NFL

NFC West Division Betting Preview: Who Will Emerge From the Toughest Division in Football?

We are back to continue our division betting previews for the 2021 NFL season.

This time, we are focusing our attention on the NFC West.

The odds are courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook, which has odds for every division winner, conference winner, and player props, plus a whole lot more. It's a great place to go if you are fond of a flutter.

Let's get to it.

Looking Back to 2020

Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks claimed the NFC West in 2020, finishing the season with a 12-4 record, which gave them their first division title since 2016. They scored the eighth-most points in the NFL (459), with their offense a picture of efficiency as well as productivity. They averaged 0.19 Adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) per play on offense, tied for the fifth-best mark among all teams. But they were not as efficient on defense, finishing 21st according to our metrics.

They fell in the Wild Card round to their division rivals, the Los Angeles Rams. Following the season, they fired offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and replaced him with former Rams assistant Shane Waldron.

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams missed the playoffs in 2019 but earned a Wild Card berth in 2020 with a 10-6 record behind the Seahawks. They leaned on their defensive strength for their success last season, finishing first in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play. But they were far from prolific on offense, finishing 11th in yards gained but just 22nd in points scored.

After beating the Seahawks, the Rams went on the road in the NFC Divisional Round where they lost to the Green Bay Packers.

They traded away quarterback Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions in the offseason, with Matthew Stafford coming to LA in return. They also lost defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, as he took the head coaching job with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals got off to a great start in 2020, sitting at 6-3 after Week 10 and all set to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. But quarterback Kyler Murray suffered a shoulder injury in Week 11, and while he played for much of the rest of the season, the team fell off drastically. They went 2-5 in their last seven games and missed the postseason.

The Cardinals were able to move the ball last season, finishing with the sixth-most yards in the league. But they were not fully able to convert these gains into points, scoring the 13th most. By our metrics, the Cardinals were the 10th-most efficient offense but 18th on defense.

San Francisco 49ers

A year after reaching the Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers endured a season in which if anything could go wrong, it went wrong. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played just six games. Star tight end George Kittle missed half of the season. They were also without cornerback Richard Sherman for 11 games. They finished last in the NFC West with a 6-10 record.

As befitting the reputation of their head coach, the 49ers were able to move the ball on offense despite their injury woes. Kyle Shanahan led his team to 5,922 offensive yards, good for 15th in the NFL. But too often they were careless with the football, with 14.8% of their offensive drives ending with a turnover. Only the Philadelphia Eagles and the Denver Broncos coughed the ball up at a higher rate.

The 49ers traded up to the third overall pick in the NFL Draft, using the selection to take North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance.

2021 Strength of Schedule

TeamOdds to
Win Division
2021 Strength
of Schedule
Implied
Probability
San Francisco 49ers+1901st34.5%
Los Angeles Rams+20023rd33.3%
Seattle Seahawks+2808th26.3%
Arizona Cardinals+60024th14.3%


The 49ers, a talent-rich roster with a host of injured players returning, have a glorious path ahead of them. Their struggles last season saw them earn a last-place schedule, and according to Sharp Football Stats, this schedule is the easiest in the entire league. Kyle Shanahan continues to insist that Garoppolo will be the starter in 2021, and his track record shows that he can be productive and lead the team to wins. But the 49ers have the advantage of allowing Garoppolo to take the early lumps (should any exist) before turning over to Lance at any point they feel he is ready.

The upgrade at the quarterback spot has the potential to elevate the entire offense in LA, with receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp expected to enjoy more opportunities downfield with the aggressive Stafford under center instead of Goff. But they face a trickier schedule than the 49ers, and there is also a danger that their elite defense will not continue to dominate in 2021.

The Seahawks have the second-friendliest schedule in the NFC West and the eighth-best in the entire league. Some hope that their new offensive coordinator could get the best out of Russell Wilson, who was enjoying an epic season in 2020 before the team throttled back on his pass attempts at the halfway mark. Their defense is still something of a work in progress, with strength at the linebacker position but still short of star power on the defensive line. Still, it is always hard to look past Wilson, who has led the team to the postseason in eight of his nine seasons.

2021 looks like being the referendum year for Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury. The team has shown some signs of progress in his two years in charge, but the offense looked formulaic as the 2020 season dragged on because the team relied more and more on short screen passes and keeping DeAndre Hopkins wedged to the left side of the field. They face a tough schedule, with only eight teams having a tougher slate in 2021.

The Pick

The 49ers are justifiably the favorites for this division, with the returning players on a talented roster allied to a schedule that, at this stage, can be referred to as a cakewalk.

But if you are looking for the best value to take this division, then the Seahawks at +280 are an intriguing option. But that's IF Pete Carroll allows his new offensive coordinator to harness the forward pass, IF the defense can improve on their efficiency from last season (they were 21st in Adjusted Defensive NEP), IF Gerald Everett can become a viable third option behind D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett -- if all this happens, then you would be foolish to write them off.

But it's a big load of ifs.