Who will win the NFC West in 2016?

The Arizona Cardinals won the NFC West in 2015. The Cardinals are talented enough to win it again. The Seattle Seahawks will have something to say about that. This division will be a two team race in 2016. Who will get to the finish line first?

The Arizona Cardinals will barely squeak past and win the NFC West this season.

The Arizona Cardinals finished with the second best record in the NFL in 2015. The Cardinals’ 13-3 record placed them at the top of the NFC West division for the first time since the 2009 season.

The Arizona offense ranked first in the league in 2015. A prolific passing attack and dynamic running game resulted in the unit’s ability to overwhelm opposing teams. The defense played very well. The Cardinals ranked eighth overall behind stout pass coverage, run stuffing and the ability to force turnovers.

Arizona defeated the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the NFL Playoffs. They easily lost to the NFC South champion Carolina Panthers in the conference championship game. Expectations are high for the Cardinals in 2016. This team could contend for a Superbowl championship.

The offense will be one of the league’s best this season. Quarterback Carson Palmer is coming off the best regular season of his career. Running back David Johnson looks like the real deal in the backfield. Wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd will continue to terrorize opposing defenses outside and in the slot.

The Cardinals’ defense is one of the league’s most consistent units. Their ability to force turnovers ranks at the top of the NFL. They will need to repeat this performance in 2016. Pass coverage and run stuffing abilities are both strong.

The only glaring weakness is the pass rush. The Cardinals totaled only 36 sacks in 2015. The acquisition of defensive end Chandler Jones will improve Arizona’s ability to get after the opposing quarterback.

This defense is talented all around. 2016 will be another impressive season for this unit.

The Arizona Cardinals are a team with Superbowl aspirations this season. The competition is going to be tough. The Cardinals have the talent and experience to maintain their grip at the top of the NFC West. Win-loss prediction: 12-4

The Seattle Seahawks are reloaded, rejuvenated and refocused.

The Seattle Seahawks finished the 2015 season with a 10-6 record. The Seahawks started the campaign losing four of their first six games. Several factors contributed to the early struggles. Seattle fans began to panic.

The offense found their rhythm. The defense returned to dominant form. Seattle finished the season with an 8-2 record. The Seahawks defeated the NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings in the first round. They fell behind by 31 points to the NFC South champion Carolina Panthers in the second round. Despite a massive comeback, Seattle’s season ended by seven points to the Panthers.

The “12th man” is confident in their team’s ability to reach the Superbowl once again this season. The Seahawks will be one of the favorites to win it all in 2016.

The offense flashed championship potential during the second half of the 2015 season. Quarterback Russell Wilson is expected to contend for the MVP award. Wide receivers Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett are talented enough and believe in Wilson.

Running back Thomas Rawls and tight end Jimmy Graham will both be healthy. Rawls flashed superstar potential and Graham is an already established star. This offense is deep, talented and explosive enough to do real damage in the NFC.

Of course, the success of the offense stems from whether or not the offensive line can hold its own. They struggled in 2015. They do not look much better for 2016. Maybe they will be a surprise story.

The defense will resemble the 2014 version. Year two under defensive coordinator Kris Richard will see improvements. Seattle’s ability to stop of the run was the best in 2015. This is one of the many foundations of their overall success. The run defense will remain in the top-five in 2016.

The linebacker core is rather thin. Several role players will need to become key contributors this season. There is still talent at this position.

The secondary was thin and beat up in 2015. It is reloaded and 100 percent healthy this season. The “Legion of Boom” will return to typical form with three All-Pros anchoring the back end. Depth is at a premium in 2016. Seattle will have 11 defensive backs on the roster.

A refocused and healthy Seattle defense will wreck the league this season.

The Seattle Seahawks are loaded on both sides of the ball. Barring any injuries to key players, the Seahawks will be one of the league’s most dangerous teams. A potentially top-10 offense and another elite defense will make this team tough to deal with in 2016. Win-loss predictions: 11-5

The Rams are back in Los Angeles, but there will be no Hollywood ending this year.

The Rams are back in Los Angeles for the first time since the 1994 season. The final season in St. Louis consisted of another 7-9 record in 2015. The pressure is on head coach Jeff Fisher to put up or shut up in 2016. General manager Les Snead is also on the clock.

The Rams offense stunk in 2015. This unit ranked dead last in passing yards and points scored. Los Angeles selected quarterback Jared Goff with the first overall NFL Draft pick this year. The organization, however, does not believe Goff is ready to start for the team. Backup quarterback Case Keenum is the starter until further notice.

The wide receivers stunk in 2015. Nobody reached 800 total receiving yards. Kenny Britt came the cloest with 681 total yards. Someone needs to step up and become the primary target in 2016. Enough is enough with this nonsense.

Running back Todd Gurley played outstanding football in 2015. The NFC Rookie of the Year will only get better this season. Gurley is the only consistent bright spot. That is great. That is also sad. Here’s to hoping the offensive line can play well enough to not only allow Gurley to have another strong performance, but also keep him healthy.

The defense is talented in multiple areas. The secondary did suffer key losses during the off-season. The back four will be thin. Their youth and inexperience will likely be exposed. The linebackers are solid, but need to improve against the run. The defensive line is where the most talent exists. A healthy Rams front four is among the NFL’s best.

Getting after the opposing quarterback is their specialty. There is talent in place. A slightly above average linebacker core and inexperienced secondary will nullify a quality pass rush from the front four. Los Angeles will display a slightly above average defense in 2016.

The Rams have something to prove. The Los Angeles spotlight is shining brighter than ever. Fisher and Snead need to figure out a way to pull this franchise out of toiling mediocrity. It will not happen immediately. Positive signs for the future need to be eminent in 2016. Win-loss prediction: 6-10

The San Francisco 49ers will be the worst team in the NFL in 2016.

The San Francisco 49ers embarrassed themselves in 2015. The 49ers finished with an overall record of 5-11. Not much can be said about a team that stunk on both sides of the ball.

Head coach Jim Tomsula was shown the door. Former Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly was introduced as the next man in charge. Kelly blundered his way out of Philadelphia in 2015. He is looking to start over in San Francisco.

The direction of the offense will be determined based on who ends up being the starting quarterback. Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick will compete to see which one is worthy enough for the gig. Fans believe neither one is good enough. One of these two will get the job, however.

The receiving core is weak. Veteran Torrey Smith is about the only legitimate threat in the passing game. Running back Carlos Hyde flashed potential in 2015. He needs to show more ability in 2016. The offensive line is not horrific. This unit does need to improve in pass protection, however.

The main concern is whether or not the offense can adjust to Kelly’s uptempo system.

San Francisco’s defense embarrassed themselves in 2015. It was expected. Talent does exist. It is not nearly enough to believe significant improvements will be made. The pass rush suffered mightily. It does not look like it will get any better. The 49ers cannot stop the run. The pass coverage is not the worst in the league. It is still bad, though.

This defense will be one of the NFL’s worst in 2016.

Kelly has his work cut out for him. The San Francisco 49ers are putting their faith in him to turn this franchise around. It will not result in much success this season. The 49ers will be the worst team in the National Football League. Win-loss prediction: 3-13

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