Analyzing the NFC West’s Futures Outlook

NFL NFC West

If there is one division that figures to be the toughest one to get a clear futures outlook on, it’s the NFC West. Even if signs point to the Arizona Cardinals having the far future advantage, since they’re as of March 29th, 2021, the only team in the division with a 2022 first-round pick.

However, if you’re looking to place a futures bet here in 2021, odds are you’re facing a few tough decisions.

Today’s post should at least help you wade through those murky waters and provide pros and cons for each of the following 4 franchises in the West. Today’s post won’t tell you who to bet on. But it will help you make smarter wagers at the NFL betting sites. Let’s get started.

Arizona Cardinals

As mentioned, the Arizona Cardinals look like the smartest wager for 2022.

But here in 2021, they can finish either as the worst team in the NFC West or the best.

The clear upside with the Cardinals is this: They have one of the most lethal quarterback-wide receiver combinations in football. And teams that possess this trait are always a threat to score or at least move the ball.

During free agency, the Cardinals went out and signed experience over youth.

The clear upside?

J. Watt, A. J. Green, Matt Prater, Malcolm Butler, and Rodney Hudson (acquired via trade) can still play.

The downside?

Only Hudson, and to an extent Butler, remain in their primes. Watt’s numbers have stagnated, and he’s turned into a splash player. Green’s production has gone AWOL. And Prater converted just 75% of his field goals, including an abysmal 10 of 17 from beyond 40 yards.

Butler played well, but teams targeted him often, and he gave up 80 receptions. To his defense, his former team’s defensive unit gave him little help.

Another upside for the Cardinals is that they can finish filling their gaps via the draft. They’re a well-rounded team, even if they’re aging. But the question remains:

Will the 10-plus year veterans hold up?

If you believe they can, the Cardinals are a smart wager in 2021. If you think their free agent class is a bunch of has-beens, stay away and instead consider wagering them in 2022.

Los Angeles Rams

The Los Angeles Rams pulled off the first blockbuster deal of the season when they shipped Jared Goff and a plethora of draft picks for Matthew Stafford. Like the Cardinals, the Rams are banking their 2021 outlook in the hands of an aging player.

However, unlike the Cardinals, they have surrounded Stafford with younger talent.

That said, he can revert to the role of game manager if he desires. Plus, Stafford’s joining a team that boasted the best defense in football in 2020.

So even if his skills diminish with his older age, he’ll have many more opportunities to make something happen in Los Angeles than he did in Detroit. We shouldn’t assume that the Rams will succeed with Stafford, given his age and injury history.

Matthew Stafford Rams

Plus, he’s once again learning a new system, which can cause a drawback. Also, at his age, he’s stuck in the ways of his playing style. Stafford also struggled in Detroit over his first 12 seasons. He went 0-3 in the playoffs and never won the NFC North.

Given his perpetual losing, is it a foreshadowing of what will become in Los Angeles?

If you think Stafford will continue to struggle to win games with the Rams, it’s best to stay away from them in the futures department. However, if you think he just needed talent and stability around him, go for it.

Seattle Seahawks

Perhaps no team in the NFC West has seen more drama than the Seattle Seahawks, which we’ll dub the Russell Wilson Saga. However, at this time, Wilson remains a member of the Seahawks. And if he remains in the action-green, wolf gray, and college navy…

They’re always a threat.

You can trade Wilson to the NFL’s least talented team, and he will still turn them into a contender. He’s that good and joins a rare company of quarterbacks capable of such a feat.

Russell Wilson Seahawks

However, he and the Seahawks have woefully underperformed since 2015 when it comes to a deep playoff run, NFC Championship, or a Super Bowl. Perhaps no other team in the NFL has collapsed as often as the Seahawks have in January over the past 5 seasons.

That’s a red flag if you’re someone who thinks it’s wise to bet on the Seahawks.

Please Note:
They have remained a solid divisional and Over/Under futures bet since the Wilson Era began back in 2012. If you’re on the conservative side of the betting spectrum and you’re looking for the lowest risk, it’s best that you take the Seahawks. However, anything can happen.

