LOS ANGELES RAMS
COACH: Sean McVay, 2nd season (11-5, .688)
LAST SEASON: 11-5, 1st place
PLAYOFFS: lost to Atlanta, 26-13, in wild card round.
OUTLOOK: Not content after winning a division title last season, the Rams made several aggressive moves to upgrade the roster, including trades for Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters and Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks. They also signed cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and extended the contracts of Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley and All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald. McVay already showed himself as one of the most aggressive play-callers in the NFL, helping Jared Goff have a breakout season last year as the offense was one of the league’s most electric. This team is loaded and has the look of a championship contender.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
COACH: Kyle Shanahan, 2nd season (6-10, .375)
LAST SEASON: 6-10, 4th place
OUTLOOK: There’s plenty of optimism about the 49ers after last year’s trade for Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who impressed teammates and coaches with his quick transition to Shanahan’s offense. Garoppolo will be tested with a roster that is solid, but unspectacular. There were injury problems at running back during the preseason, and Garoppolo’s top receivers are Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin. The Niners have invested high picks on defense the last several years and added former Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.
COACH: Pete Carroll, 9th season (79-48-1, .621)
LAST SEASON: 9-7, 2nd place
OUTLOOK: The Seahawks are a long way from the perennial Super Bowl contender of just a few years ago. The Legion of Boom defense has been picked apart by injuries and free-agent defections, so Carroll can’t rely on a unit that could turn the tide of games with key turnovers. Russell Wilson remains a top quarterback, but he simply can’t be counted on to carry the burden as he has the past two seasons. Without Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks’ running game has been mediocre, putting even more pressure on Wilson.
COACH: Steve Wilks, 1st season
LAST SEASON: 8-8, 3rd place
OUTLOOK: The Cardinals invested a first-round pick in quarterback Josh Rosen, but this is Sam Bradford’s team for now. The former Rams, Eagles and Vikings quarterback has battled injuries through most of his career, but he has proven to be an accurate passer when healthy. He joins an offense that features a spectacular talent in running back David Johnson. The defense is led by Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson and defensive end Chandler Jones.