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Questions with the enemy #1: Analyzing the NFC West with the Field Gulls

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A writer from Seattle’s SB Nation site gives an overview of the NFC West and predicts the final regular season standings

I had a chance to ask Kenneth Arthur, managing editor of the Field Gulls fan blog, five questions about his favorite team, Seattle, whom the Redskins will face off against at 4:05 p.m. on Sunday. This is the first of the five questions & answers. The others will follow between now and Sunday’s kickoff.

I answered five questions asked by Kenneth, and my answers to his questions are posted on Field Gulls.

1. Your team and the Rams are both sitting at 5-2 right now, Carson Palmer is out with a broken arm, and the Niners just traded for Jimmy Garoppolo. How do you expect the NFC West to look by the end of Week 17?

Let's start at the bottom.

The 49ers

Pulling no punches

The 49ers are still arguably the worst team in the NFL. They're 29th in scoring, 31st in points allowed, bad against the pass, bad against the run, can't pass, can't run.

Funny enough, DVOA has San Fran at 29th, ahead of the Colts, Dolphins, and Browns, but I think that only means that they are somehow overachieving their talent-level even at 0-8. Name an under-30 player on the roster (prior to Monday) that you'd actually want to start building around. DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, and Reuben Foster? And those guys are so young that there's still a lot of time for something to go wrong, not that Thomas or Foster have lit the world aflame.

What about the new quarterback?

Even post-Monday, I think the trade for Jimmy Garoppolo was a stupid one.

In my mind, they traded the 34th overall pick for an unproven 26-year-old quarterback who will cost no less than $24 million to keep for one year on the franchise tag, and up to $75 million on a Brock Osweiler-type deal. I don't see how him having 1.5 good games for the best team in the NFL has upped his value to that level.

Compare that to drafting a quarterback 34th overall, in what is expected to be a deep QB class, and he's going to cost much less than $24 million total over the next four years. Jimmy G was a late second round pick so I don't see how he's suddenly a better prospect than a late 1st/early 2nd round pick.

Also, what if the 49ers pick first? Or second? As they're likely to. There's a solid chance that the draft will have one or two clear "franchise" quarterbacks. How does it make sense for them to jump the gun on a Jimmy G trade when they're 0-8?

I think John Lynch has made a lot of questionable moves as GM but this is clearly the worst.

The Cardinals

The collapse

I've seen the Arizona Cardinals' demise coming for about two years now, but I didn't know they'd be this bad this soon. Arizona was already kind of a shitshow prior to Carson Palmer breaking his arm but with Drew Stanton at the helm they are in contention with the other backup disasters in Miami, Indianapolis, and Green Bay.

With all of that, the Cardinals are 28th in DVOA, just a hair above an 0-8 team. Given that they did a lot of their good things with Palmer (who was still struggling mightily), then maybe the Cards are even worse than the Niners. At least the Niners seem hopeful. For some reason. Even looking at their 3 wins, Arizona has two OT wins over the Colts and Niners (aforementioned terrible teams) and a close win over the Bucs, who have one of the worst defenses in the NFL.

Outlook for the season

The Cards are 3-4 now, but 3-13 or 4-12 is possible.

What games could they even be favored in at this point? They travel to San Francisco this weekend and have the Giants on Christmas Eve. Maybe if Seattle sits ALL of their starters in Week 17....

Arizona is at least two years late in drafting a QB of the Future, but next year they could at least be picking in the top 5 to find one.

I would put the 49ers at 2-14 and the Cardinals at 4-12.

The Rams

Feeling conflicted

I guess the big question, then, is how I feel about the Rams.

My first thought: I'm conflicted.

I clearly respect DVOA, which has LA ranked:

  • 2nd overall,
  • 13th on offense,
  • 4th on defense,
  • 4th on special teams,

but I still have a ton of doubts about Goff and his ability to win enough games over the course of a full season.

The quarterback

Jared Goff got off to a hot start against the Colts, Redskins, and Niners (two bad defenses and a meh defense), but in four games since has a passer rating of 74.2 while barely completing half of his attempts, 6.4 yards/attempt, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

People who hate stats, though, would tell me to "Watch the games!" Well, I implore those same people to do the same: Watch the games.

Goff looks even worse than his stats indicate. He's inaccurate and makes horrible decisions sometimes. He could easily have twice as many picks if not for drops. Yeah, Cooper Kupp also dropped a would-be game-winning touchdown against Seattle, but I would not go as far as to say that Goff would've been the reason the Rams won. He had an awful game against a good defense and that'll be what keeps LA from winning more than one playoff game without getting very lucky.

Defense & special teams

The good news is that they have enough defense and special teams to get to the playoffs at all. That's obviously a huge change for that organization, but it is definitely the defense that's getting the job done, not Sean McVay's offense.

The Rams long-term situation

So then, what concerns should the Rams have moving forward beyond 2017?

How about the fact that Trumaine Johnson is on the franchise tag for the second year in a row and that Aaron Donald will almost certainly holdout again without a new deal

Are they going to give mega-deals to both defensive players? Will they lose one? Will they lose both?

Long-term, I'd worry about them unless Goff turns a huge corner and they can settle their contract disputes with two huge pieces on their defense.

In the short-term, the Rams remind me more of like a 2014-2016 Kansas City Chiefs of the NFC type team; they'll get to the postseason but probably won't win a meaningful game because the offense lacks pass game firepower and the defense is good but not elite.

They have a tough schedule laying ahead after this week's game against the Giants:

If they win the three games they'll be favored in (Giants, Cardinals, 49ers), then it's a matter of winning probably two more for a wild card and maybe 3 to 4 more for the division, including a win over the Seahawks in Seattle.

Projected finish

I'll put the Rams at 10-6, wild card team.

Seattle

I see the Seahawks more in the 12-4 range following their acquisition of Duane Brown, getting into position to get a bye week for the playoffs.

Ken’s projection for the NFC West

Seattle 12-4

Rams 10-6

Cardinals 4-12

49ers 2-14