Seven weeks into the season, the Seattle Seahawks are atop the NFC West, just like we all predicted in the offseason.
In all seriousness, this might be the most wide-open division in the NFL. The four teams are all clustered between 4-3 and 3-4. The Cardinals are currently in last place due to an unfortunate 0-2 division record, but the NFC West looks to be anyone’s for the taking at this point.
Way back in March, I said the NFC West could be the Cardinals’ for the taking, and that obviously holds true today. As we near the halfway mark of the season, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the things I said about each NFC West team and see if they also hold true.
Let’s start with the team that’s unexpectedly in 1st place.
Back Then: “It’s potentially shaping up to be a rebuilding season in the PNW.”
Now: I’m still not sure the Seahawks *aren’t* rebuilding, but they might be the most surprising team in the league so far at 4-3 and looking much better than anyone thought. The defense is kind of a mess, but Geno Smith is #4 in Total QBR, rookie Kenneth Walker has been a revelation after taking over for Rashaad Penny, and they don’t seem to miss Russell Wilson at all. I have my doubts about whether they’ll still be in first come December, but you should never underestimate Pete Carroll.
Los Angeles Rams
Back Then: “Add it all up and the Super Bowl hangover is easy to see coming.”
Now: This was spot-on. The Rams have looked nothing like the Super Bowl team they were a season ago. Matthew Stafford looks more like Jared Goff as the offense just hasn’t clicked with the running game cratering and Allen Robinson struggling to replace Odell Beckham Jr. In fact, they have the fourth-worst scoring offense in the league thus far. The defense has been solid but this team will struggle to make the playoffs—much less win the division—if the offense can’t figure it out. But you have to think Sean McVay will right the ship soon, right?
San Francisco 49ers
Back Then: “There is a huge range of possible outcomes here.”
Now: Okay, so it’s cheating a bit since the phrase is so vague, but I’m calling this one as spot-on as well. The 49ers were one of the toughest teams to predict in the offseason, and nothing has really changed. What was supposed to be Trey Lance and Eli Mitchell leading the offense is now Jimmy Garoppolo and Christian McCaffrey. The defense looked like one of the best in the league but just got completely carved up by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. (But they do that to basically everyone.) They’re 2-0 in the division but have bad losses to the Bears, Broncos, and Falcons. Their only other win was against the woeful Panthers. The Niners have the best odds to win the division at most sportsbooks right now, but they’ve proven exactly nothing yet.
Back Then: “Kliff needs to prevent this team from collapsing down the stretch… again.”
Now: This is what the season will come down to. For the first time since Kliff was hired, this team has struggled mightily in the first half of the season. While the defense has performed better than expected, the offense has dramatically underperformed—you’d think Kliff and Kyler had just met each other, not been running the offense for almost four years now. The three teams we’ve beaten have a combined 6-14 record (.300), while the four teams we’ve lost to are a combined 18-8 (.692). So we beat the teams we’re supposed to beat and lose to the teams we’re supposed to lose to. That doesn’t bode well with a schedule that only gets tougher from here. Kliff is going to have to do the best coaching of his career by far if this team is going to challenge for the division title again.
Seven weeks into the season, the NFC West remains a mystery. Are the Seahawks this good? Is the Rams offense this bad? Are the 49ers actually as good as all the pundits seem to think? (My guesses: No, no, and no.)
And do the Cardinals actually have a chance to take advantage of this division that looks wide open? They can start to prove they do this Sunday with a road win against the 5-1 Minnesota Vikings.