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Crystal Ballin 2022: NFC West Edition


After previewing the best division in football, we now head to part 8 of the series to the NFC West. Probably the 3rd best division (behind the AFC West and AFC North in my opinion), we find the defending Super Bowl champs, a team on the rise and a wildcard... along with a contender for the 1.01 in 2023.

That being said, I will now be taking out my crystal ball and informing you all precisely how this upcoming season will play out.

If you guys enjoy this series, please let me know! I'd love to see any sort of feedback - be it questions, critique or suggestions! Thanks for reading and have an awesome day!

Note: All win totals are current as of the time of this writing via


4. Seattle Seahawks

The bottom feeders of the 2022 NFC West will either run out Drew Lock or Geno Smith at quarterback. Personally I'd lean toward Lock, considering he's only 25 years of age... but they're screwed at the position either way.

Many people want to see second round rookie Ken Walker III get playing time early and often, but current starter (and former first round pick) Rashaad Penny should get the starter snaps if he stays healthy. Health is the biggest factor when it comes to Penny's game, considering he only played in 37 of a possible 65 regular season games in his four year career. Walker isn't a complete back himself, so the workload will be something to monitor.

D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are one of the league's best receiver duos but will be wasted in 2022. I could see Metcalf breaking the 1,000 yard mark (albeit just barely) while Lockett has a disappointing 700 yard season. Behind the duo sits Freddie Swain, Dee Eskridge and rookie Bo Melton... so not much to speak of.

If Seattle's quarterback needs a third receiving option, newly acquired tight end Noah Fant should be an excellent choice. He has incredible athletic ability and receiving skills, but has had his fair share of injuries over the first three years of his career.

The Seahawks had a poor defense statically last year, finishing 28th overall (17th vs the run and 31st vs the pass). It doesn't look like it will be significantly better this year. Shelby Harris comes in from Denver to help on the interior of the line. He's a solid player, but has just turned 31. Nobody stands out on this defense much, other than linebacker Jordyn Brooks (184 total tackles last season), edge rusher Darrell Taylor (6.5 sacks) and safeties Quandre Diggs (5 interceptions) and Jamal Adams.

2021 Record: 7-10

Russell Wilson was up and down but wasn't as bad as people have been saying. The Seattle defense was awful and this team never had a shot in that tough division.

2022 Key Performer: RB Rashaad Penny

I believe Rashaad Penny will stay healthy long enough to keep Walker sidelined for the majority of the season. He may not break out as an elite rusher, but Penny will maintain a strangle hold on the job, likely leading to a starting role with whoever his new team is next season.

182 Rushes 946 Yards (5.2 average) 7 TDs, 17 Receptions 136 Yards 1 TD

(13 of 17 games played)

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2022 Over/Under: 5.5

With poor quarterback options, a bad defensive roster and a tough division, the Seahawks will struggle mightily in 2022... enough said.

Crystal Ball Says: 4-13


3. Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray has signed his new 5 year extension, now the Cardinals can fully focus on the upcoming season. While he is not quite elite, Kyler has incredible upside thanks to his insane mobility and willingness to run the ball himself. This should be a true break through season, despite not having DeAndre Hopkins for the first six weeks.

James Conner returns as the team's starting running back. A good all-around runner, we should see a solid season from the former Steeler - although realistically, his touchdown total will likely fall (he scored 18 total times last year). Eno Benjamin, Darrel Williams and rookie Deontay Ingram should see some work in rotation.

DeAndre Hopkins will be suspended for the first six weeks of the season, but I expect to see the same elite "Nuk" we've grown accustomed to when he returns. Hollywood Brown, Rondale Moore and A.J. Green should pick up the slack just fine.

Tight end Zach Ertz will also see plenty of targets throughout the season.

Arizona has some fun young pieces on defense, including linebackers Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins. In due time, they could become the most impressive linebacker duo in the league. Budda Baker is an absolute stud at safety, as (injury prone) J.J. Watt will attempt to hold it down along the defensive line.

2021 Record: 11-6

Despite an unbelievable 7-0 start, Arizona tumbled down the stretch - losing 6 of their last 10 games before being embarrassed by the division rival Rams in the wildcard round.

2022 Key Performer: QB Kyler Murray

With his contract issues out of the way, I believe Kyler will be 100% focused this season, leading to his best statistical year yet.

410/610 (68.3%) 4,636 yards 34 TDs 13 INTs, 142 rushes 838 yards 7 TDs

2022 Over/Under: 8.5

If Kyler can put up the numbers I listed above and the defense steps up, Arizona is flying by this projected win total. Unfortunately the Crystal Ball does not foresee this to occur, but it should still be a fun season to watch.

Crystal Ball Says: 8-9


2. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers remind me of the Philadelphia Eagles in many ways. Both are dark horse Super Bowl contenders if a few things go their way. The Eagles have a young quarterback in Jalen Hurts who can take his team over the top if he puts it together, while the 49ers are looking to see what they have in Trey Lance.

Lance has great size and is extremely mobile. His arm strength is great, but he needs to work on his accuracy, reading defenses and improve on this throwing motion. At the time of this writing, Jimmy Garoppolo is still in San Fran, so if Lance doesn't show the ability to take this team far, Kyle Shanahan could easily refer back to the veteran.

