Thursday, September 7, 2023

2023 NFL Predictions: NFC West

Before the start of the season, I will post my division-by-division predictions for the 2023 NFL regular season and postseason.

Instead of projecting an outright winner and loser in all 272 regular-season games, I've assigned a win probability to each team in every game and totaled them up.

Check out our 2023 NFL Predictions page for other divisions.

With that said, here are our early NFC West projections for each team including their win total.

1. San Francisco 49ers - Projected Wins: 10.84

The 49ers gave up a lot to get Trey Lance in 2021, but finding a starting quarterback with the last pick of the draft is anything but irrelevant. Bad jokes aside, Brock Purdy (elbow) appears healthy heading into the season and the 49ers have a talented offensive line and an elite group of pass catchers. On a roster with Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey, efficiency is all that is really needed from the quarterback to get the ball in the hands of the team's playmakers.

The 49ers have lost defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans to the Texans, but the biggest concern for the 49ers defense going into the 2023 season was the status of Nick Bosa, who was entering the final year of his contract. The two sides agreed to a massive contract extension on Wednesday, which ends his holdout. Along with Micah Parsons and Myles Garrett, Bosa is one of the NFL's three best pass rushers and the reigning NFL AP Defensive Player of the Year after recording a league-high 18.5 sacks in 2022. Not only is Bosa one of the best defensive players in the league, but the 49ers have the league's best linebacker tandem with Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw.

MORE: San Francisco 49ers 2023 Fantasy Football Projections

2. Seattle Seahawks - Projected Wins: 8.93

Who knew that trading away Russell Wilson would provide the Seahawks with a quarterback upgrade? Geno Smith was named NFL AP Comeback Player of the Year, leading the NFL in completion percentage (69.8%) and finishing fifth in passer rating (100.9). Parlaying that into a three-year, $105 million deal, Smith has even more weapons (Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Zach Charbonnet) to join a talented group of skill-position players that features D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Kenneth Walker III.

The Seahawks had a strong 2022 rookie class, as that group (including both offensive tackles) started 70 games. In addition, Tariq Woolen turned out to be an absolute steal in the fifth round. While I was surprised that someone with his elite athletic profile slipped as far as he did, it was also surprising that he was as good as he was so early with a league-high six interceptions as a rookie. Linebacker Bobby Wagner returns to Seattle, and Jamal Adams is healthy, both of which will help shore up their run defense. Meanwhile, the Seahawks used the fifth pick in the draft on cornerback Devon Witherspoon to join Woolen and Coby Bryant.

MORE: Seattle Seahawks 2023 Fantasy Football Projections

3. Los Angeles Rams - Projected Wins: 6.1

The Rams drafted 14 prospects in this year's draft, and all 14 made the initial 53-man roster.

While Matthew Stafford is healthy (but struggling to connect with the rookies), it's unclear what Cooper Kupp's status will be as we enter the season following his setback with his hamstring injury. When healthy, however, there is no denying the connection between Stafford and Kupp. Two seasons ago, Kupp was the NFL AP Offensive Player of the Year after his receiving triple crown.

The Rams traded away Jalen Ramsey, and there is limited talent beyond All-World defensive tackle Aaron Donald. This question posed by the Action Network summarizes the state of the defense well: "Quick, name two Rams defenders. I'll spot you Aaron Donald, but can you come up with a second?"

MORE: Los Angeles Rams 2023 Fantasy Football Projections

4. Arizona Cardinals - Projected Wins: 5.43

It's unanimous! In our consensus NFL power rankings heading into Week 1, the Cardinals are unanimously the 32nd team across the board. PFT's Mike Florio sums it up this way: "If they could be lower than 32, they would be."

It's not all doom and gloom, depending on your perspective. The Cardinals own the rights to the Houston Texans pick as well, and preseason power rankings make the Cardinals the early favorites to have the first and second pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. If draft-eligible, both Caleb Williams and Marvin Harrison Jr. would have been the first quarterback and wide receiver selected in the 2023 draft and could form a dynamic future battery for the Cardinals.

In the meantime, it's unclear when Kyler Murray (ACL, PUP) will return in 2023, if at all. Jonathan Gannon says he will return, but it's easy to see in a potential Crater for Caleb (or you choose your own tanking catch phrase) motivation to slow-walk his return. Going into the season, it will be either Clayton Tune or Joshua Dobbs who will open the season as the starter.

MORE: Arizona Cardinals 2023 Fantasy Football Projections

Check out our predictions for other divisions:

Check out more of our content:

Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) like us on Facebook and/or (3) subscribe to our newsletter.