I wanted to do quick-hitting postmortem reports on every team since I spent so much time this summer breaking down all 32 franchises from a betting perspective for the 2021 season. It’s a good way for me to put a bow on the season that just finished while also getting a leg up on my early research for the 2022 season.
NFC West Reviews
1. Los Angeles Rams
Record (ATS): 16-5 (10-11)
Season Win Total: 10.5 (under)
One-score Record: 5-2 (3-0 postseason)
Super Bowl Odds: +1200
NFC Odds: +550
Division Odds: +190
Playoff Odds: -185
Over/Under record: 10-10-1
PPG: 27.2 (7th)
PPG Allowed: 21.9 (t15th)
Point Differential: +88 (6th)
GM Les Snead and HC Sean McVay bucked conventional team-building wisdom by going all-in to try to win a Super Bowl title by trading their top draft assets for star players over the last few seasons. The Rams haven’t picked in the first round in the last five years but their 45 overall picks in that span are the second-most behind only the Vikings. The Rams pulled off their most ambitious trade last off-season when they traded two more first-round picks (2022 and 2023) for Matthew Stafford in hopes that he could take the Rams to the promised land after being exiled in Detroit for the first 12 years of his career. Stafford paid off the trade in spades with his game-winning, 15-play drive against the Bengals to win Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles’ home stadium. They joined the 1999 Rams as Lombardi Trophy winners in the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl appearance — they lost in 1979, 2001, and 2018. Los Angeles opened the season with the fourth-best odds to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at +1200, behind only the Chiefs (+450), Buccaneers (+700), and Bills (+1100).
Los Angeles had an adventurous run to their Super Bowl victory, which included a blown 24-point lead in an 18-minute span against the defending champion Buccaneers. Stafford and Cooper Kupp saved their season with two connections for 64 yards in the final minute to advance to the final four. The Rams then erased a 10-point deficit in the NFC Championship Game while finally ending a six-game losing streak to the 49ers in the process. It was Los Angeles’ second NFC Championship (+550) in the last four years and in McVay’s fifth season overall. The Rams experienced a two-win improvement going from Jared Goff to Stafford in the regular season and they won the NFC West (+190) for the first time since 2018. Stafford continued to be a high-variance quarterback even with a change of scenery, He tied another first overall pick in Trevor Lawrence for the NFL’s most interceptions with 17 (+1100), but he averaged 8.1 YPA with 41 TDs and a Lombardi Trophy to go along with his INTs. The rookie Lawrence averaged a league-worst 6.0 YPA with just 12 TDs and the Jags received the 2022 first overall pick to go along with his INTs.
Kupp went from being one of the NFL’s better slot WRs playing with Goff to posting the all-time best season by any wide receiver playing with Stafford. He became the fourth player to win the receiving Triple Crown with 16 receiving TDs (+4000), 145 receptions (+2000), and 1947 receiving yards (+3300). Kupp added 33/478/6 receiving in four postseason games to finish with a ridiculous 178/2425/22 receiving in 21 contests overall. He also won the Offensive Player of the Year Award (+10000) and the Super Bowl MVP (+700) to go along with his Triple Crown feat. Jerry Rice is the only other player to notch those three accomplishments but Kupp was the first to do all three in the same season. Odell Beckham emerged as a pivotal option next to Kupp in the postseason after he forced his way out of Cleveland in the middle of the season. The Rams desperately needed a second option in the passing game after Robert Woods tore his ACL just one day after the Rams signed OBJ in mid-November, but Odell would eventually suffer a similar fate in the Super Bowl when he tore his left ACL for the second time in his career. Woods and Odell will look to follow the lead of Cam Akers, who miraculously played in Los Angeles’ last five games after rupturing his Achilles on the eve of training camp.
What to look for this off-season
The Rams aren’t turning back from their all-in approach now after they captured the Lombardi Trophy, but premature “retirements” from McVay and stud DT Aaron Donald would put a damper on their efforts to repeat in 2022. Retirement talk for both McVay and Donald started in the lead up to the Super Bowl and both were non-commital to their futures in the afterglow of their victory. LT Andrew Whitworth is a much more likely retirement candidate after winning his first Lombardi Trophy at 40 years old, and their offensive line is the biggest concern entering with Brian Allen and Austin Corbett hitting the open market.
The Rams enter the off-season over the cap and they have priority free agents in Von Miller, OBJ, and Darius Williams, so they’re going to have to shuffle some money around if they want to retain some of their key players. OBJ’s free agency is going to be fascinating since he tore the same ACL in 2020 and it took him nearly 11 months to return to action. A similar recovery timeline would put him out for the entire 2022 season. They also won’t be on the clock until the 104th pick, which is their only pick on the first two days of the draft, but they’ve accumulated seven Day Three selections. Snead will have his hands tied to try to improve this already star-studded roster, but he gladly created the situation that resulted in a championship in 2021.
