At the top of each NFL season some fans are brimming with confidence. Other fans are brimming with... the opposite of confidence. While nobody is certain about which teams will be good and which ones won't, Ron Hampston and Kyle Madson provide the overly optimistic and overly pessimistic preview for each team.
OPTIMIST’S GUIDE TO THE NFC WEST
The Cardinals are not only the best team in the NFC West, they may be the best team in the NFL. This team is stacked and after a trip to the NFC title game a season ago, they only got better and more experienced.
They return their entire offense from last season when they finished second in the league in points and first in yards. The one-two punch of Chris and David Johnson (assuming they're not related) will be even more exciting this season and could be the x-factor in carrying the Cardinals offense to a title.
Defensively, they’re loaded. Not only will they get Tyrann Mathieu back, but they also added Chandler Jones to an already fearsome pass rush. This team is built to win now and for the next few years. It won’t take anything fancy, if they play to their capability, the Cardinals will win Super Bowl 51. -KM
Somehow the Seahawks continually roll out the exact same team every year. While they don’t carry the same aura they had a couple seasons ago, they’re still an excellent football team.
The defense is going to be fast and tough as usual. They’ve lead the league in scoring defense for four years in a row for a reason. That’s not likely to suddenly stop now.
The loss of Marshawn Lynch seems huge on paper, but Seattle has built a roster that can withstand his retirement. What we’ll end up seeing instead of Lynch running over and around everyone is Russell Wilson opening his game up and throwing for 4500 yards and winning an MVP and he’ll get to spew all of the clichés programmed into his A.I. -KM
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have been a year away for the past decade. This might finally be the year. Jared Goff has struggled in the preseason, but those early season jitters will go away once things get real and he has a game plan to worry about and film on teams.
This team has the recipe for a deep postseason run. They have a strong running game with Todd Gurley. They have arguably the best defensive front in the league. This is perfect for a young quarterback that’s still getting his NFL legs.
If the Rams can run and control the ball and let the defensive line stay fresh to wreak havoc, they’re set to surprise everyone this year and Jeff Fisher will have his first winning record since 2008. -KM
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are in a prime position to win some games they’re not supposed to win this season. They’re going to be overlooked by everyone after an abysmal 5-11 campaign a year ago.
Their defense is much improved along the front and in the secondary as they’ve now had some time to recover from the depletion of their roster prior to the 2015 season. They also have a real coaching staff on that side of the ball now.
On offense, their offensive line was porous last year but looks much stronger this season. That will open more lanes for Carlos Hyde and let them limit what their quarterback has to do. If San Francisco gets any type of capable play from either Blaine Gabbert (starter) or Colin Kaepernick (maybe starter at some point), they’ll win a lot of games this year. -KM
PESSIMIST’S GUIDE TO THE NFC WEST
The Cardinals were one game away from playing in Super Bowl 50 in 2016. Having said that, the Cardinals will not duplicate their previous from last season. Last years success was predicated on the play of Carson Palmer. While he threw for a career-high 35 touchdowns, a repeat performance is not in the cards.
As we know it, father time is unbowed, and as was seen in the NFC championship, Palmer will revert back being a turnover machine. Despite the Cards bringing back nearly the same roster, and adding sack master Jones to the defense, they won't end the season as a Super Bowl contender. -RH
When Lynch announced his unexpected retirement, the title hopes of the Seahawks went astray. The Skittles aficionado was the heartbeat to the team, and without him, the Seahawks will be in search of a lifeline. Wilson was arguably the best quarterback over the last eight games of the season as he tossed 25 touchdowns with an insane QB rating of 124.3. But the pressure now without his security blanket may be a bit much for Wilson to have a repeat performance. The Seahawks defense continues to be stout, but teams no longer fear them—especially—the Legion of Boom. -RH
The Bill Belichick of run-of-the-mill coaches, Jeff Fisher, does not have Steve McNair, Kevin Dyson, Frank Wycheck, Eddie George, and the Music City Miracle at his disposal, therefore it will be the same old story for Fisher-led teams. Going 7-9 would be Super Bowl worthy for Los Angeles, but in reality, that’s not even within reach. -RH
Colin Kaepernick made the team. But the former Super Bowl starting quarterback is slated to backup Gabbert.
Whenever Gabbert is your starting quarterback nothing good happens, just ask Jacksonville Jaguars fans. Although, Gabbert holds the position now, it’s better than having Christian Ponder as your quarterback. Wait…….. he’s on the team as well.
It will be a miserable year for Niners fans. With any luck, the wasteful season will reward the Niners with some excitement from Carlos Hyde and a tank job for Deshaun Watson, but nothing close to winning a Super Bowl. -RH
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