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NFC West: 2017 NFL Division Previews
AccuScore wraps up its 2017 NFC Division previews with a look out West, where the Seahawks are expected to rise up as one of the conference’s elite teams.
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Will The Cardinals Return to the Playoffs?
The Arizona Cardinals were unable to continue their playoffs streak last year after a team coached by Bruce Arians ended the season with single digit wins for the first time ever. QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald aren’t getting any younger, but Accuscore’s season simulations reveal that Cardinals are in the playoff mix in the NFC, even if they’re not favorites to win the division.
According to AccuScore’s 10,000 simulations, Arizona is projected to win 9 games. Division games against the San Francisco 49ers and the LA Rams, both of which don’t expect to be good, assist the Cardinals’ projections.
The main changes come on the defensive side of the ball. The Cardinals lost starters DE Calais Campbell, Safeties Tony Jefferson and D.J.Swearinger, linebackers Kevin Minter and Alex Okafor. It would be big task for others to fill these gaps. Additions Antonie Bethea (SS), Karlos Dansby (LB) and Jarvis Jones (LB) are well known players, but the Cardinals will need some of the players already on the roster to take a step forward to help plug the gaps.
Fantasy Analysis: Arizona Cardinals
On the fantasy front QB Carson Palmer is predicted to be Top 20 among other signal callers. The same applies to Larry Fitzgerald on the receivers group, though neither Palmer or Fitzgerald are Top 10 guys at this point in their careers. Even with the changes in defense, Accuscore fantasy prediction shows the Cardinals’ defense and special teams as a sixth best fantasy point collector during the season. Of course, playing teams like the 49ers and Rams twice helps those averages.
The best running back in the league and arguably the no. 1 pick for your fantasy draft is David Johnson, who collected over 2,000 combined yards rushing and receiving with 20 touchdowns in 2016.
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Best team in LA?
The Los Angeles Rams will get local competition as the LA Chargers have moved into town and will look to steal some of the vast LA sports market. The first season for the Rams in LA wasn’t memorable, as they closed the season on seven straight losses with Jared Goff under center. Goff’s performance under first year coach Sean McVay will play a major role in the Rams’ season to come.
The Rams are still heavy in the rebuild, and AccuScore gives the Rams less than a 1% chance of winning the division over Seattle and Arizona.
The biggest offseason move was the departure of the Rams’ first 1,000-yard receiver in a decade, Kenny Britt. The team looks to be forming a new receiving corps led by Cooper Kupp, Nelson Spruce, Mike Thomas and Josh Reynolds. Also, a trade for Sammy Watkins gives Goff and defenses a clear no. 1 target to focus on. In addition, the Rams improved the offensive line with veteran tackle Andrew Whitworth from Cincinnati. There were also few chances on defensive backfield, but those are not making any notable differences in the simulations.
Fantasy Analysis: LA Rams
For fantasy players last season, Todd Gurley ultimately destroyed teams that wasted a top pick on the running back. However, the drop in value provides the perfect opportunity to pick up Gurley this season. Accuscore projections show that he should bounce back at least a bit from last season’s under 900 rushing yards. AccuScore predicts that Gurley should collect enough fantasy points to rank him as one of the top10 RBs in 2017. As far as that goes, the Rams do not boast any other Top 10 fantasy players.
New Start in San Francisco
The San Francisco 49ers did a complete house cleaning after the tumultuous years that followed Jim Harbaugh’s tenure. New head coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch bring a new hope and a new culture, but San Franciso is now in the early days of a brand new rebuild. That said, Accuscore predicts that San Francisco will double the amount of win total from the two to four this season.
Obviously, four wins is not exactly a blueprint to make the postseason, but the team is expected to improve on 2016’s awful year. With Arizona and Seattle in the division, though, San Francisco’s chances of winning the division are nearly non-existent.
When a team has a new front office, a head coach and is coming off a 2-14 season, very few jobs are safe. The 49ers did a fair bit of work in the draft, but the level of success usually takes time to evaluate. Notable additions are new QB tandem Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley from Chicago. Also new target for those quarterback is veteran wide out Pierre Garcon. Garcon should improve the passing game that was the dead last season—provided he can stay healthy.
Fantasy Analysis: San Francisco 49ers
As one would expect, San Francisco is not stacked full of top fantasy player. RB Carlos Hyde should rush for another 1000-yard season, and those numbers would put his just outside the top 15 in RBs in fantasy points. Brian Hoyer is predicted to be 28th on the QB scale, and Pierre Garcon is ranked 48th within their respective wide receivers. The defense is projected to be ranked 27th, so Hyde is probably the only player worth focusing on from San Francisco.
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Steady Seattle Seahawks
Five years in a row, the Seattle Seahawks have reached the postseason. Of course, that period of time is defined by two trips to the Super Bowl and one victory in the big game. This season is not going to be very different, as AccuScore projects the Seahawks to collect 12 wins—1.5 more than a year ago. In fact, AccuScore is projecting Seattle to finish first in the NFC, not just the NFC West. AccuScore predicts the Seahawks’ playoff streak will reach six straight seasons with roughly 90% probability.
Notably, Seattle travels to Lambeau field in Week 1, and AccuScore projects the Packers and Seahawks to finish as the top two teams in the NFC.
The Seahawks were hardly in need of massive changes. The most interesting move is to boost up the rushing game that dropped from 3rd in 2015 to 25th in 25th. Marshawn Lynch had something to do with that. Former Packer Eddie Lacy looks to help the Seahawks bounce back in the running department.
Fantasy Analysis: Seattle Seahawks
Seattle’s stingy defense is ranked second in Accuscore fantasy projections. There are few other players at the very top of the respective position ranks. Russell Wilson is number 3 on the QB ranks, and Doug Baldwin slots into the same elite company among WRs. List of Top 3 fantasy players is completed by TE Jimmy Graham, who is projected to reach 1,000 yards receiving first time since 2013 season.