2016 Finish: Seattle, Arizona, Los Angeles, San Francisco
Overall Notes: Seattle is a great team. Then there’s the rest.
2016 Record: 10-5-1 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.8)
2016 Division Rank: 1st
2016 Injury Rank: 5th
2017 Age Rank: 13th
2016 DVOA Overall 11th (O/D/ST): (16th / 5th / 15th)
Russell Wilson is a very good QB.He has a number of good targets like Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. There are questions at RB and on the line, though. I think they’ll stay in the about the same range on offensive DVOA.
The defense is very good and the addition of Sheldon Richardson shouldn’t hurt. My big concern here is that their defensive backfield is getting up there in age. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman get dinged up, and that could be a major problem.
However, they are the class of the division. Even if they get hit by injuries, which I expect, they will still be 11-5 and win the division and fight for the first seed.
Los Angeles Rams
2016 Record: 4-12 (Pythagorean Wins: 3.3)
2016 Division Rank: 3rd
2016 Injury Rank: 1st
2017 Age Rank: 2nd
2016 DVOA Overall 30th (O/D/ST): (32nd / 15th / 3rd)
Two players shape this season for the Rams, Jared Goff and Aaron Donald.
This team was awful on offense last year, but there’s a chance they’ll be much better this year simply because Jeff Fisher, one of the worst coaches ever, has finally gotten the pink slip he has deserved for years. Without Fisher, Goff has a chance to develop. If he does, then this offense could be pretty good, actually. Todd Gurley is a very good RB. I really like what they did with their WRs this year, especially adding Sammy Watkins. He’ll be hampered by a mediocre offensive line, though.
The defense was average last year, and that was in part because of how good Aaron Donald was. Take him out of the equation and there are problems, and he’s holding out. The good news is that the defense is young and might improve enough without him to stay about the same.
I think Goff takes a step forward and makes this team average on offense. Being one of the youngest teams in the league I think they steal a victory or two from older teams late in the year. If Donald comes back and plays well, they could even do a little better.
Still, this team has a long way to go. I think they show great improvement and end up 7-9.
2016 Record: 7-8-1 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.4)
2016 Division Rank: 2nd
2016 Injury Rank: 19th
2017 Age Rank: 32nd
2016 DVOA Overall 16th (O/D/ST): (21st / 3rd / 30th)
Arizona has been a real popular pick. I don’t see it. Carson Palmer has to stay healthy for them to be great. He wasn’t all that good last year, though, and he’s 37. I think he’ll be mediocre at best, which is basically what he was last year even though he amassed 4233 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are weapons on this offense. David Johnson is fantastic. Larry Fitzgerald is a first ballot hall-of-famer and while he’s not at his peak he’s still very good. But even with all of that and a healthy Palmer, they were only 21st on offensive DVOA. They’ll be worse this year, and if Palmer goes down they’ll be really bad.
The defense is very good, as can easily be seen with the DVOA rank of 3rd. However, it’s old. *If* everyone stays healthy, this team will continue to have a good defense. If they get hit hard or if the veterans regress? They’ll step back. Combined with that offense, that’s a bad thing.
I’m really down on this team. I think 7-9 is their ceiling, and frankly I expect 5-11. Injuries will happen, and they have a razor thin margin.
San Francisco 49ers
2016 Record: 2-14 (Pythagorean Wins: 3.9)
2016 Division Rank: 4th
2016 Injury Rank: 24th
2017 Age Rank: 10th
2016 DVOA Overall 28th (O/D/ST): (23rd / 28th / 17th)
Neither Brian Hoyer nor C.J. Beathard strike fear in anyone, except of course fans of their teams. The rest of the offense has a few good players, though Joe Staley is not as good as he once was. However, this will be one of the worst offenses in the NFL.
The defense will dramatically improve, though. DeForest Buckner was already turning into something. Add Arik Armstead, Ron Blair, and Solomon Thomas and you have a young and good defensive line. If Reuben Foster is healthy, they’ll be pretty good at linebacker. They’ve got some interesting backs too. I think this defense will be at least average, trending towards really good.
I don’t think the 49ers will improve much overall, though I think they’ll match this past year’s Pythagorean record and go 4-12. However, if they can make some improvements on the offense in future years, this defense can be impressive.