The Seahawks appear loaded again and poised to make the playoffs for the sixth straight year in 2017. How much competition will they face from the rest of their division?
The Seahawks could very well head back to the Super Bowl this year on the back of their newly-healthy defense, improved offensive line (hopefully), and running game from last season. They appear to have the talent in place for another deep playoff run, barring injuries, of course.
Over the past few years, the Seahawks have mostly owned the NFC West division, finishing first in three of the past four seasons. What kind of resistance can Seattle expect from their familiar divisional foes this season?
LA Rams (4-12 in 2016)
For a team in a relatively new city with a new coach, the Rams could be in worse shape. Their second-year, highly-touted quarterback, Jared Goff, was brutal last season, but they still boast one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, which makes them unusually adapted to beat the Seahawks. One of the Rams’ four wins in 2016 was against the Seahawks, as is traditional.
Goff can’t be as bad as he was last season, can he? The Rams could be terrible, or they could be surprisingly decent behind 31-year-old head coach Sean McVay. Running back Todd Gurley could bounce back from a disappointing 2016 and give new life to the offense, while taking some pressure off Goff.
San Francisco 49ers (2-14 in 2016)
The 9ers are still rebuilding after the collapse of the Jim Harbaugh era, but they made strides to competency during this offseason. Their NFL Draft went very well for them, considering new General Manager John Lynch had never run one before, baiting Chicago to hand over more draft resources while nabbing pass-rushing stud Soloman Thomas with the third overall pick in the first round. Thomas, along with 2016 draft pick DeForest Buckner, rookie linebacker Reuben Foster, and even veteran Elvis Dumervil, could be a formidable defensive front for the beleaguered Seahawks offensive line.
Former Atlanta Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan could install a decent offensive system as head coach, but their quarterback situation will keep them from serious contention for at least one more year. Brian Hoyer will likely be the best option for Shanahan in San Francisco this year, the kind of quarterback the Seahawks swallow whole.
Arizona Cardinals (7-8-1 in 2016)
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The Cards had a disappointing 2016 despite a talented roster. The key for the Cards, as it has been for the past several seasons, is keeping quarterback Carson Palmer healthy. They’re deep at wide receiver, they’re deep on defense, especially with Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson coming back healthy, and they have one of the best running backs in the NFL in David Johnson.
But, the Cardinals will go as far as Palmer’s arm takes them. They don’t have many options behind him again this year, adding rookie Trevor Knight out of Texas A&M and signing the ever-popular Blaine Gabbert to back up Palmer. I don’t see Arizona winning either of its games against Seattle with Gabbert or the dreaded Drew Stanton at the helm.
The Seahawks will have their hands full with plenty of defensive linemen from all of these teams (including Chandler Jones and Frostee Rucker for Arizona), so their offensive line will have to improve to avoid divisional pitfalls. If they manage to get a push up front, they should handle most of their division rivals in 2017.