At the conclusion of the 2017 regular season, the Managing Editors of the teams in the NFC West here at fullpresscoverage.com got together for a roundtable. Only one team from the division will be appearing in the playoffs, the Rams taking the division crown. Now, we will quickly introduce our staff and get going:
Andrew Kelly – Managing Editor, Rams
Danny Justik – Managing Editor, Seahawks
Ryan Adverderada – Managing Editor, Cardinals
Ricky Castro – Managing Editor, 49ers
1) What team in the NFC West has been the biggest surprise for you this season?
Andrew – The Rams are undoubtedly the biggest surprise in the NFC West this season. After the dog days of Jeff Fisher, they have exploded and found new life under Sean McVay. In my season preview article, I predicted the Rams as a seven-win team and certainly did not believe they had the ability to be the highest scoring offense in the NFL and win 11 games. Without a doubt, the Rams have a case to be made as the most surprising team in the NFL.
Danny – The Rams are the most surprising team in the division, and probably the most surprising in the league. They looked like a team that was destined for a long rebuild with a first-time coach at the helm. But they have meshed their talent together perfectly and it has led them to win the division this year, and they are geared for long-term success.
Ryan – The biggest surprise has to be the Rams. Everyone assumed they’d be better than what was on the field when Jeff Fisher was the head coach. However, Sean McVay’s team has blown past expectations. The team already had talent on paper but seeing Jared Goff play well is the difference. He isn’t where he needs to be quite yet, but Goff and the offense are beginning to match the defense in terms of ability.
Ricky – The biggest surprise team of the season in the NFC West are the Los Angeles Rams. Coach Sean McVay has put Jared Goff in positions to succeed and transformed the offense into a juggernaut to be reckoned with. He is paired up with veteran and super bowl champion defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. McVay can lean on Phillips in times of need and does not need to worry about the defensive side of the ball to concentrate on the offense. Phillips has pro bowl talent on his side of the ball with defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Linebacker Alec Ogletree to give offensive coordinators headaches for years to come.
2) Who is the division MVP?
Andrew – Todd Gurley is the division MVP. Before the Rams’ matchup with Seattle in week 14, my answer would have been Russell Wilson. However, Gurley’s eruption in that game and Wilson’s poor performance solidified the running back’s enormous value to his team. Erupting for eight touchdowns down the Rams’ final three games, Gurley did everything necessary to get his team to the playoffs.
Danny – Todd Gurley would be the obvious answer because of L.A.’s success and how good he has been this season. But Russell Wilson is the division’s MVP this season. He has accounted for more than 80 percent of the Seahawks offense and leads the team in rushing. So even though the Seahawks have not had the success they wanted this season, they could easily be a 4-win team without Wilson.
Ryan – We can’t name a coach as an MVP right? Jokes aside, I think it comes down to Russell Wilson and Todd Gurley. Both men are keys to their team’s success and frankly, I can’t see either of them being out for an extended period of time without the Rams or Seahawks falling apart. Perhaps because his role is more important, the nod goes to Wilson.
Ricky – The division MVP, as well as the NFL MVP, is Todd Gurley. His versatility on offense makes him the catalyst for the Rams ground and passing game.
3) With the emergence of Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco, are the Niners closer to contending than you originally thought?
Andrew – The 49ers are certainly much closer to contending than I thought they would be. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan seemed to be headed the right direction, but the performance of Garoppolo down the stretch proved they are closer than normal. I would not be surprised to see San Francisco battling for wild card position in a year or two if Lynch makes good moves on draft day.
Danny – San Francisco’s rebuild is almost complete with the addition of Garoppolo. Instead of trying to find their quarterback this offseason, the 49ers’ front office can now surround Garoppolo with talent. So yes, they are much closer to contending than they would have been without the addition of Garoppolo.
Ryan – Going into the season it seemed that the 49ers were 2-3 years from even contending for a wild card spot. The revelation that is Jimmy G has sped that up quite a bit. Depending on how well Lynch and Shanahan can add to this year’s roster, I could see the 49ers contending for a playoff spot as quickly as next season.
Ricky – I believe so. The quarterback position is one of the most difficult to scout in the NFL and Jimmy Garoppolo has all of the skills to be elite. Furthermore, he has actually been proving it on a consistent basis week after week.
4) What do you see as this season’s Super Bowl matchup?
Andrew – I predict that the Rams will face the Patriots in the Super Bowl. However, I would not be surprised to see the Vikings in the big game either. Minnesota and the Rams are both exceptionally well-rounded teams and I believe the winner of their potential second-round playoff matchup if the Rams get past the Falcons, will be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl.
Danny – Minnesota vs. Jacksonville. The Vikings are a very well rounded team that is able to be the best team in every facet. They don’t have the star players to take over a game but have players that fit their roles and do what’s necessary to win. The Jaguars have a defense that could shut down anyone’s offense. They also utilize a ground game that will keep the tempo on their side. Both will have a tough hill to climb to get to the Super Bowl, but they have the personnel to do it.
Ryan – Before the season started I thought it’d be an Oakland v. Seattle matchup. Thankfully that was the wrong choice! In the NFC it will come down to matchups. New Orleans and Atlanta have teams that can do serious damage but are inconsistent. Same can be said for Pittsburgh in the AFC after their loss to the Patriots. In the end, it’s probably going to be New England from the AFC and Carolina from the NFC.
Ricky – This is a tough question. From the NFC, I think either the LA Rams or the Minnesota Vikings will make it to the Super Bowl. From the AFC, I think the New England Patriots or the Jacksonville Jaguars will go to the big game.
5) What change does your team need to make most in the offseason?
Andrew – The Rams need to prioritize edge players in the offseason. Robert Quinn is aging and, despite his play down the stretch, is not worth his big contract. While Quinn may be willing to negotiate, the Rams still need to find more youth. Connor Barwin is another aging veteran on the edge for the Rams and he has been ineffective all season.
Danny – The biggest change that Seattle needs to make is a change at offensive coordinator. The offense lacks creativity and it lacks the ability to establish a run game. Most of the offense relies on Wilson improvising, and not on designed plays from the coordinator. They need a new face in charge of the offense to revitalize this offense.
Ryan – There are a lot of things to begin with but we’ll focus on two of them. The biggest thing is fixing the offensive line. Injuries and poor team building has led to a line near the top of the league for most sacks surrendered. The only guy who looks worth being there is left tackle D.J. Humphries who is currently on IR. It might be worth keeping Boone another season but he struggles in pass protection. The second thing the Cardinals need to figure out is what they want to do at quarterback. If Palmer comes back then it’s obviously a “last hurrah” type of season next year. If he’s gone, it’s time to look at the current crop of quarterbacks in the upcoming draft. Something needs to be done at the position.
Ricky – The San Francisco 49ers need to upgrade their Wide Receivers corps. Besides leading wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, capable tight ends George Kittle and Garrett Celek; the 49ers need to give Jimmy Garoppolo more weapons on offense for a chance at playoff hopes in years to come. The Niners can do this via the 2018 draft where there is a plethora of wide receivers like a James Washington from Oklahoma State. Most mock drafts have the 49ers taking running back Saquon Barkley from Penn State. Barkley would be the best offensive weapon in the draft and he would certainly be welcomed in the Bay Area. However, the wide receiver issue does need to be addressed in this draft. John Lynch and Paraag Marathe have earned the trust to get the right weapons for Garoppolo.