• June 10, 2023

2015 NFL Projections: The NFC West

Marshawn LynchSeattle Seahawks

The Seahawks were one yard and one horrible play call away from picking up their second straight Super Bowl Championship. The decision to not put the ball in the hands of Marshawn Lynch is one will live in infamy throughout NFL history.

Seattle will now try to avoid the Super Bowl hangover, and pick things up where they left off. Their biggest splash of the off-season came when they made a trade with the New Orleans Saints to bring elite tight end Jimmy Graham to the team. Graham instantly becomes the Seahawks best receiving threat, and while its hard to expect him to put up the same numbers he had playing with Drew Brees, he could help Russell Wilson set career-high’s across the board.

The problem is that in order to bring Graham in, the Seahawks had to make some sacrifices on the offensive line. Center Max Unger was sent the New Orleans in the trade, and guard James Carpenter signed elsewhere in free agency, leaving the team with several holes to fill on the line.

The Seattle defense has also taken a hit, losing Byron Maxwell in free agency. However, the the secondary still features Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor, and they signed former Eagle Cary Williams.

The Seahawks are still an elite team in the NFC, but their window may be starting to close. Contract issues are already beginning to take a toll on the franchise, with even more issues to arise in the following off-season. The addition of Graham is exciting, and the defense is still a top group in this league, so for the time being, the Seahawks should have at least one more great run in them.

Projected Finish: 12-4, 1st Place

Arizona Cardinals

You have to give Arizona head coach Bruce Arians a world of credit. He’s done a heck of a job with the Cardinals in his first two years, getting the absolute most out of a team with some significant holes and mediocre talent.

Carson Palmer is expected to be healthy to start the season, and if he’s able to keep himself upright then the Cardinals could really get the most out of their potential. Palmer appeared in just six games a year ago.

Arizona went out and landed guard Mike Iupati in free agency, and drafted offensive tackle D.J. Humphries in the first round to bring a significant upgrade to their offensive line. The upgrades on the line should help protect Palmer, and create more holes for explosive running back Andre Ellington.

Larry Fitzgerald is still the face of the franchise, and is still capable of being an effective receiver in this league. But playing with the likes of Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley really hurt his numbers last season, making it all the more important that Palmer stay healthy.

The Cardinals lost several starters on defense, including cornerback Antonio Cromartie, linebacker Larry Foote, and tackle Dan Williams. The team still has elite young corner Patrick Peterson in their secondary, and also drafted linebacker Markus Golden in the second round.

Arians has done a great job in the desert, and while there should be good improvements on the offensive line combined with a healthy Palmer to make the offense much more potent, Arizona just doesn’t have enough to close the gap between themselves and the Seahawks.

Projected Finish: 10-6, 2nd Place

St. Louis Rams

Jeff Fisher hasn’t had better than a seven-win season in each of his three years with the Rams. He’s been trying to build the roster up from the ground up, and has had to play two of those three years without his starting quarterback Sam Bradford, who finished both years on injured reserve.

Fisher and the Rams finally pulled the plug on the Bradford era, sending him to the Eagles for Nick Foles and a second-round pick. It’s a low-risk, high-reward move for the Rams.

St. Louis was clearly tired of depending on Bradford to stay upright, and would rather take a shot on a younger quarterback like Foles. Foles regressed in 2014 with the Eagles, and will now be playing with lesser weapons in a less quarterback-friendly system, but he’s still a very young quarterback that is better than a lot of other options out there.

The Rams still offer mediocre receivers, with veteran Kenny Britt likely serving as their number-one option. Brian Quick and Tavon Austin are the second and third options. There isn’t a lot of consistency at this position.

The team spent their first-round pick on running back Todd Gurley, whom they help will finally bring some stability to the running back position that they’ve lacked since Steven Jackson departed.

Jeff Fisher has done a very nice job building the St. Louis defense. The starting defensive line is made up of four St. Louis first-round picks, including Robert Quinn who led the team 10.5 sacks. The secondary is also comprised of players that the Rams have brought into the league, three of which were taken in either the second or third round. The only starter that wasn’t drafted or originally signed by the Rams is linebacker Akeem Ayers.

The Rams are at a crossroads in the Fisher era. There’s only so long that the veteran coach can finish with six or seven wins and point to the strong division as an excuse. With the 49ers in a freefall, the Rams need to at least finish third this year for Fisher to continue building this club.

Projected Finish: 7-9, 3rd Place

San Francisco 49ers

Chaos. That’s the word that best describes the last year for the San Francisco 49ers.

It began at the beginning of last season, when there was heavy talk of rifts between head coach Jim Harbaugh and the front office. Despite Harbaugh leading the team to three straight NFC Championship games, and one Super Bowl appearance, management had  made up their mind that they wanted to get rid of the very successful coach and fired him at the end of the season.

Since then, the roster has also completely fallen apart.

