Going into the 2021 season, it’s easy to see why the NFC West will be among the best divisions in the NFL once again.
The San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals combined to win 36 games last season, second to only the AFC North teams, who totaled 38 victories. Since 2011, Seattle has won the division four times, San Francisco (three), L.A. (two), Arizona (one).
The Niners likely would have been better than their 6-10 record had they not suffered an unprecedented amount of injuries.
Next season will be another hyper-competitive one for the NFC West. The Rams added veteran QB Matthew Stafford via trade. Russell Wilson will lead the Seahawks, while the Cardinals will try and continue to improve with 2019 No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray at the helm.
Although all four NFC West teams appear to be set at QB, each does come with some question marks. The 49ers added rookie Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick, and he will come in and compete with incumbent starter Jimmy Garoppolo for a starting position.
There was some drama between Wilson and the Seahawks front office earlier in the offseason. Wilson voiced his displeasure with the lack of protection offered by his offensive line, and it remains to be seen if he will be in the Pacific Northwest after next season.
It will also be interesting to see Stafford’s fit in Sean McVay’s offense. Stafford has never won a playoff game over his 12-year career with the Detroit Lions and is now being tasked with trying to lead the Rams to a Super Bowl.
Murray has been inconsistent over his first two years in the league. Although he is one of the best running QBs in the NFL, his passing numbers haven’t been overly impressive. The Cardinals lost five out of their final seven games in 2020 and failed to make the playoffs as a result.
Here is a look at how each of the NFC West QBs did last season.
Wilson completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 4,212 yards, 40 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His performance tailed off over the second half of the schedule. Wilson threw for more than 300 yards five times over the first eight games. He never had more than 265 passing yards for the final eight contests. Wilson was eighth in QBR last season, but he was near the middle of the pack of all NFL QBs in yards per completion (18th) and yards per attempt (14th).
Still, Wilson led a Seattle team with a below-average defense to a 12-4 record. His ability to elude defenders and extend plays makes him one of the most dangerous QBs in the NFL. Since he took over as the starter in 20212, the Seahawks have only failed to qualify for the postseason once.
Wilson’s presence on the roster means you can’t sleep on Seattle. His past seasons indicate that the Seahawks will remain a playoff contender as long as Wilson is under center.
Stafford is coming from a franchise where expectations have consistently been low. The Lions only made the playoffs three times during Stafford’s 12-year tenure with the team. That doesn’t fall squarely on the QB.
But expectations will be different in L.A. The Rams had the best defense in the league last season and have talent on both sides of the ball. Stafford completed 64.2 percent of his passes with Detroit last season for 4,084 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 picks. He should help open the playbook or McVay, who can take more shots down the field than he could with Jared Goff.
Stafford ranked fifth in the NFL in yards per completion, 10th in yards per attempt and 13th in adjusted net yards per attempt. Stafford doesn’t possess the mobility of Goff, but he afar-and-away has the superior arm talent.
Murray does a ton of damage with his feet. He ran for 819 yards last season, which ranked 17th among all NFL players. His 6.2 yards per attempt was second in the league. Murray ranked 11th in completion percentage and threw for 3,971 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He failed to push the ball down the field regularly, finishing in the bottom third among all NFL quarterbacks in yards per completion and net yards per attempt.
Arizona’s head coach Kliff Kingsbury will need to put Murray in a situation to succeed next season if he wants to maintain some job security. Murray is going into his third season and has to get the Cardinals into the postseason to quell any doubts about his future.
San Francisco will have options in 2021. Head coach Kyle Shanahan has repeatedly said that the team intends on keeping Garoppolo for at least next season, but that could change if Lance outperforms the veteran during training camp. Ankle injuries limited Garoppolo to just six games last season, but he has proven he can play at a high level when healthy.
When he was able to stay on the field for the entire 2019 season, Garoppolo ranked among the best QBs in several passing categories.
69.1 completion percentage (No. 4)
8.3 average yards per attempt No. 9)
12.1 yards per completion (tied for No. 4)
7.22 average net yards per attempt (No. 10)
102.0 quarterback rating (No. 8)
Four game-winning drives (tied for No. 2)
The question mark with Garoppolo remains his ability to stay on the field. He has missed 23 starts over the previous three seasons. But even if he does suffer another long-term injury in 2021, the 49ers will have a QB that Shanahan feels confident that he can win with in Lance.
The NFC West is going to be a bloodbath again next season. The four teams are consistently ranked amongst the top 15 in the league, making it the toughest division in football to win.
How do you rank each NFC West teams’ QB situation going into next season?