During the 2020 NFL season, every team in the NFC West appeared to have a good shot at winning the division. In the end, the Seattle Seahawks won their first division title since the 2016 season. However, while they have a shot at repeating this season, the competition will be tough this year– again.
Oddsmakers seem to think that the NFC West is going to be a three-team race. But with the potential that the Arizona Cardinals have, it would be foolish to rule them out as a contender despite the odds listed for them on sports betting apps:
|Odds On NFC West Division Winner-- 2021/22 Season||FanDuel||BetMGM||Pointsbet|
|San Francisco 49ers||+190||+190||+180|
|Los Angeles Rams||+200||+190||+200|
The NFC West may be the most competitive division in the NFL this season. But while that will make for some entertaining games as the season unfolds, that also makes it challenging to pick a winner before the regular season gets underway.
The Seahawks have been a contender within the division since Russell Wilson moved into the QB1 role back in 2012. Since then, Seattle has finished either first (four times) or second (five times) in the NFC West every year. All the buzz surrounding Russell Wilson during the offseason was worrisome for fans, but everything appears to be fine now as the team prepares for the 2021 regular season.
The offense led the way last season and will likely do so again this year. Wilson is one of the best in the business, and he has two of the better wide receivers in the game in D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Chris Carson is a good running back when healthy, but the Seahawks have struggled to keep their running backs healthy the last two seasons.
The offensive line is not bad, but it would not have hurt the Seahawks if they had upgraded it during the offseason. But it would have been more helpful if they had upgraded the defensive side of the ball. They struggled to defend against the pass last season and were not great against the run.
With their offense, they will certainly contend for the division title again. But unless the defense can improve, they may have a hard time repeating as champions.
San Francisco 49ers
Injuries have kept Jimmy Garappolo from turning into the quarterback of the future, which led to the 49ers drafting Trey Lance in the first round. But the play at Q.B. was not the issue in 2020—the team got decimated by injuries early on and was never able to recover.
With a healthy roster, fans are hoping to see the defense return to the ranks of the elite in 2021. They went from being a top ten scoring defense in 2019 to the bottom half of the league last season. But while getting guys like Nick Bosa back on defense will help, they also have to replace guys like Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon.
Having one of the better offensive lines in the game (ninth, according to PFF) will certainly help get the offense on track. Whether they go with Garappolo or Lance at quarterback, they have an impressive stable of running backs. Defenses will have no choice but to focus on the run game.
Injuries killed their chances last season, but if they can stay relatively healthy, the 49ers will absolutely be in the hunt for their second division title in three years.
Los Angeles Rams
With their defense, the Rams will be in the division, NFC, and Super Bowl conversation despite what their offense can do. Yes, they lost some key members of their secondary to free agency. But there is no reason to think there will be much of a drop-off in production if there is one.
The issue for the Rams has been the play at quarterback, which the team thinks it has solved with the acquisition of longtime Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford has done a lot with very little in Detroit in recent years. But with a good offensive line and guys like Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and DeSean Jackson to throw to, the sky appears to be the limit for the Rams offense.
Losing running back Cam Akers to a season-ending injury hurts, but the team appears confident that Darrell Henderson Jr. is up to the task. If they are right, the Rams could win a lot more than just the NFC West.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) August 14, 2021
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury may need a winning season (maybe more) to make sure the Cardinals bring him back for a fourth season. While the competition level in the NFC West will make achieving that goal difficult, the talent level on the roster makes it possible.
Kyler Murray is an up-and-coming talent at quarterback, but he and Kingsbury’s offense needs to take a big step forward in 2021. A solid offensive line (11th according to PFF) will help make that happen, as will the potential for a better running game with James Conner (if he can stay healthy) and Chase Edmunds.
Longtime wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is gone, but the Cardinals have a dangerous trio in DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and former Bengals star A.J. Green. Rookie Rondale Moore could carve out a productive role for himself as the season goes on.
The secondary still appears to be in good shape despite losing Patrick Peterson to free agency. But, while adding J.J. Watt to the lineup helps, the front seven for the Cardinals is far from impressive. Chandler Jones has requested a trade, but there has been no apparent movement to follow through on that request.
NFC West Betting Recommendation
A good case could be made for all four teams to win the NFC West. But with the 49ers, we are assuming they return to the form they had in 2019 just because the roster is healthy. That could happen—but it might not. It would be easier to believe in Seattle had they done anything to improve their defense.
That leaves the Rams and Cardinals.
Out of those two, the Cardinals have the most value since their odds are significantly higher. Betting on them is not a bad idea. But the Rams are the best bet to win the NFC West this season.