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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

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49ers Will Dominate NFC West, Crush Rivals in 2020

Gilbert Brink
May 28, 2020 at 9:56 AM

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There will be no magical "clinch by an inch" moment for the 49ers in 2020. 49ers fans will not have to hold their breaths, feel their hearts stop and then be overwhelmed by joy due to some legendary play made by a man draped in scarlet and white. When San Francsico LB Dre Greenlaw created one of the truly great moments in 49ers history last December by flattening Seahawks TE Jacob Hollister at the goal line on 4th down during the final game of the 2019 NFL season the stakes could not have been higher. In 2020 the 49ers will not wait until Week 17 to prove who is the best in the West. By the time the 49ers host Seattle the biggest question a 49ers fan will have will be: start or sit?

I don't view the 49ers as an unstoppable force heading into the 2020 season. The truth is, the 49ers will most likely be worse than they were in 2019. As has been well documented, the team that loses the Super Bowl often faces some distinct challenges in replicating its success the following season. The notion that the 49ers will be the clear leader of the NFC West has as much to do with the 49ers success as it does the competition that they will be facing. Let's examine the 49ers' division rivals to get a clearer picture of exactly what they will be up against in 2020:

Arizona Cardinals

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

A Fraudulent Bird: WR DeAndre Hopkins is a great addition, and the Cardinals did a fine job of being competitive in 2019. Aside from that, it is very hard to find a reasonable explanation to why the Arizona Cardinals would provide any legitimate competition for the NFC West crown. Some pundits would cite the growth of QB Kyler Murray while being paired with a dominant WR as cause for a serious uptick in wins, but football is so much more than QB-WR connections, and Arizona has issues all over the field. They may be able to beat the 49ers, as their style of QB gives Robert Saleh's defense fits (both games vs. AZ in 2019 were nail-biters) but that's the biggest threat they pose to the defending champs.

The Cardinals have become the Cleveland Browns of 2019, you know, the team that traded for a top WR, has a young QB coming off a good rookie season and now the media has fallen for them. The reality of the those 2019 Browns will be the reality of these 2020 Cardinals. As impressive as QB Kyler Murray was in highlight reels, the numbers tell a different story. Murray may have dazzled with his footwork and mobility, but as a pure passer he didn't shine so bright. The rookie #1 overall draft pick in 2019 trailed behind two fellow rookies when it came to QB rating (Giants Daniel Jones & Jaguars Gardiner Minshew III) while posting a pedestrian 6.9 yards per passing attempt. He certainly was not a bad player, and he does show promise, but his credentials are being grossly over-rated.

Just as the media over-hyped the sophomore QB in Cleveland, it ignored the shortcomings of the head coach as well. It's happening again here in Arizona. Heading into 2019, it was obvious to many that Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens wasn't capable of leading an NFL team. How has Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury convinced anyone he could be a successful coach in the NFL? Here is his track record as a head coach:

  • 2013: Texas Tech 8-5
  • 2014: Texas Tech 4-8
  • 2015: Texas Tech 7-6
  • 2016: Texas Tech 5-7
  • 2017: Texas Tech 6-7
  • 2018: Texas Tech 5-7
  • 2019: AZ Cardinals 5-10-1

Do the math. In total he is 40-50-1 as a Head Coach. What may be more stunning is that during the 2015-2016 seasons he had the phenomenal Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes as his QB and managed a record of 12-13. Does this seem like a coach who can overtake the defending NFC Champs?

Record Prediction: A whimsical, all too sugar coated 7-9.

LA Rams

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LOST Angeles: What the hell happened to the LA Rams? Prior to Super Bowl 53, it looked like HC Sean McVay and QB Jared Goff were primed to become the new terror of the NFC. It's amazing how far they have fallen in such a short period of time. A series of bad contracts and risky trades have put the Rams in a tough position.

No one player serves as a better example for the Rams dysfunction better than CB Jalen Ramsey. As the Rams began to slip early in 2019, they made a desperate move to continue to contend and traded two 1st round picks and a 4th round pick for disgruntled Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey. The Rams stuck around until Week 16 when the 49ers eliminated them on a deep pass that connected with Jalen Ramsey in coverage. It has been all downhill since.

