NFL 2018: NFC West best bet pits Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals

The favorite is obvious in the NFC West. So is the bandwagon pick, so which team is actually the best bet to win in the 2018 NFL season? That comes down to the Seattle Seahawks versus the Arizona Cardinals.

The 2018 NFL season is around the corner. With it come predictions for where teams will finish. Super Bowl odds are obviously the biggest ticket item, but finishes within divisions are worthy of monitoring as well. Let’s wrap up our divisional exploration with the NFC West.

Is there a more fascinating division this year than the NFC West? Will the Los Angeles Rams take over as a dominant force? Will the Seattle Seahawks fade from contention? Will the San Francisco 49ers make the leap everyone is expecting of them? Will anyone watch the Arizona Cardinals? Who will win the west this season?

Two brothers from New York, Dan Salem and Todd Salem, debate the NFL 2018 in today’s NFL Sports Debate.

Todd Salem:

The Rams took the league by storm in 2017 and then doubled down in the offseason and look better on paper. Meanwhile, Seattle took a step back that may continue with another step back this year. San Francisco still finished in last place in ’17, but the 49ers enter 2018 as the second favorites in the West.

The interesting thing about the 49ers is that they hardly look different from the team last season, other than who is starting at quarterback. Jimmy Garoppolo will be behind center from Week 1. In the past, we have had fun with the Garoppolo legend, naming him a future Hall of Famer and other innocent jabs. The truth is, the guy is probably a pretty good quarterback, but the roster around him isn’t good enough to compete for a division title.

There isn’t a game-changing pass catcher on the roster, at wide receiver or tight end. There isn’t a starting running back here, even though the team forked over a boat load of money for Jerick McKinnon. No one on the offense has to be game-planned for other than the quarterback. That makes them pretty easy to defend if the opponent has talent on the defensive side of the ball, which all three peers in the West certainly do.

On their own defense, the 49ers have a number of underachieving or unproven former top draft picks. When has enough time passed to determine someone not a star? San Fran is facing that question over and over again. The odds for a San Francisco bet are not good at all, and neither are the players around Garoppolo.

Los Angeles is a heavy favorite here for a reason. The Rams have oodles of talent. Call me skeptical, though, that the offense can repeat what it did a season ago. There is bound to be a correction for defenses going against Sean McVay, Jared Goff, and company. McVay will be able to correct back, but 2018 will really be our first glimpse at whether he and Goff are truly some of the best at their jobs. Call me crazy, but I want to wait and see that before anointing them.

On defense, the Rams should be elite. It’s as simple as that. The Seahawks defense doesn’t look elite anymore, but it is no slouch. The negative talk (occasionally leaking out even from me in the past) is overblown with this team. In fact, it is the best bet to win the NFC West.

Walk with me here. Everyone is jumping on the San Francisco bandwagon because it finally has a difference-making quarterback. Is anyone a bigger part of their own offense than Russell Wilson? Isn’t Garoppolo’s ceiling essentially having the same impact that Wilson already does? So why are the Seahawks such longer shots than San Francisco? It doesn’t make sense.

The defense is not as good as it once was, but there are still All-Pro players in Seattle. Pete Carroll has developed a cornerback factory. Why should that stop now, when the team needs two to make a leap instead of just one?

There are really only two spots that will make or break a Seattle bet: the offensive and defensive lines. Those are important spots! If they don’t materialize, the long odds are proper for this team; it won’t succeed. But what if the men in the trenches do play well? If that happens, Seattle has enough to surely win the division title.

I should probably mention Arizona as well. This team is currently an afterthought in a fascinating division. The Cardinals have really good players at a number of important spots on the field. They were 8-8 a year ago, having played without their best offensive weapon almost all season. Primed for double-digit wins, right? Most likely wrong. Maybe Budda Baker and Haason Reddick break out alongside Patrick Peterson and Chandler Jones, but there are still an awful lot of holes in the lineup. And what is realistically the ceiling of a Sam Bradford-led offense? What about after he gets hurt and Mike Glennon takes over? Unless the Cards turn to Josh Rosen super early, we will find out.

Seattle as my best bet, followed by Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Arizona.

Dan Salem:

You have some really solid logic going here, but in terms of the actual best bet to make, that is not the Seahawks. A depleted roster in Arizona managed to win eight games last year. That team will gain the best running back in the sport once again. David Johnson is top five at worst. The Cardinals also have a decent defense, one that could easily overachieve. Bradford always seems to get hurt, but no one gets injured every year.

Ultimately this is Rosen’s team to lead, and he is the most “pro ready” quarterback of the rookie class. In terms of betting, I would grab the long shot and back Arizona. Bradford and Rosen can both excel with Johnson as their offensive workhorse. Since Seattle is probably not winning this division, the odds are better to jump on the Cardinals’ bandwagon and back the biggest underdog of all.

The Seahawks do have the best quarterback in the NFC West, but unfortunately he still needs more help on offense. Give him David Johnson and Seattle runs away with this thing. That is what makes the Los Angeles Rams so devastating. They too have an incredible running back, paired with an upstart star quarterback. I believe the Rams actually win the NFC West, but they are not a great bet because they are so heavily favored. I still love their defense and they have the complete package. We cannot say that about any of their divisional opponents.

Last but not least are the San Francisco 49ers. They impressed me last season by going undefeated with Garoppolo at quarterback. I expect them to continue to improve, but their defense is not up to snuff in the NFC West. San Francisco may have a good defense, but it will still be a step behind the rest of the division. That will be their undoing during the 2018 NFL season.

This is probably a topic for another debate, but what will become of the Seahawks? You are correct in stating they have a solid defense and a great method for restocking with young players, but Wilson is a superstar and he does not have the offensive support. Do you think he feels stuck, or regrets staying in Seattle? His teams always compete, but have not been serious Super Bowl contenders in several seasons. Every other team with a proven star at quarterback in the NFC has more to work with. I don’t see what gets him over the hump anytime soon, barring a free agency splash by the front office.

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