The reputation of the NFL West is a-changin’.
No longer a punch line that at its very best had two teams that could make a run at the playoffs, the division now boasts a top-ten team in the Los Angeles Rams, an always competitive Seattle Seahawks (which they will be as long as QB Russell Wilson lines up behind center for them), an Arizona Cardinals team that has still has RB David Johnson, and the San Francisco 49ers who just signed their franchise quarterback of the future, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, to a five-year, $137.5m deal.
The resurgence of the 49ers is great news for the NFL. For the NFC West to thrive, the 49ers and the Rams need to be battling each other for the top spot in the division. They need to hate each other. It energizes the San Francisco/Los Angeles rivalry that hasn’t really had any heat in decades. Even though the Seahawks fan base is 12 strong, it’s just not the same. It’s another state. It’s a crazy long drive from Los Angeles to Seattle. And do sports fans in Seattle hate LA sports fans? Not like they do in San Francisco. Call it a Cali rivalry, but NorthCal and SoCal are just close enough to want to strangle each other. And that’s what west coast football needs – some good ol’ fashioned hate.
Just look at the rivalry between MLB’s San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s ugly, passionate, and above all else, extremely fun to watch. I believe that that the games between the 49ers and the Rams can have the same electric energy now that they’ve both gotten to the point where they can be competitive. Jared Goff vs. Jimmy G – it’s a graphic that literally sells itself.
Now, the 49ers still have a way to go to win the NFC West. A great end to a losing season is nice, but they need to be smart about their top-10 draft pick coming up in the 2018 NFL Draft. And now that their salary cap is going to be paying out an average of $27.5m per year to Jimmy G, they will be a little bit limited in free agency. However, they have some nice pieces on defense, and I have a bad feeling that they are going to be really annoying for the next couple of years.
And again, that’s great news for the NFC West. When the Rams host the 49ers, people will actually want to go, and likewise in Santa Clara where Levi’s Stadium is located. These are going to be big-ticket games that could very well end up as primetime matchups.
So yes, I will still hate the Seahawks and the Cardinals will all of my being, but it’s nice to know that rivalry between San Francisco and Los Angeles is officially back on in the NFC West.