Arizona Cardinals: 2015 Record: 13-3
2016 Projected Record: 12-4
Key Additions: Chandler Jones, Jermaine Gresham, Evan Mathis
Key Losses: Dwight Freeney, Rashad Johnson
Carson Palmer put up a MVP type season in 2015 & probably would’ve won it if Cam Newton didn’t have the year he had. He threw for 4,671 yards & 35 TDs. Palmer has always been a good QB in the regular season but has struggled when he’s played in the playoffs. Palmer played pretty well to beat the Packers in the divisional round but he struggled against the Panthers in the NFC Championship throwing 4 INTs en route to a beat down of 49-15.
David Johnson emerged last year as a potential top RB in the NFL. Chris Johnson was the starter for the majority of the year until he injured his leg. David Johnson rushed for 581 yards & 8 TDs after coming in for Chris & also added 36 catches for 457 yards & 4 TDs. The Cardinals receiving trio of Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, & John Brown might be the best in the NFL. All of them finished with 800 yards & 5 TDs in 2015 & with Carson Palmer thrwoing them the ball it’s likely to happen again.
The defensive line of the Cardinals is pretty stout. It consists of guys like Calais Campbell, Corey Peters, & Frostee Rucker. In 2015 Dwight Freeney led the Cardinals in sacks with 8. Now he’s gone but Cardinals were able to trade for the talented pass rusher in Chandler Jones. Jones in 2015 was the 5th leading guy in sacks with 12.5. The Cardinals are still using Deone Bucannon as the new safety/linebacker position that they made popular in the NFL.
The secondary of the Cardinals is one of the best in the NFL. Of course with the best CB in the NFL in Patrick Peterson you’re going to have an elite secondary. The corner opposite Peterson is Brandon Williams who was the 3rd round selection out of Texas A&M for the Cardinals. The safeties are Tyrann Mathieu & Tony Jefferson. Tyrann Mathieu is one of the best non-QBs in the NFL with the dynamic ability he brings to the Cardinals defense. The Cardinals are a great team & if Carson Palmer can perform in the playoffs they might see themselves in the playoffs.
Los Angeles Rams: 2015 Record: 7-9
2016 Projected Record: 7-9
Key Additions: Jared Goff (draft), Coty Sensabaugh
Key Losses: Janoris Jenkins, James Laurinaitis, Chris Long, Jared Cook, Rodney McCleod
I’m a Los Angeles Rams fan but I’m very realistic with the expectations of this team. The Rams will be going into week 1 with Case Keenum as the starting QB. Keenum is a solid QB but in my opinion is not a good starter in this league. The rookie Jared Goff showed glimpses of being a viable starter but also showed rookie struggles in the preseason. Goff will be the 3rd QB behind Sean Mannion to start the season but I think he’ll be starting later in the season. The Rams just need improved QB play to take that next step.
The Rams definitely found their future RB in Todd Gurley. Gurley in 2015 finished as the 3rd leading rusher with 1,106 yards & was 2nd in TDs with 10 while only playing in 12 games after sitting out the first few games from an injury he sustained at Georgia. The Rams receiver group is a solid but not great group. The group is led by Kenny Britt & Tavon Austin. Austin just received a well deserved contract extension because of everything he does. Austin in 2015 had 52 catches for 473 yards & 5 TDs while also having 52 carries for 434 yards & 4 TDs. Austin is also a great punt returner having 264 yards & 1 TD in 2015.
The defensive line of the Rams is the best in my opinion. At the end positions you have Robert Quinn & “The Guy Who Believes In Mermaids” aka William Hayes (you had to have watched Hard Knocks to know what I’m talking about. Quinn had his worst year in 2015 with only 5 sacks.The defensive tackles are Aaron Donald & Michael Brockers. Donald has shown he’s the best DT in the NFL the past couple of years. Donald has 20 sacks in his first 2 seasons. The Rams will be using the Cardinals idea of using Mark Barron at linebacker as a safety. The Rams lost James Laurinaitis as the leader of the defense but I’m excited to see Alec Ogletree take the reins.
The secondary of the Rams is also very solid. The corner spots are filled by Trumaine Johnson, Coty Sensabaugh, & Lamarcus Joyner at nickel. Johnson in 2015 had 71 tackles, 7 interceptions, & 1 pick six. 7 interceptions was 2nd best in the league. The Rams lost Rodney McCleod at FS & will replace him with Maurice Alexander. At the SS position the Rams still have a great safety in T.J McDonald. In the 1st episode of Hard Knocks Jeff Fished vowed not to go 7-9 (I won’t say what else he said so I can keep this article PG) but as a Rams fan I see another 7-9 season in the works.
