The Deadspin 2020 NFL Previews, NFC West: American Football’s Equivalent of the Group of Death

The Deadspin 2020 NFL Previews, NFC West: American Football’s Equivalent of the Group of Death

Illustration for article titled The Deadspin 2020 NFL Previews, NFC West: American Football’s Equivalent of the Group of Death
Graphic: Eric Barrow

The NFC West may be one of the most exciting divisions in the league this season.

Seattle and San Francisco both return as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. The Arizona Cardinals have the potential to be one of the most electric offensive teams in the league. And Jared Goff and the Rams have a lot to prove to the doubters this season.

Expect a ton of fireworks from these squads in the 2020 season.

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Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks

D.K. Metcalf
D.K. Metcalf
Photo: Getty

COVID response: As of mid-August, the Seahawks have reportedly only had one player to test positive for the coronavirus, but there was speculation about those results being false positives. Offensive lineman Chance Warmack was the only player to opt-out of the 2020 season.

Outside the lines: The team recently announced that players and coaches will honor the victims of racial injustice during the 2020 season by wearing helmet decals and hat patches. “We want Justice” shirts will also be worn before the game as the team warms up. This comes after a summer where multiple Seahawks players including star quarterback Russell Wilson spoke out against racial injustices occurring in the U.S.

Oh, he’s here now?: First-team All-Pro safety Jamal Adams arrives in Seattle after forcing a trade from the New York Jets. Adams is one of the best defensive players in the league and will boost the versatility of the Seahawks defensive attack from Day 1. Tight end Greg Olsen of the Panthers and Carlos Hyde of the Texans help out on offense while Quinton Dunbar of Washington slots in at cornerback on defense.

Where’d he go?: Defensive standout Jadeveon Clowney has left Seattle and after a long free agency process, he chose to sign a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans. Safety Bradley McDougald is off to the Jets and right guard D.J. Fluker is gone to the Ravens.

Fans in the stands: There will be no No. 12s in attendance for the first three home games, at least.

What to expect: Expect a Seahawks team that will be a Super Bowl contender once again. Wilson will continue to make magic happen in the pocket and stud wide receiver D.K. Metcalf is continuing to grow like a pro. Wilson will likely put up MVP numbers this season and help carry this team into Super Bowl contention. The addition of Adams should significantly help their defense as well and allow the Seahawks to be extremely creative with their defensive schemes. Don’t be surprised when Seattle is right back in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy.

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Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals

Chris Jones, Patrick Peterson, Kevin Peterson
Chris Jones, Patrick Peterson, Kevin Peterson
Photo: Getty

COVID Response: In mid-August, the Cardinals were one of five teams that didn’t have a player on the COVID-19/reserve list. The special list includes players who tested positive and players who were exposed to someone who tested positive. Marcus Gilbert was the only Cardinal player to opt-out of the season.

Outside the lines: Future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald wrote an editorial for the New York Times calling for justice and for the killing of minorities to stop. Kyler Murray, the Cardinals’ young playmaking quarterback, has spoken out against the injustices occurring in this nation as well and says he plans to kneel during the national anthem this season. Other Cardinals such as Patrick Peterson, Budda Baker, and DeAndre Hopkins have also spoken out. 

Oh, he’s here now?: Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that Hopkins was by far the biggest pick up for this team in the offseason. Hopkins is one of the best receivers in the league and will be a prime target for Murray on scrambles and other improvised plays. The two should be an explosive tandem. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick of the Bengals and linebacker Devon Kennard came over from Detroit to help the D.

Where’d he go?: Arguably the most notable player to leave the Cardinals in the offseason was running back David Johnson. Johnson was sent to Houston in the trade that brought Hopkins into town. The standout running back has been trying to get back to his 2016 level of production.

Fans in the stands: No fans for the first two home games at least.

What to expect: The Cardinals will be a very exciting team this season. Murray will take a significant leap forward this season with Hopkins as a target. Baker and Peterson still have a lot to prove on the back end of the defense and will be motivated to make major noise this season. The expectations for this team to be good are significantly higher and Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury will have to validate his hiring this season because of the talent on his roster. They’ll give Seattle and San Francisco a few competitive games but they still don’t have enough to win the division.

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Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles Rams

Jared Goff
Jared Goff
Photo: Getty

COVID Response: Rams center Brian Allen became the first known player to test positive for coronavirus way back in April. In July, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth tested positive as well, along with many other members of his immediate family. Chandler Brewer was the only player on the Rams to opt-out of the 2020 season.

Outside the lines: The Rams partnered with local rapper and community activist Stix to produce a music video that sheds light on social inequality. Also, head coach Sean McVay has supported the players’ right to demonstrate during games this season.

Oh, he’s here now?: Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson and linebacker Leonard Floyd will be nice additions to a defense led by five-time first-team All-Pro DT Aaron Donald that will have to stop some pretty explosive NFC West offenses this season.

Where’d he go?: Receiver Brandin Cooks has left Hollywood to join the Texans. Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. and running back Todd Gurley are now both in Atlanta. Cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman left for the Eagles.

Fans in the stands: None until further notice.

What to expect: Expect the Rams to have a very mediocre season. With the Cardinals acquisitions making them competitive in the division, and with Seattle and San Francisco continuing to be powerhouses, the Rams may fall by the wayside in the West. Goff and McVay will have to dig back in their bag of tricks on the offensive side of the ball and recreate the spark this team had during the 2018 season. Both guys will need to justify their large contracts by having a strong performance in 2020.

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San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco 49ers

Kendrick Bourne (r.)
Kendrick Bourne (r.)
Photo: Getty

COVID Response: The 49ers have had three players listed on the COVID-19/reserve list. And three players have opted out of the 2020 season. One of those players, offensive lineman Shon Coleman, battled leukemia when he was an adolescent and could potentially be at high risk of detrimental effects from the virus.

Outside The Lines: The organization flew a Black Lives Matter flag at Levi Stadium. CEO Jed York is donating $1 Million to groups working for social change. Receiver Kendrick Bourne spoke at a Black Lives Matter Rally in early June to make his voice heard on racial injustices in America.

Oh, he’s here now?: First-round pick DT Javon Kinlaw out of South Carolina will be an interesting addition to an already formidable defensive front seven. Also, the addition of Brandon Aiyuk will make the receiving core deeper. Left tackle Trent Willams and tight end Jordan Reed come over from Washington.

Where’d he go?: Several key pieces left the team this offseason. Wide Receiver Emmanuel Sanders is now in New Orleans. Running Back Matt Brieda is now a Dolphin and DT DeForest Buckner will now wreak havoc as an Indianapolis Colt.

Fans in the stands: No fans until further notice.

What to expect: Expect the 49ers to be another dominant force in the NFC. Head Coach Kyle Shanahan is still an offensive genius and the defense in the Bay Area should still be stout. Jimmy Garoppolo was one deep pass away from being a Super Bowl Champion and shutting up his haters — this season the quarterback will have to prove that he can be more than a game manager if the 49ers expect to win a Lombardi Trophy. They’ll be battling Seattle for a divisional title but they should easily get a playoff spot.

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Elsewhere

Elsewhere

Check out the rest of our NFL previews for this strangest of seasons:

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