The 2021 NFL season is right around the corner and the league has seen improvement across the board. Looking specifically at the NFC West division, there are four teams who could compete for the division title and a playoff berth.
Over the last few years, the NFC West has been one of the most competitive divisions in football. Every single team has had some level of success and they have all been improving quickly.
Looking ahead to this season, the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, and Seattle Seahawks are all viewed as serious contenders in the NFC. Even the Los Angeles Rams took a huge step forward by upgrading from Jared Goff to Matthew Stafford at the quarterback position. Everything is adding up to a closely contested race for the division championship.
All of that being said, let’s take a look at one massive question facing each team in the NFC West entering the 2021 NFL season.
Arizona Cardinals: Will Their Offseason Splashes Revitalize Their Careers?
During the offseason, the Cardinals made two intriguing splashes on the free agency market. They surprisingly landed JJ Watt following his release from the Houston Texans. In addition to that move, they also signed longtime Cincinnati Bengals star wide receiver AJ Green.
Both of those players have been superstars for a long time. However, they have both fallen off with their production over the last couple of years. Can they turn things around and rejuvenate their careers with the Cardinals?
If Watt and Green can turn back the clock and come through with productive years, the Cardinals are going to be very difficult to beat. Watt has been one of the most feared pass-rushers and defensive playmakers throughout his career, while Green could be a lethal No. 2 option for Kyler Murray alongside DeAndre Hopkins. These two guys are going to dictate where the Cardinals end up when the season concludes.
Los Angeles Rams: Just How Much Does Matthew Stafford Improve L.A.?
After making a run to the Wild Card in the NFC last season, the Rams ended up falling to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs. In a stacked NFC West division, Los Angeles decided to make a major move at the quarterback position.
They pulled off a big blockbuster trade with the Detroit Lions that sent striating quarterback Jared Goff packing in return for star quarterback Matthew Stafford. The big question for the Rams this season will be, how much does the addition of Stafford really improve the team?
Los Angeles has a hard-nosed and very talented defense and they have an offense full of playmakers. If Stafford can come in and put up Pro Bowl caliber numbers, the Rams have a very good chance to be a playoff team. On the other hand, if he doesn’t give them much more than Goff would have, the Rams are going to be a mediocre team on the fringe of the playoff picture with no chance of making a playoff run.
San Francisco 49ers: Who Is The Real Starting Quarterback?
Looking at the 49ers, there is only one big question outside of whether or not they can remain healthy. That question would be, which quarterback is their real starter?
Jimmy Garoppolo sounds likely to enter Week 1 of the NFL season as the starter for the 49ers, but that could change quickly. San Francisco pulled the trigger on selecting Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick. Lance fits Kyle Shanahan’s a lot better than Jimmy G and there is no denying that he has the potential to be something very special.
A quarterback change early in the season is very possible. It is also possible that Lance flat-out beats Garoppolo in training camp and preseason action and begins the year as the starter. Only time will tell, but this is a situation to keep a close eye on.
Seattle Seahawks: Is The Secondary Good Enough?
Finally, we get to take a look at the Seahawks. Russell Wilson and company are going to be a competitive football team, we all know that. But, are they good enough to make a playoff run and compete for a Super Bowl?
A lot of that will depend on their secondary. One of their biggest weaknesses could be at the cornerback position, where they are currently projected to start DJ Reed Jr. and Ahkello Witherspoon. Both of those guys are talented players, but they are both cornerbacks that star NFL quarterbacks can exploit.
Seattle has to have a good secondary, especially in their division. Kyler Murray and Matthew Stafford are legitimate stars and the 49ers have two good quarterbacks. In the NFC, they will have to face off against Aaron Rogers (assuming he returns to the Green Bay Packers), Dak Prescott, Tom Brady, and more. This is a huge question for the Seahawks and something they need to have answered by Week 1.