The NFC West is widely expected to be the best division in football in 2021. All four of its teams have legitimate playoff aspirations. The Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams both made the postseason, the Arizona Cardinals came up just a hair short, and the San Francisco 49ers likely only missed out because of injuries.

The 49ers made the Super Bowl two seasons ago, but went just 6-10 last year as they dealt with a string of health issues. Seattle went 12-4 and they’re the reigning division champs, yet oddsmakers have them as the third-most likely team to win it in 2021. Los Angeles made a big splash by adding Matthew Stafford, and Arizona added some big name veterans as well like J.J. Watt and A.J. Green.

If you’re looking for more in-depth analysis and futures picks ahead of the 2021 NFL season, be sure to check out our predictions for who wins Super Bowl 56, as well as our assessment of which three teams will improve dramatically this year, and which teams will regress. As for individuals, we’ve also taken a look at the main player markets including MVP and Offensive Rookie of the Year.

But for now, let’s break down the NFC West.

San Francisco 49ers (+190)

Super Bowl odds: +1400
2020 record: 
2020 ATS record: 7-9
Coaching hires: Mike McDaniel (OC, promoted) DeMeco Ryans (DC, promoted), James Bettcher (senior defensive assistant)
Top draft picks: Trey Lance (QB), Aaron Banks (OL), Trey Sermon (RB)
Free agency adds: Alex Mack (OL), Tony Jefferson (S), Samson Ebukam (LB), Wayne Gallman (RB), Arden Key (DE), Mohamed Sanu (WR), Zach Kerr (DL), Tavon Wilson (S), Maurice Hurst (DL)
Free agency losses: Richard Sherman (CB), Kendrick Bourne (WR), Tevin Coleman (RB), Jerick McKinnon (RB), Ahkello Witherspoon (DB), Solomon Thomas (DL), Kerry Hyder (DL)

Like I alluded to above health, or the lack thereof, was the story of the 49ers’ 2020 season. San Francisco was on the cusp of a championship the year before, and they’re looking to get back to their old heights in 2021. It’s rare to see a team go 6-10 and then have the lowest odds to win their division the following year, but that’s how unique this 49ers situation is. Just about everybody agrees they’re a lot better than their 2020 record suggests. The big story of *this* season is going to be Trey Lance vs Jimmy Garoppolo. With quarterback drama looming and some uncertainty in the secondary, I’m not quite as sure as everyone else that 2021 will be smooth sailing.

Los Angeles Rams (+200)

Super Bowl odds: +1500
2020 record: 
2020 ATS record: 9-7
Coaching hires: Raheem Morris (DC), Joe DeCamillis (STC)
Top draft picks: Tutu Atwell (WR), Ernest Jones (LB)
Free agency adds: Desean Jackson (WR)
Free agency losses: John Johnson (S), Gerald Everett (TE), Samson Ebukam (LB), Austin Blythe (OL), Troy Hill (CB)

The Rams are pretty much neck and neck with the 49ers in terms of futures odds among NFC West teams. Los Angeles was quiet in free agency, electing to make their big splashes through trades. They pulled off a true blockbuster in acquiring Matthew Stafford from the Lions, and just this week traded for running back Sony Michel. They once again didn’t have a first-round pick due to trades, so receiver Tutu Atwell was their first pick at number 57. Just how good of an offensive mind is head coach Sean McVay? We’re about to find out, since any potential struggles can’t be blamed on Jared Goff any longer. Stafford is in the best situation of his career, and the defense has major star-power with guys like Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey.

Seattle Seahawks (+280)

Super Bowl odds: +2000
2020 record: 
2020 ATS record: 8-8
Coaching hires: Shane Waldron (OC), Carl Smith (associate head coach)
Top draft picks: D’Wayne Eskridge (WR)
Free agency adds: Gerald Everett (TE), Kerry Hyder (DE), Robert Nkemdiche (DT), Al Woods (DT), Ahkello Witherspoon (DB)
Free agency losses: Carlos Hyde (RB), Phillip Dorsett (WR), Shaquill Griffin (CB), Quinton Dunbar (CB), David Moore (WR), Jarran Reed (DT), Jacob Hollister (TE)

The Seahawks went 12-4 and won the NFC West by two games, yet find themselves third in the futures market pecking order behind the 49ers and Rams. What gives? Well for starters, San Francisco and Los Angeles are just each expected to get a lot better. While every other team in the NFC West made some big splashes this offseason, Seattle mostly stood pat other than trading for guard Gabe Jackson. There was a lot of drama surrounding Russell Wilson this offseason, although things seem to have been patched over. The Seahawks also had only one pick in the first three rounds, so there aren’t too many obvious areas for improvement.

Arizona Cardinals (+600)

Super Bowl odds: +4800
2020 record:
2020 ATS record: 7-9
Coaching hires: Shawn Jefferson (WR coach)
Top draft picks: Zaven Collins (LB), Rondale Moore (WR)
Free agency adds: J.J. Watt (DE), Malcolm Butler (CB), A.J. Green (WR), Matt Prater (K), Brian Winters (OL), Colt McCoy (QB), Shawn Williams (S)
Free agency losses: Patrick Peterson (CB), Haason Reddick (LB), Kenyan Drake (RB), Dan Arnold (TE), Angelo Blackson (DE)

Bringing up the rear is the Cardinals. Arizona has a pretty impressive roster for a team expected to finish last in their division. That just goes to show how brutal the NFC West is. The Cards were aggressive in building out the team around Kyler Murray, giving him an extra weapon in A.J. Green while signing J.J. Watt to bolster the pass-rush. Fellow star pass-rusher Chandler Jones isn’t happy with his contract, which threatens to disrupt things. The pressure is on Kliff Kingsbury to deliver this year, and he has his work cut out for him.

NFC West best bet: Rams to win the division (+200)

The Rams are getting a lot of hype after trading for Stafford, and it’s well-deserved. A bet at +200 only has to cash 33 percent of the time to be profitable, and I certainly think Los Angeles has a better than 1/3 chance of winning the division. The Seahawks did virtually nothing to upgrade their roster, and Wilson made it clear this offseason he isn’t too happy with the situation around him. Seattle’s defense was already shaky in the secondary, and then they let top corner Shaquill Griffin walk in free agency.

Everyone is just assuming the 49ers will bounce back to their old level, but that’s misguided. We’re not even sure who is going to be starting at quarterback for them a month from now. If it’s Garoppolo, their ceiling is capped. If it’s Lance, they’ve got a rookie who only even played one college game last year. I don’t see him beating out McVay and Stafford for the division. Kyle Shanahan can only work so much magic. Stafford isn’t just an upgrade from Goff, he’s a dramatic upgrade. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Rams win the NFC West with relative ease.

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