NFC West Preview: San Francisco 49ers Look to Run it Back

Posted on: August 26, 2023, 11:26h. 

Last updated on: August 27, 2023, 12:20h.

It’s a two-team race in the NFC West between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers are -160 odds to defend their NFC West title, and the Seahawks are +195 odds to win the division as the 49ers’ closest competition.

Christian McCaffrey 49ers
San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey stiffarms a defender from the Tampa Bay Bucs in Week 14 at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara. (Image: Getty)

The Los Angeles Rams (+1000) and Arizona Cardinals (+2500) are long shots to win the NFC West, and both are projected to have losing seasons.

Each team in the NFC West has won at least one division crown since 2014. Their last repeat winner occurred in 2014 when the Seahawks won back-to-back division titles.

The hyper-competitive NFC West sent six division winners to the Super Bowl since 2012, including two champions with the 2013 Seahawks and the 2021 Rams.

The NFC West division winner has also advanced to the NFC Championship nine times since 2011. The NFC Championship game featured two teams from the NFC West in two instances since 2013.

Two teams from the NFC West qualified for the playoffs last year. The 49ers squared off against the Seahawks in Wild Card Weekend, and the 49ers prevailed. The 49ers won two playoff games before they were eliminated in the NFC Championship by the Philadelphia Eagles.

San Francisco 49ers: Super Bowl or Bust

  • NFC West Odds: -160
  • Super Bowl Odds: +1000
  • 2022 Record: 13-4
  • 2023 Win Total: 10.5 o/u

The 49ers caught a wave of bad luck with quarterback injuries last season. Starter Trey Lance broke his right ankle in Week 2. Jimmy Garoppolo fractured his foot in December, which forced rookie quarterback Brock Purdy into action.

Purdy helped the 49ers lock up a division title, leading them to two playoff victories. The 49ers saw their season come to a disappointing halt when Purdy sustained a serious elbow injury midway through the first quarter of the NFC Championship.

The 49ers seek their first back-to-back division titles since the 2011 and 2012 seasons. They’re +1000 odds to win the Super Bowl as the fourth-highest team on DraftKings’ NFL futures board. They’re +400 odds to win the NFC Championship and second overall behind the Eagles (+250).

Running back Christian McCaffery gets a chance to play his first full season with the 49ers after joining the team in a trade last November.

The 49ers named a fully recovered Purdy as the Week 1 starter. Sam Darnold signed with the team in the offseason and will take on backup QB duties. Lance expected to compete with Purdy for the starting position, but he was relegated to third-string before the 49ers traded him to the Dallas Cowboys for a fourth-round pick.

In 2021, the 49ers traded three-first round picks and a third-round pick to the Miami Dolphins to move up in the 2021 NFL Draft and acquire Lance with the third-overall pick. After a disappointing two seasons, the 49ers  traded Lance for a fourth-rounder.

Seattle Seahawks: Setback or Legit Threat?

  • NFC West Odds: +195
  • Super Bowl Odds: +3000
  • 2022 Record: 9-8
  • 2023 Win Total: 10.5 o/u

Prognosticators expected the Seahawks would be among the worst teams in the NFC last season after they traded quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. The Seahawks were assigned a win total of 5.5 games entering the 2022 season.

Backup quarterback Geno Smith won the starting job and silenced the so-called experts with a sensational performance. Smith won NFL Comeback Player of the Year, leading the Seahawks to a 9-8 record and an NFC Wild Card berth.

The Seahawks were a sleeper team last season, but they’re on everyone’s radar this season. If you pay close attention to the win totals, the Seahawks and 49ers have the same 10.5 over/under projection. Yet, the 49ers are the consensus favorite to win the division at -160 odds versus +195 for the Seahawks.

The offense is complimented by two standout wide receivers, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. The Seahawks also drafted Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who was considered one of the top rookie wide receivers in his draft class. Smith-Njigba had a setback when he fractured his wrist in the preseason and underwent surgery. Seahawks think Smith-Njigb could still be ready in Week 1 when they host the Rams.

The Seahawks are -120 odds to make the playoffs and +100 odds to miss the postseason, according to a prop bet by DraftKings.

The Seahawks benefit from playing home games at Lumen Field in Seattle, the loudest stadium in the NFL. This season’s non-divisional home games include the Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles, and Pittsburgh Steelers. Only one of those teams boasted a winning record last season.

L.A. Rams: McVay’s Rebuilding Year

  • NFC West Odds: +1000
  • Super Bowl Odds: +8000
  • 2022 Record: 5-12
  • 2023 Win Total: 6.5 o/u

The Rams suffered a brutal hangover in 2022 after winning the Super Bowl in the previous season. The Rams were so bad that they missed the playoffs with a 5-12 record.

Injuries haunted the 2022 Rams. They lost Cooper Kupp, the Super Bowl MVP and one of the top wide receivers in the NFL, to a season-ending ankle injury in November. Quarterback Matthew Stafford missed eight games due to multiple concussions and a spinal cord contusion.

Kupp and Stafford appeared healthy during training camp, but the Rams find themselves in a rebuilding year. Sean McVay will have to pull out every trick in his playbook to avoid consecutive losing seasons for the first time in his career as a head coach.

The Rams have a win total of 6.5 o/u because they face a difficult schedule with a front-loaded first nine games. They could start the season 1-4, and it’s a strong possibility they hobble into the bye week with a 3-6 record. If the Rams can finish the season on a strong note, they could exceed their initial win total.

The Rams are at +1000 odds to win the NFC West and a long shot to win the Super Bowl at +8000 odds.

Arizona Cardinals: CTRL+ALT+DELETE

  • NFC West Odds: +2500
  • Super Bowl Odds: +20000
  • 2022 Record: 4-13
  • 2023 Win Total: 4.5 o/u

The Cardinals have a new regime after they fired head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim stepped down in January.

Monti Ossenfort became the new GM, and Jonathan Gannon was hired to replace Kingsbury as head coach. Gannon was the defensive coordinator of the Eagles in the previous two seasons, and he led them to a berth in Super Bowl LVII. The Cardinals also have a new offensive coordinator, Drew Petzing, who spent last season as the quarterbacks coach of the Cleveland Browns.

Quarterback Kyler Murray tore his ACL last December, and he’s expected to miss the start of the season. There is no timetable for Murray’s return, and the Cardinals are in no rush to bring him back while the Cardinals are at the start of a reboot.

Colt McCoy was penciled in as the starter, but Gannon and Petzing are not 100% sold on the veteran backup. The Cardinals acquired Joshua Dobbs in a trade with the Browns to bolster their quarterback room. Dobbs has to get up to speed with the playbook, but he could challenge McCoy for the starting role.

The Cardinals won four games last season, and only the Chicago Bears (3-14) had a worst record in 2022. The outlook is grim again for the Cardinals, who are expected to finish in last place in the NFC West in consecutive seasons with a win total of 4.5 o/u.

The Cardinals are a long shot to win the NFC West at +2500 odds and an astronomical long shot to win the Super Bowl at +20000 odds.