Who will win the NFC West, and how many teams from the division will make the playoffs?
Josh Weinfuss, Arizona Cardinals reporter: Cardinals. Two. Whether alleged or true, all of the turmoil will take its toll on the Seattle Seahawks this year and be one of the reasons they don’t win the division. However, there still is enough talent in the Pacific Northwest, especially at quarterback and on defense, for Seattle to win nine or 10 games and make the playoffs. However, the division crown will be handed back to the Cardinals, who spent this offseason stocking their locker room with veterans who can provide valuable leadership for one more run at a Super Bowl with the current core. The Cardinals were three kicks away from 10 wins last season and two other special-teams mishaps away from 12 wins and a good seed in the playoffs. If they can repeat last season’s performance and eliminate the mistakes, they could be in play for one of the top two seeds in the NFC.
Alden Gonzalez, Los Angeles Rams reporter: I have the Seahawks winning the division, pretty easily, and nobody else making the playoffs.
The 49ers are rebuilding under John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan; they made some nice moves through free agency and the draft but have a ways to go. The Rams aren’t necessarily in a rebuilding phase, but they also have brought in a new head coach, are coming off a 4-12 season and have sported the NFL’s least-productive offense in each of the past two seasons. They’re probably still at least a year away.
Then there are the Cardinals. They were a popular Super Bowl pick heading into the 2016 season, but a lot has happened since. Mainly, Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald got a year older and the Cardinals finished with a 7-8-1 record. They then lost several important pieces on defense and didn’t necessarily get better on either side of the ball.
The Cardinals just don’t seem to have enough to make the playoffs, and they definitely don’t have enough to catch the Seahawks. I’m not sure how much longer this Seahawks defense will be dominant. But it should happen for at least another year, especially with safety Earl Thomas back. Seattle's offense will be better, as well, with Eddie Lacy in its backfield. I still have questions about the Seahawks' offensive line, but this roster, if healthy, should be good enough to coast to a division title.
Nick Wagoner, San Francisco 49ers reporter: The Seahawks will be the only NFC West team to make the postseason. The NFC West's days of dominance have come to an end. While the Seahawks, Cardinals and 49ers made this the toughest division in football in the recent past, that is no longer the case. The Niners had the biggest fall of all and are now in the midst of a full-fledged rebuild. Although they won't admit it, the Rams are in the same situation and have a long way to go to get to the postseason. Arizona boasts a lot of talent, especially on defense, and could sneak its way back into the mix, but it's fair to wonder if Palmer is still good enough to lead that charge. Seattle would be considered more vulnerable to a drop-off in a better division, but having the best defense and quarterback in the division, combined with plenty of big-game experience, should land the Seahawks their fourth division crown in five years and sixth straight postseason appearance.
Sheil Kapadia, Seattle Seahawks reporter: It will be a two-team race for the division between the Seahawks and Cardinals. Both teams will get into the playoffs, but Seattle gets the nod here as NFC West champs. The Seahawks' defense is loaded, even though it’s getting a little bit older, and a healthy Russell Wilson will go a long way in the offense bouncing back from a lackluster 2016 campaign. But the Cardinals have a legitimate shot to finish first. Offensively, there are question marks, but David Johnson is the most dynamic playmaker in the division. I really liked Arizona's draft; Haason Reddick and Budda Baker have a chance to be impact players right away on what was already a strong defense. The race to clinch the division should go down to the wire, and who knows, maybe we’ll even get another 6-6 overtime tie.