Welcome to the LazyBets preview of the NFC West. We’ll be taking a look at each team in the division and their odds of finishing in the top spot, so that we can find the best value bets available before the season starts on Thursday.
Last year, the NFC West was the home of the surprise team in the NFL in the Los Angeles Rams. This year, the Rams look to defend their NFC West title against a division that has had an influx of talent, both in the form of new players and players returning from injury. Sean McVay’s squad enters the year as the favorite, but there are some enticing underdogs out there as well.
Will the Rams claim the division again? Are the 49ers for real in the Jimmy Garoppolo era? Is the public sleeping on the Seahawks and Cardinals?
Let’s take a look at the odds to win the NFC West provided by BetOnline.
With their explosive offense, the Los Angeles Rams come into this season as the favorites in the NFC West. That’s certainly justified, given how they took the league by storm last season. With Sean McVay and his innovating offense and a team loaded with skill position players, the team hasn’t had many issues that would lead one to believe that they are due to take a step backward in the crowded NFC West picture.
Todd Gurley and Jared Goff are back as the running back/quarterback combination for this team, with Gurley getting a rich new contract extension during the offseason. Goff improved greatly from year one to year two of his career, but will need to continue to do so for the Rams to emerge as legitimate contenders to win the Super Bowl.
The Rams went on a bit of a spending spree during the offseason for more than just Gurley. Acquiring Brandin Cooks, Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and Sam Shields, the Rams have made it clear that they are looking to win right now rather than being a team that is building toward the future. With Goff still on his rookie contract, that is a smart move, to maximize the roster before you have to offer your quarterback a lucrative extension.
Speaking of lucrative extensions, the Rams erased one of their few question marks heading into the season by handing defensive tackle Aaron Donald a 6 year, $135 million extension that makes him the highest paid defensive player in the history of the league. Donald vowed to not play a snap until receiving a new contract, so it was wise of the Rams to get the deal done before the uncertainty lingered into the season. With three All-Pro selections in his first four years in the league, Donald is worthy of that contract and should form an absolutely devastating duo along with Suh on the Rams defensive front.
For the San Francisco 49ers, things changed dramatically when they brought Jimmy Garoppolo in from the New England Patriots. And while it has come out later that the Patriots could have brought in a bigger return for Garoppolo than they got from the Niners, Bill Belichick looks to have achieved his goal of finding the best possible landing spot for Garoppolo.
In his career, Jimmy Garoppolo has not lost a start. His numbers haven’t been incredible since he has come into the league, but his ability to win without racking up big numbers has reminded some of Tom Brady himself early in Brady’s career. And while nobody has had the success that Brady has had in winning titles, Jimmy G could very well bring the Niners to the top of the NFC West in his first full year as a starter.
San Francisco was a decent team last year before Garoppolo got there, despite the fact that the wins weren’t quite there. They were competitive in most of their games, covering the spread on a regular basis with quarterbacks like Blaine Gabbert and CJ Beathard at the helm. The addition of Garoppolo showed that the quarterback position was what they needed most, as the Niners rattled off five wins to end the season.
This year, the league will have more tape on Garoppolo, which could make things more difficult for him as he continues to rack up experience in the league. However, with offensive genius Kyle Shanahan at the helm, you can be sure that the Niners will be good at mixing things up on offense to keep opposing defenses from getting too comfortable.
The loss of free agent running back Jerick McKinnon to a torn ACL won’t help, but the Niners should be in good hands with veteran ball carrier Alfred Morris and second-year back Matt Breida. Garoppolo will rely on the speedy Marquis Goodwin and the steady Pierre Garcon as his top playmakers on the outside this season.
The 49ers won’t have a dominant defense this season, but it should be serviceable due to a couple top-flight players in the front seven. Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner is a beast on the interior line, pressuring quarterbacks at level rarely seen from that position. Linebacker Reuben Foster is suspended for the first two games, but the Alabama product was impressive in his rookie season last year and should rack up tackles in the middle of the defense once he returns.
During the 2017 NFL season, the Seattle Seahawks’ biggest concern was its offensive line. They made a move to acquire left tackle Duane Brown to help address their problems protecting Russell Wilson, which was commendable. However, this season they’ll still be dealing with several low-performing players along the line, and it should remain a major problem for them as they try to establish a running game that was sorely lacking in 2017.
In addition to the problems on the offensive front, the exodus from their defense has presented the team with a new set of problems as they prepare for 2018. The former “Legion of Boom” saw several of their members depart during this past offseason, including Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Safety Earl Thomas just ended his holdout, but even his strong play won’t save this unit from a huge downturn this season.
When it comes to longshot bets to win a division, you could do worse than the Arizona Cardinals. The team gets David Johnson back from injury to start the 2018 campaign, who may be the most dynamic running back in the league thanks to his ability to generate big plays both on the ground and in the receiving game. If the either Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen can put together a great season, the Cardinals can surprise some people in the NFC West even if they don’t manage to claim the division.
However, we don’t expect that to be the case - both Johnson and the QBs will be hindered by an offensive line that is rated amongst the worst in the league. Larry Fitzgerald has had an incredible career, but he’s bound to start regressing at some point as he enters his 15th season as Arizona’s top wideout. Besides Fitz, there aren’t many talented pass catchers on this roster - in fact, I dare you to name one without looking up the answer.
The defense was surprisingly good last season, allowing the 3rd fewest yards per play. However, outside of former Patriot Chandler Jones and corner Patrick Peterson, there aren’t many top-level talents left on that side of the ball with the departures of Calais Campbell and Tyrann Mathieu over the past couple seasons. The linebacking corp in particular looks weak, and that should lead to a league-average finish at best for the Cardinals D.
Barring some real breakthrough seasons from unheralded offensive lineman and linebackers, this Cardinals team appears to have too many holes to compete with the Rams and 49ers for the division crown. We’re intrigued by Josh Rosen’s talent, but that won’t translate into wins until 2019 at the earliest. Look elsewhere for a NFC West winner this season.
Facts are facts: Jimmy Garoppolo has never lost as a starter. That isn’t to say that the Niners will go 16-0 en route to a division title, but the Niners should get off to a quicker start than a Rams team that will need time to figure out how all of their players will play together.