By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG
I’ve written before how the NFC West is considered one of, if not the most competitive divisions in football. The first week of the 2020 season should highlight why so many see it that way.
A divisional matchup, a game against an NFC favorite, and a mentor/mentee coaching battle, early games, late games, primetime games…Week 1 has a lot going on for all four teams. And in this division, one that could be decided by a very small margin, every game counts. Let’s take a look around Week 1 in the NFC West.
Seattle Seahawks (0-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-0)
Sunday at 10 a.m. PT
Ah, those 10 a.m. starts. West coast teams just love them, and Seattle has four of them this season. All sarcasm aside, this game will be a tough one for Seattle to start out the season.
Head coach Pete Carroll and his team don’t have the best track record when starting the season on the road, but they will be playing a familiar foe. The Seahawks and Falcons played each other in October of last year, with Seattle winning 27-20. But with Falcons HC Dan Quinn coming straight out of the Carroll coaching tree (Quinn was the defensive coordinator in Seattle 2013-2015), these coaches know each other very well too.
Both teams have strong offenses and franchise quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan, but both struggled on defense last season. Seattle addressed their defensive issues by adding safety Jamal Adams, linebackers Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa, and cornerback Quinton Dunbar. Atlanta also added to their defense by bringing on defensive end Dante Fowler and LB Deone Buchannon.
Both teams are going into this game relatively healthy, so it will come down to which offense shines more, and which defense is most improved. If Vegas oddsmakers and bettors are any indications, many believe Seattle will win that battle.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) September 10, 2020
Arizona Cardinals (0-0) at San Francisco 49ers (0-0)
Sunday, 1:25 p.m. PT
Will we see a Super Bowl hangover in San Francisco? It’s possible. However, if you ask the players, they say it isn’t an issue. Arizona struggled on many fronts last season but got better as the season went on. We could look at the stats, the 49ers are ranked much higher in many, but in divisional games, that doesn’t always matter.
This game is a must-win for both teams even though its just the first game of the season. Remember what I said above, this division will be decided by millimeters, not yards.
The Cardinals added a HUGE weapon in wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins this year, and with it being the second year for both QB Kyler Murray and HC Kliff Kingsbury, we should see a marked improvement in the offense. However their defense, which was ranked in the bottom of the league, will have to also make an improvement to slow down San Francisco.
The 49ers are aching to get back to the Super Bowl and have the talent to do it. However they struggled with mobile QBs last year, so Murray could give them fits. However, it could be injuries that could end up being the biggest obstacle for San Francisco. WRs Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk didn’t practice on Wednesday.
The winner of this game will have a head start in the division, and because of that, it will be a battle. This game could be closer than people think.
Dallas Cowboys (0-0) at Los Angeles Rams (0-0)
Sunday Night Football, 5:25 p.m. PT
Primetime, baby! There is nothing better than starting off the season under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football. Dallas has a brand new head coach in Mike McCarthy, and the Rams have a brand new, beautiful stadium.
With as much hype as both these teams are getting this offseason, I feel the need to remind you that both teams missed the playoffs last season. Yet, if you look at the stats, both teams were ranked high in many categories. Well, except for the Rams rushing stat. Probably best not to bring that up.
The last time these teams met was last December when the Cowboys put the smackdown on the Rams, winning 44-21. Ouch. However, both teams have superstar players…WR Amari Cooper, RB Ezekiel Elliott, QB Dak Prescott, WRs Robert Woods, CeeDee Lamb, Cooper Kupp…that could make this game a real crowd (and fantasy football) pleaser.
It’s important to note Rams HC Sean McVay is coming off his worst season as a coach. Winning this game, against a team who some are saying are the NFC favorites, will go a long way to putting the memory of last season behind him. Who wins? Not sure, but it will be one hell of a way to start SNF.
Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG