Future Bets - NFC West
July 7, 2018
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Is a L.A. Rams Dynasty Within the Division on its way?
Now that July 4th has come and gone, it's time to really start focusing on all things football as the season is just around the corner. I've had you covered so far with a look at four of the eight divisions in the league (NFC South, NFC North, AFC East, AFC North) and it's time to continue that look forward with the third NFC division to cover: the NFC West.
Last year we saw a changing of the guard in the NFC West with the L.A. Rams winning the division crown thanks to a 11-5 SU record. The Rams got a division title just one year after selecting QB Jared Goff with the #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft and the path of this franchise really looks bright.
They've got their young stud QB entering his 3rd NFL season, their young stud coach entering his second with the club, and have built such a deep and complimentary team on both sides of the ball that it's hard not to see the Rams as favorites to repeat in this division.
But are they going to take the proverbial step back this year or continue on their upward ascent?
Odds to Win NFC West per BetOnline.ag
L.A. Rams (-125)
San Francisco 49ers (+300)
Seattle Seahawks (+400)
Arizona Cardinals (+1000)
I'll get to my discussion on the Rams again in a bit, but regarding these division future prices it's easy to dismiss Arizona right off the bat. The Cardinals are in that transition phase the Rams were in back in 2016 when they had a rookie QB coming to town as “the Savior” working with a new coach that hopefully can build said team into a perennial contender.
Arizona had been there back in 2015 when they went all the way to the NFC Championship game, but they were a veteran-laden squad then that had only really gotten older in the two years since. The Cardinals knew it was time to hit the reboot button on their franchise and get a lot younger, and having QB Josh Rosen as the new face of the future, the future is bright for this Arizona organization, just not the future of the 2018 NFL season.
San Francisco is an interesting case study as they spent the past few years rotting away at the bottom of this division while they searched for a franchise QB. They got theirs in a trade with New England last year when they brought in Jimmy Garappolo and he provided an exponential amount of hope with his play late last season. Garoppolo didn't lose a game as the starter for the 49ers and after signing a big extension this off-season, the 49ers are his to run for the next few years.
Yet, the 49ers were so bad for so long that I'm not sure finding their guy under center is going to be enough to turn it into a division winner a year later. San Francisco still lacks a lot of playmaking weapons around Garoppolo – especially at WR – and things never seem to work as smoothly as they do in the final 5-6 games of a lost season like the 49ers had going for them last year. Similar to the Rams of 2016-17, this 49ers group is probably a year away from serious consideration as a division winner, but they should be a much improved squad that could end up division champs if a few things break their way.
Which leads me to Seattle who have still pushed the “pause” button on their rebuild/reload as the championship window they had wide open in the early stages of this decade have probably been shut closed. Many big names of Seattle title teams have moved on and all the salary cap issues they've dealt with the past few years after paying big sums of money to those big names has left the Seahawks cupboards rather bare in terms of overall depth. Seattle basically is the “Russell Wilson Show” these days and will probably continue to be in 2018.
Wilson is a dynamic playmaker that can create huge plays out of nothing, but I'm not sure even that can carry Seattle over the hump. The Seahawks home field advantage is another great factor working in their favor, as is the whole idea of you can't completely cast aside a past champion with the resume the Seahawks have this decade, but it really does look like Seattle isn't ready or willing to admit their past missteps and are hesitant to hit refresh.
That makes them a tough team to count on either way – they could show that veteran scowl and compete for this division crown again, or age and lack of depth really shows its face and a 4-12 season is the end result – and because of that it makes the +400 odds on the Seahawks a little intriguing.
It's a huge payout if Seattle throws back the clock for one more year, which they surely could do, but given that this is a team that won or threatened to win this division every year this decade outside of last season and the oddsmakers still have them as 3rd best in the odds to win tells me it's probably better to pass on Seattle's chances in 2018.
Which leaves me with no other choice but to back the L.A. Rams again this year as they've got all the tools to get things done. The offense is going to be better and more comfortable in Year 2 of the Sean McVay era, and considering how well this offense was a year ago, that's a scary thing for opponents (and probably a good thing for 'over' bettors).
Defensively, the Rams have improved significantly as well, and although it was just a lone playoff game of experience for them last January, that type of experience can prove invaluable for a talented young team with a very young core like the Rams have. To have that taste of winning end as early as it did only gave this Rams team more of an appetite for more this year and it should come there way. L.A. simply has too many playmakers on both sides of the ball not to run away with this division, barring injury.
So until the 49ers get a few more playmakers on the outside and Arizona goes through their growing pains with a young QB, it looks like we may indeed have a L.A. Rams dynasty on our hands in the NFC West for at least the next year or two.
Odds per - BetOnline.ag
Best Bet: L.A. Rams to win division (-125)
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