What once looked like a rising power now can't pay its bills. Not only is ex-Rams RB Todd Gurley waiting for his $7m, the team is in need of funds to complete its stadium. It is unheard of for a major American pro sports franchise to have this type of financial trouble. Its off-the-field struggles outweigh its on-the-field issues, but it's hard not to imagine the two melding into a compounded mess in 2020. The Rams paid all the wrong people, handing out large contracts to QB Jared Goff, RB Todd Gurley and WR Brandin Cooks. Two of the three no longer play for the franchise. The lone survivor, QB Jared Goff, has been completely exposed. In Super Bowl 53, the Patriots solved the brilliance of Goff by noticing that the Rams would get out of the huddle quickly, allowing McVay to talk to Goff all the way up until the play-clock hit 15 seconds. Bill Belichik simply called in two plays, one as a dummy play to give the Rams a false look, then the real play would go in at 15 seconds. We cannot know if the rest of the league adopted this strategy, but Goff went from a QB who threw 32 TDs and 12 INTs in 2018 to throwing 22 TDs and 16 INTs in 2019. Those numbers tell the story of a below average QB who got paid like an elite franchise QB, and the Rams are doomed with that decision.

The bad trades have led to a lack of draft picks. The bad signings have led to terrible salary cap situation. All of these bad decisions have led to a tremendously short window for success that is now closed. Congratulations Los Angeles, we know you don't care anyway.

Record Prediction: If a team goes 5-11, but nobody watches it, is it still 5-11?

Seattle Seahawks

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A Regression to the Mean: The Seattle Seahawks are clearly the 2nd best team in the NFC West. This is solely due to the fact that Russel Wilson is their quarterback and Pete Carrol is their head coach. This pair has kept the Seattle Seahawks in contention since 2011. While this franchise tends to keep a rabbit's foot and 4-leaf clover in every locker, it is undeniable that both Wilson & Carrol are what keep this team a float.

In the 2019 regular season, the Seahawks played in 12 games where the decision was by 8 points or fewer. Seattle won a remarkable 10 of those 12 games. This type of good fortune is usually unsustainable. A bounce here, a call there, and you win only 8 of those 12 games (still a great number) and the Seahawks are 9-7 instead of 11-5. The 49ers fans can attest to this as the Seahawks handed the 49ers their first loss when 49ers backup K Chase McLaughlin missed the game winning FG in overtime. Nobody expected the Seahawks to be a playoff contender in 2019, and as usual, the ball bounced Seattle's way enough to put it there.

This won't be the case in 2020. Seattle quite simply is not that good of a football team. Defensively it is impotent, allowing nearly 25 points per game. Offensively it is limited by the arcane philosophies of HC Pete Carrol and OC Brian Schottenheimer. Wilson is by far its best player, yet he isn't empowered to put his stamp on the team due to the offensive braintrust in power. Pete Carrol wants the Seahawks to be the 2013 Seahawks but he doesn't realize that he wasn't the vital force to that Super Bowl team. He owes that success to players who are now retired, or playing elsewhere. Shaquil Griffin is not Richard Sherman. Qandre Diggs is not Earl Thomas. Carrol still cannot find the replacements for former pass rushing greats Michael Bennett & Cliff Avril (Ziggy Ansah and JaDaveon Clowney accounted for a total of 5.5 sacks in 2019).

Surrounded by a poor supporting cast, Russel Wilson will drag this team to a respectable record but will pose no threat to the 49ers' championship reclamation.

Record Prediction: A zesty 9-7.

When Will the West be Won?

Expect San Francisco to claim its title in a Week 16 contest vs. Arizona. At this point it will be 11-4 and Seattle will be trailing with a record of 9-6. It will be a joyous day in the Bay.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Yash
    Is this a joke. The Seahawks are gonna win the division with ease
    May 29, 2020 at 10:45 AM
  • Don
    So you admit that the Cards may be able to beat the Niners but say that is no big deal. Loses don't get the Niners to the SB.
    May 29, 2020 at 8:34 AM
  • coastaldave
    Yeah Dude, you just made my day!
    May 28, 2020 at 1:27 PM

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