2. Arizona Cardinals
- Record (ATS): 11-7 (10-8)
- Season Win Total: 8.5 (over)
- One-score Record: 3-4 (before WC)
- Playoff Odds: +165
- Over/Under record: 8-10
- PPG: 26.4 (11th)
- PPG Allowed: 21.5 (t9th)
- Point Differential: +83 (9th)
The Cardinals got off to a blistering start with seven consecutive victories to open the season, and they were the NFL’s final undefeated team when they lost to the Packers on Thursday Night Football in Week 8. The good vibes didn’t last, though, with Kliff Kingsbury’s team experiencing yet another collapse at the end of the 2021 season. The Cardinals missed out on their chance to win their first NFC West title since 2015 by losing four of their final five games in the regular season games before their disheartening no-show against the Rams in the Wild Card Round. Kingsbury’s teams continued a disturbing trend of extended losing spells late in the season in each of his first nine seasons as a head coach dating back to his Texas Tech days in 2013-18. Despite their late-season fade, Arizona still exceeded preseason with a three-win improvement from 2020 and they appeared in their first playoff game since the 2015 season. The Cardinals also became the third team to win seven straight road games by double-digit margins in one season, joining the 1984 49ers and the 1968 Cowboys.
The Cardinals made two splashy off-season moves in the last two off-seasons, trading for DeAndre Hopkins in 2020 and signing J.J. Watt in 2021, and both players suffered major injuries that debilitated their respective units. Arizona held opponents to 20 or fewer points in six of its seven games with Watt in the lineup, but their opponents posted 20+ points in 8-of-10 games without Watt to end the regular season. Kyler Murray averaged 278.2 passing yards per game and 8.7 YPA with 19 TDs and nine INTs in 10 games with Nuk in the lineup, compared to 228.4 passing yards per game and 5.9 YPA with six TDs and three INTs in five games without Nuk. The Cardinals also found a gem in James Conner on a one-year deal during free agency, who finished third in total touchdowns with 18 scores.
What to look for this off-season
Something is rotten in the state of Arizona. Kingsbury is entering a make-or-break season after yet another late-season meltdown, which has become the M.O. for his teams over the last decade. Kyler and the franchise are also reportedly having issues, which was first noticed when he scrubbed his social media feeds. The Cardinals called Kyler “self-centered” and “immature” while Murray thinks the team has used him as the scapegoat for their embarrassing showing in the postseason. All parties involved need to get on the same page this off-season and, either way, there’s a good chance Kingsbury opens as the favorite to be the first coach fired next season.
On the non-Kyler, non-Kliff front, the Cardinals have some important decisions to make with older veterans Chandler Jones, Zach Ertz, and A.J. Green entering free agency. They’ll also look to retain their younger skill players in Christian Kirk, Chase Edmonds, and Conner. The Cardinals have plenty of talent across the board to make even more noise if they can get over their late-season struggles. Arizona’s most urgent needs are on the defensive side of the ball along its defensive line and at cornerback. The Cardinals went for the headline moves last off-season to bring in veteran experience to their roster — they had the oldest average age at 27.31 years old to open last season — but attrition took its toll on their older, more top-heavy roster as the season went along. They could skew a little younger with their moves this off-season, and they should look to improve their depth in case injuries take their toll on this roster again.
3. San Francisco 49ers
- Record (ATS): 12-8 (12-8)
- Season Win Total: 10.5 (under)
- One-score Record: 5-5 (2-1 postseason)
- Playoff Odds: -200
- Over/Under record: 8-12
- PPG: 25.1 (13th)
- PPG Allowed: 21.5 (t9th)
- Point Differential: +62 (12th)
The 49ers continued their all-or-nothing run under Kyle Shanahan in 2021. They’ve posted six or fewer wins in three of his first five seasons in San Francisco and they’ve reached the NFC Championship Game in his other two years at the helm. San Francisco moved ahead of Pittsburgh with its NFL-best 17th Conference Championship Game appearance since the merger, but they failed to reach their eighth Super Bowl after blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to the Rams in the title game. Los Angeles served up a little revenge after Jimmy Garoppolo erased a 17-point deficit against the Rams in the season finale to earn the 49ers a playoff spot with a 27-24 overtime victory. The 49ers improved by four wins from 2020 thanks to top-10 offensive and defensive units, as they averaged 375.7 yards per game (7th) while allowing 310.0 yards per game (3rd).
The 49ers overcame some early adversity when they lost Raheem Mostert (knee) and Jason Verrett (knee) to season-ending injuries in the opening week. Mostert’s injury and Trey Sermon’s struggles as a third-round pick opened the door for sixth-round pick Elijah Mitchell to pace this backfield with 207/963/5 rushing in 11 contests. It also created an opportunity for Deebo Samuel to get more involved in the rushing attack. He set an NFL record for a wide receiver with eight rushing touchdowns, and he finished with 77/1405/6 receiving while leading the league with 18.2 YPR. It took special seasons from Cooper Kupp and Jonathan Taylor to keep Deebo from winning the Offensive Player of the Year Award. San Francisco opened the season with a shaky 3-5 record, which had Garoppolo on the verge of potentially being benched, but the 49ers closed the year with a 7-2 run plus two upset victories in the playoffs to keep No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance glued to the bench for most of the season.
