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NFL preview 2017: NFC West outlook

Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks

Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks passes prior to the NFC Wild Card game against the Detroit Lions at CenturyLink Field on Jan. 7, 2017 in Seattle. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Otto Greule Jr

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

COACH: Pete Carroll

8th season (70-41, .629)

LAST SEASON: 10-5-1, 1st place

PLAYOFFS: beat Detroit, 26-6, in wild card; lost to Atlanta, 36-20, in division playoff

OUTLOOK: The Seahawks still own this division, even though they may not have the same depth and star power as they did during their back-to-back Super Bowl years of 2013-14. Russell Wilson remains a dynamic playmaker, and his underappreciated receivers are still more than adequate. Eddie Lacy was added to the mix because the Seahawks are still struggling to find an adequate replacement for TB Marshawn Lynch, who retired after the 2015 season but landed with his hometown Raiders this year. A tough defense features Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett, and with Earl Thomas back from a broken leg, the Seahawks are still more than capable of making another run at the division title, and perhaps more.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

COACH: Bruce Arians

5th season (41-22-1, .648)

LAST SEASON: 7-8-1, 2nd place

OUTLOOK: Arizona comes off a disappointing 2016 season in which Carson Palmer was simply not the same as when he led the Cardinals to the 2015 playoffs. Bruce Arians, one of the most adept coaches at handling quarterbacks, thinks Palmer can recapture that form, but it’s also possible that Palmer has topped out at age 37. And with Larry Fitzgerald playing perhaps his final season, there is an unmistakable sense of urgency with this team. What helps the Cardinals offense more than anything is TB David Johnson, who had 1,239 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns last year. The defense will be without Calais Campbell, who went to Jacksonville as a free agent, but Pro Bowl CB Patrick Peterson is back, as is ball-hawking S Tyrann Mathieu.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

COACH: Kyle Shanahan

1st season

LAST SEASON: 2-14, 4th place

OUTLOOK: GM John Lynch and Shanahan have infused a sense of optimism after the Chip Kelly experiment lasted just one season. Journeyman QB Brian Hoyer was brought in to hold the fort, and third-round passer C.J. Beathard may eventually have a chance to play. Either that or the 49ers wait until next year’s draft, or perhaps swing a deal down the road for Kirk Cousins, who was a favorite of Shanahan when he coached in Washington. Pierre Garcon is the team’s top receiver, and Carlos Hyde has developed into a capable RB. The defense is in transition, but first-round LB Rueben Foster, the former Alabama star, will be a boost.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

COACH: Sean McVay, 1st season

LAST SEASON: 4-12, 3rd place

OUTLOOK: The Rams hope Year 2 of the Jared Goff era is better than last year, when the 2016 No. 1 overall draft pick struggled. The Rams fired coach Jeff Fisher, replacing him with Sean McVay, the former Redskins’ offensive coordinator under Jay Gruden. But it remains to be seen whether McVay can bring out the best in Goff, or whether he isn’t the franchise-caliber QB the Rams envisioned when selecting him over Carton Wentz. The Rams traded for Bills receiver Sammy Watkins to give Goff a legitimate target. Coordinator Wade Phillips is probably the best addition on defense. He brings his 3-4 scheme to a unit badly in need of improvement.

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