. I believe the worst team in the NFC West – I think a lot of people believe the worst team in the NFC West – is the LA Rams. I think they start the year off 0-3 ... They have a tough stretch in the middle of the season at Seattle, at Tampa Bay, home versus San Francisco. No Todd Gurley, no Brandin Cooks, the wildly overpaid Jared Goff, maybe a little shine off the star of Sean McVay. I think they fall to 5-11."
The Rams experienced the dreaded Super Bowl hangover in 2019, finishing the season 9-7 and missing the playoffs. Their success seems to be directly tied to the success of Goff. Los Angeles went 11-4 in his second season, when he threw 28 TDs and only 7 INTs. In 2018, the Rams finished 13-3 behind Goff's 32 TDs and 12 INTs. He was named to the Pro Bowl in both seasons.
But last season, Goff's numbers dropped off dramatically, as he finished the regular season with 22 TDs and 16 INTs. In addition, the Rams were 6-3 in games where Goff completed at least 60 percent of his passes last season, but 3-4 when he passed at a lower than 60 percent clip.
According to FOXBet, the San Francisco 49ers have the best odds to win the NFC West at +110