Star linebacker Patrick Willis announced his retirement, leaving the defense without their heart and soul. Offensive lineman Mike Iupati bolted for Arizona in free agency. The team also lost starting corner Chris Culliver, linebacker Chris Borland, as well as wide receiver Michael Crabtree and running back Frank Gore. And to top it all off, star pass rusher Aldon Smith was released after yet another off-field incident.

The news doesn’t get much better for the remaining players. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been a major disappointment over the last two years, and has regressed considerably. the team added Torrey Smith to team with Anquan Boldin to upgrade the receivers, but in a division with such strong corners they may not make much of a difference.

The team added veteran defensive tackle Darnell Dockett to the defensive line and hopes to get linebacker NaVorro Bowman back healthy to give a once-proud defense a boost.

The 49ers were already in decline before the losses in personnel began, as shown by their 8-8 finish a year ago. With all of that talent subtracted, they could sink to the bottom of this division. Their window of opportunity has slammed shut, and there’s not much optimism for the coming season.

Projected Finish: 6-10, 4th Place

Denny Basens

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August 13, 2015 11:29 am

A real Competitive Division for 2015 as the Seahawks have taken a step back
with the losses on their OL and Players to Free-Agency which will effect their Depth.. On Defense there are 3 Starters who are all unhappy with their Contract Status – Safety Kam Chancellor who is Holding Out, LB Bruce Irvin who did not get an Extension for his 5th Year as he was hoping for and DE Michael Bennett who just signed a new Deal last Year and wants even more $$$.. I also think that as Talented as Jimmy Graham is, that his me-first personality will not be a real good fit for Seahawks Locker Room (See Percy Harvin) .. Graham was not that well liked in New Orleans which is why HC Sean Payton shipped him out.. Graham will be asked to Block a lot more than he ever did with the Saints and will see less Balls his way as Seahawks would rather ground and pound instead of slinging the ball around the Field..
Graham will end up with good Stats for he’s too talented not to but I sense some real issues with him moving forward…

Cardinals have added to their Offense with the physical Players that you mentioned in Guard M Iupata, LT J Vandeleer from the Raiders and Draft Pick DJ Humphries who probably plays at RT and have returning a healthy Guard in JOnathon Cooper who was a Top Pick a couple of Years ago…
They added Power RB David Johnson in the 3rd Round from Northern Iowa who I think will compete for Carries and Work load as the Season progresses to go along with speedy,dynamic Ellington and the tough 3rd Year RB from Standford, Stephan Taylor
At WR they have Fitz, Michael Floyd who really came into his own last Season and up and comers Brown youngsters (John and Jauron) and added have 2nd Year Big Target Troy Nicklas, Darren Fells and are converted former Eagle Infeanyi Momah from WR to TE so they should have much more explosive Team than the last few Seasons..
Their Defense has taken some hits with former DC Todd Bowles moving onto the Jets as well as some of their Assistant Coach’s with him
They have lost Players such as Darnell Dockett, Dan WIlliams, Larry Foote, Nate Washington, D Cromartie but still have talented Players in C Campbell, F Rucker, P Paterson, T Matthieu, D Bucannon, etc,etc..
**A Potential Trade I could see would be the Eagles Sending LB M Kendricks to the Cardinals for Safety Tony Jefferson who would be a Starter on most NFL Teams… Cardinals need some ILB Help and the Eagles have Depth at ILB while the Cardinals have 4-5 Solid Safeties on their Roster in Starters Rashard Johnson & Tyler Mattieu, then have Deon Buchannon, Tony Jefferson & Chris Clemons…

Rams are contenders in 2015 — If Foles remains Healthy and plays decent
and protects the Ball, they will Win 9-10 Games and compete for a Wildcard
Rams Defensively and especially their Front 7 is one of the Best in all the NFL, Playing on their fast dome turf and the noise for Opposing QB’s makes it very difficult to play against them at their place.. Especially young QB’s
Foles won’t have to do much for if the Rams can Score 20-23 Pts a game, they are going to win most of them so 2-3 bif plays a game from Foles is all that is needed… Rams now hav a decent RB tandem of Gurley, Mason and Cunningham, Have WR’s in Kenny Britt, Brian Quick,Stedman Bailey,Tyvon Austin & Chris Givens & TE’s Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks who should improve their effectiveness with Foles on board….

49ers – A Complete Rebuild Program – Lots of Young Players will get big time playing time and its time to see if they are ready…
Players like QB C Kaepernick, RB Carlos Hyde, TE Vernon Davis and WR Torrey Smith are all going to have to have Career Seasons for the 49ers to have a chance .. Their Right side of their OL is brand new and unproven with the departures of M Iupata and RT Anthony Davis who Retired
Defensively they will have lots of young promising Players like DL Tank Carradine, DL Arik Armstead, LB Aaron Lynch, LB Eli Harold, DB’s jimmie Ward, J Tarrt & Eric Reid all step up and show they can Play along Veterans Calias Campbell, N Bowman, M Whilhoite, A Brooks and A Bethea..

Final Standings
1) Seahawks 12-4 (Division Winner)
2) Rams 10-6 (Wild Card Winner)
3) Cardinals 9-7
4) 49ers 6-10