The San Francisco 49ers are the reigning NFC Conference champions and many expect them to defend their title. The Seahawks are the favorite to challenge the 49ers for the NFC West crown. After all, they missed it by a mere 3 inches and if not for a blundered time management issue at the 1-yard line, the Seahawks could have claimed it in glorious fashion with Marshawn Lynch diving over the top.
But is it possible we’re overlooking another team in red to contend for the NFC West division title? Here are 5 reasons the NFC West will come down to a battle between the Seahawks and the Cardinals.
The Cardinals 2019 No. 1 overall pick and franchise quarterback Kyler Murray player had a successful rookie season. Murray threw for 20 TDs against 12 interceptions and 4266 total yards en route to winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Murray led the league in pass attempts among rookies and ranked No. 9 overall with a 64.4 percent completion rate and a rank of 10 in total pass completion. He also ran the ball well, with 544 yards rushing. Expect this trend to move up in 2020 especially with his new #1 receiver, Deandre Hopkins.
Trading for DeAndre Hopkins was one of the biggest early moves of the 2020 offseason. Hopkins brings his 7 touchdown, 104 receptions and 1165 yard production from 2019 to the Cardinals offense. Hopkins is a game-changing receiver with big play, down the field capabilities. Kyler Murray’s touchdowns and passing yardage will see a significant boost with the acquisition of Hopkins.
The San Francisco 49ers had a ten point lead deep in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl and for the second time in Kyle Shanahan’s coaching career watched it slip away in the final minutes of the game. Until Shanahan can prove he can win the big one, there will always be doubt, regardless of how big the lead is. Jimmy Garoppolo had an opportunity to hit a wide open Emmanuel Sanders for a potential game winning touchdown, but badly overthrew him. Now Sanders is gone and so is DT DeForest Buckner. Their star runningback, Raheem Mostert, wants out of San Francisco. The 49ers still have a talented roster, but they are simply not as good on paper as they were in 2019. But what about that Super Bowl hangover? Only eight teams in NFL history have returned to the Super Bowl after losing the Big Game. It’s hard to get back. Just ask the Panthers, Rams, Falcons and yes, the Seahawks.
What does that mean? Russell Wilson had one of the worst defenses in the league last year and a subpar offensive line and an injury ridden backfield and tight-end department and still came one play from getting to the NFC Championship game. Wilson continues to play at an MVP-caliber level (with no MVP votes), putting the team on his shoulders and making plays happen when they aren’t there to be had. 31 TDs to 5 INTs, 4110 yards 66.1% passing completion in 2019, Wilson is a model of consistency, missing the playoffs only once in his 8 year career with the Seahawks. Expect great things from 2nd year receiver DK Metcalf, as well as big catches from his favorite target, Tyler Lockett. But most importantly, the acquisition of veteran TE Greg Olsen in tandem with Will Dissly, and the Seahawks passing game looks to be even more potent this season.
Sure, tight end Greg Olsen in his the twilight of his career and is probably not the same caliber player as he was in 2015 with the Carolina Panthers, but combined with Will Dissly, the 3rd year tight-end from Washington, this tight-end group could be one of the best Seattle’s had in a long time. Dissly’s first two seasons were stellar, just cut short by season-ending leg injuries Last season he had 4 touchdowns in the 6 games he played for 262 yards. Dissly is also a run-blocking stud. Without him, Seattle was forced to bring an extra lineman, George Fant, who clearly was no pass catching threat. If both Dissly and Olsen can stay healthy for most of the season and more importantly down the stretch, watch out for the Seahawks to make a lot of noise in the NFC.