What to look for this off-season
Jimmy G’s time in the Bay Area will come to an end this off-season after five seasons with the 49ers. San Francisco will look to maximize its return for Garoppolo in a quarterback-needy market, but they’re unlikely to get a first-round pick for a quarterback who has struggled to stay healthy for long stretches of time. His body was breaking down in the postseason with shoulder and thumb injuries so San Francisco’s best bet is to get a Day 2 pick as longtime beat writer Cam Inman predicted. The 49ers don’t have many priority free agents outside of LG Laken Tomlinson and DT D.J. Jones so they could look to lock up Deebo and Nick Bosa to long-term contracts whenever Garoppolo’s $25.6 million contract comes off the books. San Francisco’s biggest issues are in its secondary, but they don’t have a first-round pick to address the weakness because of the Lance trade last year. They’ll also want to find a veteran backup quarterback like Tyrod Taylor or Marcus Mariota who won’t threaten Lance, but they’ll serve as insurance in case he struggles in his first chance as a starter.
4. Seattle Seahawks
- Record (ATS): 7-10 (9-8)
- Season Win Total: 10 (under)
- One-score Record: 3-5
- Missed Playoff Odds: +110
- Over/Under record: 6-11
- PPG: 23.2 (16th)
- PPG Allowed: 21.5 (t9th)
- Point Differential: +29 (15th)
The combination of Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll had been a money-making machine during their first nine years together. Wilson-led teams had reached at least nine wins in each of his first nine seasons, with eight of those teams reaching double-digit victories and the playoffs. The Seahawks had the league’s longest streak of winning seasons in that nine-season span in 2012-20, but it all came to a crashing halt in 2021. They experienced their first losing season since Carroll’s second season with the Seahawks in 2011, and they had a five-win dropoff from last season when they flamed out as the NFC West champions in the Wild Card Round. Seattle went from first to last in the league’s best division, which is the first time the franchise finished last in its division since they were playing the AFC West in 1996.
Wilson suffered a ruptured tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand on Thursday Night Football in Week 5, which sent their season spiraling in the wrong direction. He was forced to miss the first four games of his professional career after needing surgery to repair his “mallet” finger, and the Seahawks went 1-3 with Geno Smith leading the offense. Wilson returned quicker than expected in Week 10, but the Seahawks lost their first three games with Russ back in the lineup. He completed just 60.9% of his passes and he averaged 6.6 YPA in his first seven games back from injury, and he didn’t play like himself until the final two games of the season when they were eliminated from playoff contention. D.K. Metcalf and Wilson were on the same page just once in the final nine games of the season — he scored three TDs against Detroit in Week 17 — as he averaged just 4.0/43.0 receiving per game in the final half of the season. Rashaad Penny’s performance at the end of last season was one of the few developments to get excited about for Seahawks fans, but it came at the expense of Chris Carson, who needed surgery for a season-ending neck injury after just four games. Penny finally showed off his first-round pedigree for an extended period of time, leading the NFL in rushing over the final five games of the season with 92/671/6 rushing, which included four different performances with 130+ rushing yards.
What to look for this off-season
The Seahawks may not be quite ready to tear it all down to start over this off-season with Carroll surviving his first losing season since he opened his Seattle career with a pair of seven-win campaigns in 2010-11. Carroll is the NFL’s oldest head coach and he’ll turn 71 years old next season, but they’re not quite ready to move on from him with his contract running through the 2025 season. The big question now is does Wilson want to run it back with Pete for an 11th season. He openly campaigned to be traded last off-season because he wants more say in the direction of the offense and in personnel decisions. The Seahawks would likely go into rebuild mode if they decided to move on from Wilson, and they need some draft capital after losing their 2021-22 first-round picks to the Jets in the Jamal Adams trade.
Wilson is due a $5 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the new league year (March 20), which will serve as a soft deadline for the Seahawks to make a decision on his future. The Seahawks don’t have plans to trade him unless they’re forced to, and Wilson indicated during Super Bowl week that he wants to come back to Seattle. If Wilson does stick around, he’ll want the franchise to build up his offensive line that has three starters entering free agency in LT Duane Brown, C Ethan Pocic, and RT Brandon Shell. Seattle will also have a fascinating decision to make with Penny after they turned down his fifth-year extension last off-season after an injury-riddled start to his career. Will the Seahawks offer him a multi-year contract to keep their project around or do they risk letting him walk with the potential that he finally starts to live up to his first-round draft status with another franchise.