In the last decade the NFC West has been known by many football fans as the toughest, or one of the toughest divisions in the National Football League. Primarily dominated by the Seahawks, led by Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom for many years. The 49ers, led by Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman and the controversial Colin Kaepernick were a top contender year in and year out as well.
To quickly pivot, what’s the biggest story in sports right now? Of course, it’s Andrew Luck’s shocking retirement from the NFL.
However, let’s not forget that in 2015, the best linebacker in the NFL and future Hall of Famer, the 49ers own Patrick Willis, also retired too soon at the age of 30. Rob Gronkowski and Calvin Johnson are a couple of other star names that come to mind here in recent seasons who left the game to early than we all hoped. Unfortunately, I expect this pattern of top players retiring early to continue over the next decade. To be fair, it’s difficult to blame them with such an injury prone game (Not everyone can be you, Mr. Brady).
Moving on, the Cardinals have been the one team that hasn’t had much success in the last decade and I also expect that to be the case in 2019 led by the #1 pick in this year’s draft, Kyler Murray. To me, this division is still all about the LA Rams for the 3rdstraight season. After their recent move from St. Louis, which sparked an outrage in the midwestern city, the franchise has moved back to its roots in Los Angeles. This season will be their last playing in USC’s famous, Coliseum. They were originally slated to move into their new 2.3-billion-dollar stadium in Inglewood, CA this season. However, a rare Southern California rainy year pushed the opening date to the summer of 2020. Enough with the introduction, let’s get down to business…
Los Angeles Rams
-140 to -160 depending on where you’re shopping to win the NFC West
My prediction: 10-6
The Super Bowl runners-up are catching a lot of uncertainty this season, especially by the media. This is mainly surrounded by their star, Todd Gurley and his knee injury from last season that kept him limited in the NFC Championship and Super Bowl. Don’t get me wrong, there is a legitimate concern with Gurley’s knee and how it will hold up in 2019-20. He carried the ball only 14 times for 45 yards in the 2 biggest games of last season! However, the roster is still far too talented on both sides of the ball.
This to me is a bet on Sean McVay, who is the best offensive mind in the NFL, in my opinion. Jared Goff’s resurgence has cast away many doubts, after the former #1’s calamity of a rookie season. Draft bust to Super Bowl QB has McVay’s fingerprints written all over it. Goff’s favorite target Cooper Kupp also returns from injury. With another year of familiarity in McVay’s QB friendly playbook, you can expect the Rams to have tons of big plays dialed up in 2019. I just don’t see this team getting enough recognition right now. Yes, they did lay an absolute egg and put up only 3 points in the biggest game in football.
However, I’ll forgive them and chalk that up as being out schemed by the greatest coach of all-time, in Bill Belichick. They still have THE BEST defensive player in the NFL in Aaron Donald. Accompanied by a couple of great outside rushers in Dante Fowler Jr. and don’t forget about the recently acquired Clay Matthews. Matthews choosing to leave the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field for sunny side LA (can you blame him?). QB’s BEWARE. Their already above average secondary (who tied for 3rdin INT’s last season) has added perennial pro-bowl Safety, Eric Weddle to the squad. Secondary is so essential in today’s pass heavy NFL. The free agent signing of Weddle, combined with a couple of quality corners in Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, is surely one of the top secondary’s in the game. Regardless of Todd Gurley, I still think McVay has enough at his disposal to win this division and win the NFC West for the 3rdstraight season.
At many various betting outlets, I’m seeing a line between -140 to -160 and I think that price is too short. I’d personally have them closer to -180 to -200 range and for that reason, I believe I have spotted some slight value on a team that took the New England Patriots to the brink. The only thing that may scare you off this bet is like everyone else in this division, the Rams have a difficult schedule. Starting the season @ Carolina, home to the Saints and @ the Browns will tell us very soon how good this team is and how healthy Gurley’s knee is. Throughout the course of the season, they must also travel to Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Dallas with some tough home games against Chicago and Baltimore. Not an easy schedule but I still see 10 wins out there.
San Francisco 49ers
Odds of +450 to +500 at most Sportsbooks
My prediction: 8-8
I want to preface this by stating I am a HUGE San Francisco 49ers fan. My father used to help train a couple of the 49er players back in the 80’s and I’ve had a signed Joe Montana football since I was in the womb. Do I think this could be the year the 49ers push the Rams to the brink?
