<
>

NFC West Q&A: Who will be the division MVP?

After a monster season in 2016, Cardinals RB David Johnson is expected to pick up where he left off. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Today's question: Who will be the MVP in the NFC West?

Josh Weinfuss, Arizona Cardinals reporter: David Johnson. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has said multiple times this offseason that he wants Johnson to get 30 touches a game in a mix of runs and catches. There’s the obvious benefit: If Johnson can continue on the torrid pace he set last year, he’ll be the centerpiece of the offense and produce the type of yards and touchdowns that can help the Cardinals get back to the playoffs. If he doesn’t, however, then the Cardinals’ season will be stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Odds are the latter won’t happen, especially with Arians’ ingenuity, which will spread out the offense and open running and receiving lanes for Johnson. However, it won’t be surprising if his production slows as defenses home in on him. By the end of the season, however, Johnson will affirm himself as the division’s MVP. His pass catching, pass protection and vision will improve this season, making him maybe the toughest back in the NFL to stop.

Alden Gonzalez, Los Angeles Rams reporter: This one has to be David Johnson. He had a monster season in 2016, leading the NFL with 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns. And his workload may actually pick up in 2017. Arians said he would like to see Johnson get at least 30 touches a game this season, and it’s easy to see why. Carson Palmer, 37, is coming off a down year. Larry Fitzgerald will be 34 at the end of August, and the rest of the Cardinals’ receiving corps performed well below expectations last season. The Cardinals have no choice but to rely heavily on Johnson, an elite running back who also has the skills to be a playmaking wide receiver. By the end of the year, nobody will be able to match the offensive numbers Johnson will compile. Whether it actually helps the Cardinals reach the playoffs is an entirely different story.

Nick Wagoner, San Francisco 49ers reporter: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. Johnson is the division's best player, but Wilson remains the most valuable player. Wilson is still the best quarterback in the division and one of the biggest reasons the Seahawks remain the favorites to win the NFC West again. Last year was Wilson's first chance to play a full season in which the offense centered on him and, though injuries prevented him from being as good as he was over the final part of the 2015 season, he still proved capable of guiding Seattle to the postseason. If Eddie Lacy can provide some stability to the running game and the offensive line shows even a modicum of improvement, Wilson should be able to stay healthy and put up the big numbers needed to remain the most important player on the division's best team. That should be enough to make him the NFC West MVP.

Sheil Kapadia, Seattle Seahawks reporter: Wilson. There’s no mystery as to why the Seahawks’ offense struggled last year. Wilson suffered three injuries that reduced his mobility and caused him to get heavier than he would have liked. The 2016 season was a great example of how much Wilson means to Seattle -- both in the running game and the passing game. When healthy, he can make up for deficiencies on the offensive line, and without his legs, the running game is mediocre at best. With Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, Tyler Lockett and C.J. Prosise, this could end up being the best group of pass-catching weapons that Wilson has ever had. Assuming his health holds, look for him to get back to his 2015 form.