If the Seahawks trade Wilson to either the Saints or the Raiders (or perhaps even the Bears?) then you need to see who ends up sitting in his seat. Say the Seahawks trade Wilson for Derek Carr. It’s still wise to consider the Seahawks.

A trade for Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill?

Not so much. Granted, the Seahawks will trade for more than just Hill, Winston, or Carr. They will acquire draft picks and perhaps even another reliable contributor.

Either way, the Seahawks remain the most sensible bet in the NFC West. There is little risk here unless Wilson goes. Which, judging from his recent statements, remains unlikely.

San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers are the wild card. And while the injury bug derailed their 2020 campaign, you can’t help but wonder if they’re playing for the future here in 2021. If that’s the case, expect this team to wind up back in the basement, despite their sheer talent.

The 49ers still have one of the league’s best tight ends, coaches, and offensive systems.

They also, despite losing defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to the New York Jets, boast a dangerous defense. Problem is, why did they just give up a king’s ransom and trade up to the 3rd pick in April’s NFL Draft.

For a team with as much talent as the 49ers, it made zero sense.

  • Are they so faithless in Jimmy Garoppolo that they’re interested in drafting either Trey Lance, Mac Jones, or Justin Fields?
  • Perhaps Zach Wilson, if the New York Jets pass on him with the second pick?

This is the classic “Draft for the future with a talented team,” conundrum. And often, it will sink teams. The Green Bay Packers were an outlier in 2020, when they drafted Jordan Love as the eventual replacement to Aaron Rodgers.

However, Garoppolo is not Aaron Rodgers, and we can all agree to that.

Jimmy Garoppolo 49ers

If the Niners draft a quarterback, they won’t set them as inactive all season long. Odds are, they’re a Day One starter. And none of these quarterbacks behind Lawrence make for a good rookie starter.

  • Trey Lance never faced FBS competition and had started just 17 games at North Dakota State.
  • Mac Jones, despite his numbers, had NFL talent and an unbeatable system surrounding him.
  • Zac Wilson is a one-year wonder who never played a decent school in 2020.
And Fields posted wildly inconsistent play after the first 2 weeks of the season. After facing NFL-caliber talent against Alabama, fields tailed off.

Watch what the 49ers do. But if they draft a quarterback, steer clear unless you feel that the new guy will pull a Ben Roethlisberger and win 14 of his first 15 starts.

Now You Make the Call

As you can see, you’re looking at a tough division and it’ll be the closest race in the 2021 NFL Season unless one team pulls ahead (or falls behind) following the NFL Draft.

And as you have also noted, you’re facing both pros and cons regardless of who you wager your money on this upcoming NFL season as it pertains to the NFC West.

  • Do you take the team full of veterans who will sink or swim?
  • Or do you take the team who believes an aging quarterback is their last puzzle piece?
  • Are you going with the division’s most consistent team over the past decade, despite the drama?
  • Or do you bet on the team taking the risk?

Ultimately, whoever you choose to wager is up to you, and there is just one right answer and 3 wrong answers above. Unfortunately, it’s near-impossible to tell which team in the NFC West possesses the best futures outlook.

Conclusion

The NFC West is a tough division. And let’s face it: We can see all 4 teams in the division sneak into the 7-team playoff. Or, the pieces are in place for 3 of the 4 teams to collapse, leaving only the division winner to advance.

Despite the talent in the NFC West, they have left us with far more questions and very, very few answers. Sometimes, or even in many cases, we have a general idea of who will at least make a smart Over/Under or division winner futures bet. Unless that team in 2021 comes from the NFC West.

Which NFC West team do you think makes for the best futures outlook in 2021? Let us know in the comments and we are looking forward to reading your opinions.

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Rex Hoffman / Author

Rex Hoffman is a passionate sports writer, with over five years of experience covering sports journalism in line with the Vegas betting landscape. His favorite subjects include football, basketball, and baseball. As a Las Vegas resident, he enjoys finding an edge against the local sportsbooks and aims to share his extensive knowledge with both beginners and experienced bettors. Rex also dabbles in horse racing wagering and enjoys typical casino fare like blackjack and poker in his spare time.