Can you imagine a scenario where the San Francisco 49ers don’t win the NFC West? We came up with one, but its farfetched. NFL 2023.
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Rounding out our division previews for the 2023 NFL season is the NFC West. Last year, the West fell into two distinct tiers. The first tier, let’s call it ‘good teams’, was occupied by the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. The second tier, called ‘crap buckets’, was made up of Arizona and Los Angeles. According to the early odds, we should expect much of the same this season.
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If one wanted to, they could have argued for three tiers from the West last season and this season. San Francisco was a runaway winner, even amassing the best point differential in the entire NFL. After that, Seattle was a borderline playoff team. The ’23 odds reflect this separation. Is it smart, though, to pick a heavy favorite who doesn’t even have a starting quarterback ironed out? Hell yes.
Who Wins The NFC West?
Todd Salem: One Top Dog On Top
The short answer is yes, the 49ers are head and shoulders above the rest of the West in pretty much all facets. Kyle Shanahan has found a way to develop offense no matter who his quarterback is. That has to factor into the confidence backing this team despite the unknowns at the position. Whether it’s Trey Lance, a healthy Brock Purdy, or even Sam Darnold, I’m under the belief that Shanahan’s offense will succeed.
Around the QB position makes it easier to feel so confident. We have the aforementioned coach who some would deem the best offensive mind in the game. San Francisco also has arguably the best group of skill players in the NFL and perhaps the number one defense. If there is a weakness on the roster, it would be the offensive line, but this group should be somewhere around league-average; hardly a season-killer. To top it all off, the Niners somehow ran into one of the easiest schedules in the NFL.
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The rest of the teams in the division are clearly a step behind San Francisco in nearly every department. In fact, I could see the largest gap in the NFL between first and second place right here in the NFC West. I like a huge rebound from the Rams, though, to push this team into second place. A lot will have to go right, but a lot went wrong last year, and Los Angeles is due for some positive regression.
Matthew Stafford will obviously have to stay healthy. But if he does, that gives this team the best passer in the division. With Cooper Kupp also a health question, the offense will be balancing on a razor’s edge considering the o-line is a weak spot. On defense, we see Aaron Donald and pray for development. I like Raheem Morris to find a few unpolished gems. Again, it won’t take much to move into second.
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That’s because Seattle is going to fall back. The Seahawks found a successful offense last year behind a castoff quarterback and weak offensive line. The line is the same; is Geno Smith really a standout QB now moving forward? I don’t buy it. All the team’s running backs are already hurt. This offense is a good group of wide receivers with not much support. The defense fits a similar mold. It should be a good group of defensive backs with little else at the most important positions.
There’s no question that Arizona brings up the rear though, despite the potential craters that LA and Seattle could fall into. A below-average defense, bad offensive line, and injured quarterback seem similar to what we have elsewhere. However, the Cardinals pair all that with an over-the-hill running back, the weakest group of pass catchers, and the hardest expected schedule in the division. There are injury outcomes that could push Arizona up the standings almost by default, but this is a last-place roster.
1) San Francisco
2) Los Angeles
Dan Salem: 49ers Can’t Be Stopped
You stole my arguments, although I can hardly claim them to be unique or all that insightful. Where we differ is in our evaluations of the quarterbacks. I believe Geno Smith will have another good season, but he won’t be surprising anyone and Seattle will suffer due to a lack of balance on offense. Matthew Stafford is absolutely bouncing back and the Rams will too. That said, they are once again one or two injuries away from complete disaster. I also believe Brock Purdy will start the season for San Francisco and continue to be excellent. Need I say more?
The one quarterback who likely shows as little as possible until late in the year when he’s finally healthy is Kyler Murray. He wants out and needs to be healthy to leave, but he also needs to prove his value. I expect one great month from him when the season is over for Arizona. Is anyone stopping the 49ers in the NFC West? Nope, not a chance. Can Seattle stay ahead of Los Angeles as it stands today? Nope, not a chance. Am I heading towards a different conclusion for this division? Absolutely not.
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One could easily debate second place, but it’s a non-factor in the NFC. I like the Rams as a surprise wildcard team and therefore I slot them ahead of Seattle. But the only team truly competing with the top of the conference is San Francisco. There aren’t many teams at the top of the NFC, which bodes very well for the Seahawks and Rams. It also means nothing in terms of winning the NFC West.
There is one scenario where the 49ers do not win this division. If Trey Lance is forced into the starting quarterback role, then I don’t think San Francisco holds off its division foes. Lance is not ready to lead this team and may never be. Purdy is the guy, but Darnold can do enough if needed. This assumes both Seattle and Los Angeles are halfway decent. Perhaps we can’t make that assumption.
1) San Francisco
2) Los Angeles
Meet our Writers:
Dan Salem is Lead Editor, Writer, and Co-owner of BuzzChomp. He’s a published author, as well as an award winning Actor, Director and Producer. Visit M Square Productions for his film work, or get lost in his old-school comedy on Pillow Talk TV. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Todd Salem is a Staff Writer and Contributing Editor at BuzzChomp. He’s also a fantasy football and fantasy baseball Staff Writer for RotoBaller. Follow him on Twitter or comment below for his unfiltered opinions.
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