Maybe, but it won’t be taking any of my money. Make no mistake, Kyle Shanahan is one of the best coaches in the NFL (also currently the favorite for Coach of the Year) and the +475 to win the West currently at 5 Dimes represents a lot of value, there are still too many unknowns for me and their schedule on the surface, looks very difficult. They have made some major free agent signings in Dee Ford (13 sacks and 7 FF in 2018 for KC) and Kwan Alexander who is coming off an ACL injury in Tampa Bay but registered 145 tackles in 2016. They drafted Joey Bosa #2 in April, and will need him to make an immediate impact on their improved defensive line.
On the other hand, Richard Sherman is not the player he once was in Seattle and their secondary is very sketchy to me. Can Jimmy Garoppolo finally live up to his potential? Kyle Shanahan will make it easy on him but he will need to deliver right off the bat. A lot of questions are still to be answered about their skill positions.
They made a nice signing in Tevin Coleman who was a 3rdround steal in the 2015 draft out of Indiana University (I’m an IU alum so I had to throw that in there). Who drafted him? Kyle Shanahan, during his Atlanta Falcon Offensive Coordinator days. Who was Kyle Shanahan’s first free agent signing this off season? Tevin Coleman. The familiarity is there and I expect him to be great in Shanahan’s running back friendly zone running scheme. He and Matt Breida will form an underrated duo this year. A lot of rookies like 2ndround pick Deebo Samuel and 2ndyear player Dante Pettis will really need to step up and make it easy on Jimmy G on day #1. The 49ers better get off to a hot start when playing at Tampa Bay and at Cincinnati in the opening 2 weeks.
After that, the schedule gets much more difficult with Pittsburgh coming into town, an early week 4 bye week, followed by a MNF home game against Cleveland and at the Rams in week 6. If the 49ers don’t start fast, they’re in big trouble. However, they look on the surface like a bet on team in week 1 and 2.
Odds of +300 to +330 at most Sportsbooks
My prediction: 7-9
Then there is the question on the Russell Wilson led Seattle Seahawks. I am a BIG Wilson fan, even though he seems to get the best out of my 49ers every year. As long as he’s their starting QB and healthy, I see this as a 7 to 8 win type of team. They run the ball through Chris Carson heavily and effectively but I’m VERY skeptical on their other skill position players (besides the deep ball threat and one of my favorite fantasy players Tyler Lockett).
It’s one of the worst groups in the NFL. However, Wilson makes up for it all with his playmaking. An above average defense and still having the best home field advantage in the NFL…they will be competitive week in and week out. I just don’t think it’s enough to be better than the Rams or 49ers this season. Think the only reason they are bigger favorites than the 49ers is Wilson, which is somewhat understandable. They will need much more than the 12thman at CenturyLink Field in 2019-20. Sorry Seattle, wild card at best if Wilson plays out of his mind…better luck next year.
+1600 to +1700 at most outlets
My prediction 4-12
We’ll finish out the Wild Wild West in Phoenix with the exciting and electric Kyler Murray who is joining the coach who has been scouting him since High School in Kliff Kingsbury. I watched Murray a lot at Oklahoma and I do believe he has great potential BUT to top these other 3 teams in this difficult division in year #1…? NO NO NO.
The books make that clear by having them at around +1650 to win the division. I do expect them to shock a couple teams this year and be competitive because Murray looks to have some Russell Wilson/Drew Brees/Mike Vick in him. I can see the read option being very effective with the combination of Murray and David Johnson. I just don’t trust Kingsbury as he left Texas Tech under a lot of justified scrutiny. Kingsbury left with an overall record of 35-40 (including 13 victories over lower tier Group of Five and FCS competition) and 19-35 in Big 12 play. I know he’s clearly an offensive minded coach but playing the likes of Carroll, Shanahan and McVay 6 times in year 1 is not ideal.
Best Future Bet
I locked in today the Rams -145 for 4 units and 1 unit on the 49ers at +475
Available online at 5 dimes
Best of Luck!
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- Matt Lawrence