The NFL is back, and Sportsnet is breaking down everything you need to know about each of the 32 teams in the lead-up to kickoff on Thursday, Sept. 5.
Today, we look at best- and worst-case scenarios for the NFC West. (Teams are listed in the order in which we believe they’ll finish in the 2019 standings.)
2018 finish: 13-3, lost Super Bowl
Major additions: S Eric Weddle, LB Clay Matthews, QB Blake Bortles
Major subtractions: LG Rodger Saffold, C John Sullivan, RB C.J. Anderson, DT Ndamukong Suh, S Lamarcus Joyner, LB Mark Barron
Best-case scenario: The key losses of Saffold and Sullivan – both of whom started 16 games at left guard and centre, respectively – are not felt along the offensive line, while Todd Gurley returns to the form that made him an MVP candidate last season before injury marred the end of his campaign. The offence remains one of the league’s best, the Rams dominate the NFC and Sean McVay gets a do-over in Super Bowl LIV.
Worst-case scenario: The absences of Saffold and Sullivan exacerbate Gurley’s injury woes and Jared Goff rarely feels properly protected. As a result, the offence takes a step back for the first time under McVay and the defence falls to pieces after an injury to Aaron Donald that hampers the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year all season long.
2019 prediction: 11-5, lose in NFC title game and just miss out on back-to-back trips to Super Bowl.
2018 finish: 10-6, lost in wild-card round
Major additions: LG Mike Iupati, DE Ezekiel Ansah, draft picks DE L.J. Collier and WR D.K. Metcalf
Major subtractions: S Earl Thomas, WR Doug Baldwin, DE Frank Clark
Best-case scenario: The trio of major losses listed above doesn’t hit the Seahawks as hard as we all expect. Combine phenom D.K. Metcalf recovers nicely from pre-season knee surgery and softens the blow of Baldwin’s retirement, first-round pick L.J. Collier helps make up for the team-leading 13 sacks lost in traded defensive end Frank Clark, and someone steps up in the defensive backfield to help replace the incomparable Earl Thomas.
Worst-case scenario: After years of underwhelming offensive line play, Russell Wilson finally succumbs to the pressure and suffers a serious injury. The Seahawks are forced to lean on Geno Smith and Paxton Lynch to fill the void, and the results are … predictably disastrous.
2019 prediction: 9-7, missing the playoffs for just the third time since 2010.
2018 finish: 4-12, missed playoffs
Major additions: RB Tevin Coleman, DE Dee Ford, LB Kwon Alexander, CB Jason Verrett, top-three draft picks DE Nick Bosa, WR Deebo Samuel and WR Jalen Hurd
Major subtractions: RB Alfred Morris, WR Pierre Garcon
Best-case scenario: Despite a real bad pre-season, Jimmy Garoppolo returns to the form that helped him lead the 49ers to five wins in his first five starts with the team back in 2017. Behind the offensive genius of Kyle Shanahan and using the dangerous weapons at his disposal (George Kittle, Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, Marquise Goodwin, Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd), Jimmy G brings it all together in a breakout season and makes the Niners relevant again in the NFC.
Worst-case scenario: Garoppolo’s injury has left him a shadow of his former self and the 49ers are forced to play out another lost season under the guidance of Shanahan. The Niners’ front office is forced to part ways with the young offensive guru after a third straight year in which San Fran falls way below expectations.
2019 prediction: 8-8, missing out on playoffs for sixth straight season but showing enough promise to keep Shanahan around.
2018 finish: 3-13, missed playoffs/won No. 1 pick
Major additions: Coach Kliff Kingsbury, No. 1 pick QB Kyler Murray, RG J.R. Sweezy, RT Marcus Gilbert, TE Charles Clay, LB Terrell Suggs, LB Jordan Hicks
Major subtractions: QB Josh Rosen, LG Mike Iupati, LB Deone Bucannon
Best-case scenario: Kyler Murray rebounds from Clapgate™️ and plays at a rookie-of-the-year level behind a dynamic new offence from the mind of Kingsbury, vaulting 2018’s last-ranked offence into the top half of the league.
Worst-case scenario: Murray struggles in his first season as Kingbury’s college offence fails to translate in the NFL and the Cardinals land the No. 1 pick for the second straight season, selecting Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa – Arizona’s third first-round QB in as many years.
2019 prediction: 5-11, missing the playoffs for a fourth straight year.