Between Elijah Mitchell, Trey Sermon, Jeff Wilson Jr. and rookie third rounder Tyrion Davis-Price, Kyle Shanahan has a stable of backs who always have the ability to break off a 100 yard game when they're called upon. Mitchell will take the bulk of the workload, but you can never trust a Shanahan to stick with a single workhorse for the entire season. Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle is an excellent trio of pass catchers to help to bring along Trey Lance (or make plays for Jimmy G) this year.

The 49ers have one of the best defensive front sevens in the NFL. Linemen Nick Bosa (15.5 sacks in 2021), Arik Armstead (6.0 sacks), Javon Kinlaw (only played four games last year, but has the talent to break out in 2022) and Samson Ebukam (4.5 sacks) are a beastly bunch - especially with the addition of rookie Drake Jackson. Fred Warner was rated as the best linebacker in the NFL (for Madden 23) and the trio of Warner, Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair is incredible and could be top 3 at the end of the year.

The secondary is pretty weak, with former Chief Chavarious Ward, Emmanuel Moseley and Ambry Thomas forming a mediocre team of cornerbacks. Jimmie Ward is a good starting safety and Talanoa Hufanga has potential. Behind them however, there isn't much depth.

2021 Record: 10-7

San Fran went on a roll last season, winning four of their last five games of the regular season (and that single loss came to Tennessee in a 20-17 game) before upsetting both the Dallas Cowboys (23-17) and Green Bay Packers (13-10) on the road before falling in the NFC title game to the Rams, 20-17.

If Lance can improve on Garoppolo's 2021 season, the upside for the squad is even higher. Speaking of Trey Lance...

2022 Key Performer: QB Trey Lance

The second year passer has a lot of hype to live up to. While I don't believe he'll go out there are throw for 4,500 yards and 40 touchdowns, Kyle Shanahan is a coach who can build around the strengths of his players... Lance will be no exception.

264/440 (60%) 3,170 yards 27 TDs 15 INTs, 155 Rushes 1,010 yards 9 TDs

2022 Over/Under: 10

Like many other teams (the aforementioned Eagles included), whether or not the 49ers can hit the over depends on the development of their young quarterback. Luckily for them, Jimmy G sits behind Lance, ready to take his job back if Shanahan sees fit. I don't think they will hit the over, but the final 9-8 record should be enough to sneak into the playoffs for a potential hot postseason run.

Crystal Ball Says: 9-8


1. Los Angeles Rams

Our final team to preview in the Crystal Ballin 2022 series happens to be the defending Super Bowl champion Rams. There was some turnover from last year's team, but surprisingly not that much overall.

Matthew Stafford enters the second year of his tenure with L.A. (crazy to think he's only been a Ram for one season) and should only build on his 4,800 yard 41 touchdown campaign in 2021. He should lead this offense to another top ten finish in 2022 (I can see top four or five).

Cam Akers tore his Achilles last season and missed the majority of the year, before he returned in week 18 and was given the lead back role for the playoffs. While he didn't have any outstanding games statistically, Akers looked the part and should only get better with a full offseason. Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel provide excellent depth who can fill in when needed.

Cooper Kupp had one of the greatest individual seasons for a wide receiver in NFL history (145 receptions for 1,947 yards and 16 scores) which included the first receiver triple crown title since Steve Smith in 2005. Robert Woods was traded to the Titans and Odell Beckham is still a free agent who could potentially return later in the season following his ACL recovery. The team signed Allen Robinson from Chicago to line up opposite Kupp. A-Rob had a really bad year in 2021, but I believe that was just a fluke season, considering how much rookie Justin Fields was struggling. Robinson should thrive in a number two role with Matthew Stafford getting him the ball. Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell and Ben Skowronek are a pretty solid group behind them.

Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins and Jacob Harris are the top three tight ends on the roster. Not much to say, as they are a solid tight end room but Higbee will be the one getting the targets.

Aaron Donald comes back to try to get another ring. He's one of the best defensive players we have ever seen, and obviously disrupts opposing offenses more than any other player. They lost Von Miller to Buffalo, but Leonard Floyd (9.5 sacks last year), Justin Hollins (2.0 sacks), A'Shawn Robinson (2.0 sacks), Greg Gaines (4.5 sacks), Ernest Jones (61 tackles and 2 picks as a rookie) and future Hall of Famer Bobby Wagner surround Donald on the front seven.

Jalen Ramsey is undoubtedly a top three cornerback (at least) and he pairs with former Brown Troy Hill who returns to the team via trade after Darious Williams left for Jacksonville. David Long Jr. and rookies Decobie Durant (fourth round) and Derion Kendrick (sixth round) are some names to watch behind the starting pair. Taylor Rapp and Jordan Fuller are a solid tandem on the back end after Eric Weddle retired.

2021 Record: 12-5

Stafford, Kupp, Donald and Ramsey are the key elite stars who return following a very impressive championship season. With another year together to mesh, they will definitely be a major favorite to repeat.

2022 Key Performer: RB Cam Akers

As mentioned earlier, Cam Akers has a full offseason coming back off of his Achilles recovery. He should see the majority of the workload this season and if so, will have a complete breakout season.

252 Rushes 1,184 yards (4.7 yards per carry) 7 TDs, 32 Receptions 251 yards 2 TDs

2022 Over/Under: 10.5

L.A. is a favorite to return to the Super Bowl - as they should be. I have no doubt they will go back-to-back as NFC West winners and will be in the fight for the #1 seed. I believe they will make a run in the postseason, but we'll see just how far they go in Matthew Stafford's second year as a Ram.

Crystal Ball Says: 12-5

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