Carolina Panthers

NFC West Preview

Seattle’s K.J. Wright, left, and Bobby Wagner make up one of the best linebacking duos in the NFL.
Seattle’s K.J. Wright, left, and Bobby Wagner make up one of the best linebacking duos in the NFL. Getty Images


The Seahawks were below .500 10 weeks into last season before rattling off six wins in seven games to get a wild card berth in the playoffs. Then they made a furious rally at Carolina before being stopped short of the NFC Championship Game.

Russell Wilson is in position again to be considered for the league’s MVP after one of the best second halves of season in the league, but his offensive line is still suspect. Seattle lost a major key in Marshawn Lynch, but Christine Michael has shown he’s ready to take on the load in the preseason. And maybe Jimmy Graham will finally be the guy the Seahawks traded for a year ago.

The linebacking duo of K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner is one of the best in the league, and Richard Sherman is still one of the top corners. Maybe Kam Chancellor isn’t the same guy as two years ago, but he’ll still put a lick on someone that will make receivers think twice.

Best player ever: 71 Walter Jones

Los Angeles

Jeff Fisher said on “Hard Knocks” that 8-8 wouldn’t cut it this year for the L.A. Rams. Of course, Fisher hasn’t even been as good as 8-8 since the 2009 season with the Titans.

No doubt the strength of this team is the defense, and specifically the front four. Aaron Donald is probably the best defensive tackle in football, and Robert Quinn is an animal at defensive end. The Rams lost Janoris Jenkins but held on to Trumaine Jackson in the backend.

Jared Goff will eventually start at quarterback over Case Keenum, but it doesn’t seem like he’s ready in the early part of the season. Do-everything receiver Tavon Austin signed a four-year contract extension in the Rams’ best move of the preseason, and L.A. still has Todd Gurley to hand the ball to whenever they please.

No, Jeff, 8-8 won’t do.

Best player ever: 71 Deacon Jones

San Francisco

The 49ers aren’t good and probably won’t be good because they can’t put points on the board.

Last year San Francisco was next-to-last in the NFL in point differential (minus 149), and it’s tough to see it getting any better with Blaine Gabbert as the starting quarterback. Of course, coach Chip Kelly could right the ship with his offensive prowess, but that only got the Eagles so far in his three seasons there.

Luckily the Niners still have NaVorro Bowman, the league’s leader in tackles since 2012 (yes, more than Luke Kuechly). San Francisco has also spent its past two first-round picks on big-time pass rushers in Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, so the defensive line should be even better.

Best player ever: 80 Jerry Rice


Plenty of people are picking the Cardinals to go to the Super Bowl, and there are good reasons why.

Carson Palmer got an MVP vote last season, and he returns as one of the top five quarterbacks in the league. Larry Fitzgerald is still catching passes. The offensive line is stout with the addition of Evan Mathis. And the Cardinals have plenty of depth at running back.

The defense is even better. Arizona added Chandler Jones, extended Tyrann Mathieu and can put Patrick Peterson on anyone. There could very well be a rematch of last year’s NFC title game this season.

Best player ever: 11 Larry Fitzgerald