San Francisco 49ers: 2015 Record: 5-11
2016 Projected Record: 3-13
Key Additions: Zane Beadles, DeForest Buckner (draft), Aaron Burbridge (draft)
Key Losses: Not really anyone
The QB controversy the 49ers have is not a good one. The 49ers look like they will be starting Blaine Gabbert in week 1 over Colin Kaepernick. Gabbert is not a NFL starting QB by any means in my opinion & the 49ers don’t have many weapons for him to throw to either. I think by the end of the year Kaepernick will be starting & we’ll see if he fits Chip Kelly’s offense.
Carlos Hyde has shown signs of being a good starting RB in his first 2 years but has been unable to stay healthy though. In his first 2 years Hyde has only started 7 games. In 2015 Hyde had 470 yards & 3 TDs in 7 games before getting injured. The wide receiving group for the 49ers is very average. It is led by Torrey Smith & Jeremy Kerley. Smith in my opinion is still one of the best deep threat WRs in the NFL but with the questions at QB its hard to see him having a great season.
The defensive line of the 49ers is a very unproven group. It’s led by Arik Armstead & Mike Purcell. Armstead is in his 2nd year & hopefully he shows some improvement from last year only having 2 sacks & 19 tackles. Purcell at DT has only started 3 games in his 2 year career & only has 1 sack. The linebacking group is definitely the strong point of this team with Ahmad Brooks, Navorro Bowman, & Ray-Ray Armstrong. Navorro Bowman has been one of the best MLBs in the NFL even when Patrick Willis was there.
The secondary of the 49ers isn’t that good at all. The corners of the 49ers are Tramaine Brock & Jimmie Ward. Brock had a pretty solid year in 2015 with 3 INTs & 53 tackles. The safety positions are filled by Eric Reid & Antoine Bethea. It’s a pretty good safety group but the corners are what worry me. Reid has been a great safety for the 49ers in his first couple years. Bethea has consistently been a good safety since being in the NFL. The 49ers are another team that will be in the running for the worst team in the league because there are too many question marks on this team & one of them is a the QB position which usually isn’t good.
Seattle Seahawks: 2015 Record: 10-6
2016 Projected Record: 11-5
Key Additions: Germain Ifedi (draft)
Key Losses: Marshawn Lynch, Bruce Irvin
Russell Wilson showed improvements as a QB last year. Wilson had his best year in 2015 with 4,024 yards & 34 TDs. The second half of the year he really showed how great of a QB he can be even while Marshawn Lynch was hurt. Wilson has some pretty good weapons to throw to in Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett, & Jimmy Graham (if he’s healthy).
We all know Marshawn Lynch retired so the running game won’t be the same. Seahawks have recently announced Christine Michael as their starting RB in week 1. I don’t know if he’s their guy until Rawls is healthy or if Seahawks like him more. The receivers of the Seahawks is a pretty good group with Baldwin, Kearse, & Lockett. Baldwin in 2015 had his best year with 78 catches, 1,069 & 14 TDs. Hopefully Jimmy Graham can be healthy because if he is this offense might be hard to stop.
The defensive line of the Seahawks is a pretty solid group. They are led by Michael Bennett & Cliff Avril on the ends & Ahtyba Rubin & Tony McDaniel at the DT spots. In 2015 Bennett had 10 sacks & has continually been a good pass rusher for the Seahawks. Rubin & McDaniel have been solid guys on the interior for Seattle. The linebacking group is led by Bobby Wagner in the middle with Mike Morgan & K.J Wright on the outside. Wagner has been one of the best MLBs with Seattle while K.J Wright had 116 tackles in 2015.
The Legion of Boom is still one of the best secondaries in the NFL. It’s of course led by Richard Sherman & Jeremy Lane at the CB spots while the safeties are Earl Thomas & Kam Chancellor. At the beginning of the year last year the secondary looked like it was struggling a bit but came back to reality in the 2nd half of the year. Sherman has been a top 3 CB the past few years & they’ve been rotating the 2nd CB opposite him since he’s been starting. The Seahawks boast the best safety duo in the NFL with Thomas & “Bam Bam” Kam Chancellor. The Seahawks are a fantastic team & could actually go farther than the Cardinals if Carson Palmer performs like he did in the playoffs last year.
Final Prediction: The Cardinals will win the division at 12-4 while Seattle will also make playoffs at 11-5.
I will be finishing my regular season preview articles with the NFC East.