We’ll be providing a betting preview for each NFL division this week leading up to the first set of full games on Sunday. We continue today with the NFC West. Click here for a list of all the major offseason moves by each NFC West team.
Until last year, the NFC West was always one of the most up-for-grabs division in the NFL. And, of course, by “up for grabs” we really just mean “not that good.”
But that changed in 2011, with the San Francisco 49ers putting together a ridiculous defense en route to a 13-3 record and appearance in the NFC Championship Game.
Now, the odds say the other three teams in the NFC West are miles away from the Niners. But are they that far behind?
The NFC West’s divisional futures odds listed at 5Dimes:
Most value: Seattle was our pick to win this division at 4-to-1, and we’re sticking with it. The Seahawks at least carry much more value than San Francisco, where you have to lay too much juice to win any significant money. Instead, we’ll take a shot with the Seahawks, who now might have the best quarterback of all four teams with rookie Russell Wilson.
49ers: 10 (over +115)
Seahawks: 7.5 (over -165)
Cardinals: 6.5 (over -115)
Redskins: 6 (over -115)
Best bet: A 9-7 record seems more likely than 11-5 for the defending champ 49ers, who have to travel to Green Bay, New York Jets, New Orleans and New England. Winning just one of those games seems like a tall order, and that’s not even addressing two games against Seattle and home games against Detroit, New York Giants and Chicago. Give us the under.
AGAINST THE SPREAD
San Francisco was the best ATS team in the league last season, inching out New Orleans with a 12-3-1 ATS record. That put the 49ers above .500 ATS over the past six seasons. The Rams were on the opposite end with an NFL-worst 3-12-1 mark against the spread, and now they’re among the worst ATS teams in that time frame.
Here’s a look at each team’s record ATS since 2006 (with last year’s record in parentheses):
49ers: 48-43-5 (12-3-1)
Seahawks: 44-49-3 (9-6-1)
Cardinals: 49-47 (9-7)
Rams: 40-55-1 (3-12-1)
The NFC West is matched up with the NFC North and the AFC East, leaving one opponent each from the NFC East and NFC South as the only differences in the schedule.
Here are the two “swing games” on each team’s schedule:
49ers: vs. NY Giants, at New Orleans
Seahawks: vs. Dallas, at Carolina
Cardinals: vs. Philadelphia, at Atlanta
Rams: vs. Washington, at Tampa Bay
Analysis: Each setup involves a home game against an NFC East team early in the year and a road trip to an NFC South location later. San Francisco easily has the toughest slate, drawing a New Orleans road trip to the Superdome, where it’s virtually impossible to win. The Niners also get a home game against the Giants, who happen to be the best road team in the league over the past few seasons and won in San Francisco twice in 2011. By comparison, Seattle’s schedule is cake and is yet another reason to like them.
WHO TO FOLLOW
A Twitter follow list for beat writers covering each team.