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The Athletic staff picks Rams to win NFC West

It’s the closest race in the NFL, however

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San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Despite an intense focus on “Didn’t draft a center” as reason for despair and cynicism as it pertains to the offseason, the Rams are in fact considered one of the best teams in the NFL. They went 10-6 last season, won a road playoff game, then traded for Matthew Stafford. Therefore, it can’t be without some expectation that many people believe the Rams are the best team in the best division.

Some of those people work for The Athletic.

In a recent poll of each division for a post-draft check-in, the Rams got the most first place votes (2) and therefore the most points in a survey of NFC West writers. LA also had two second place votes, so nobody at The Athletic believes for now that the Rams will do worse — which essentially means that they are an expected playoff team.

This looks to be the most competitive division in the NFL, with the Seahawks and Rams returning from last year’s playoffs, the 49ers hoping to return to form and Arizona still looming in Year 3 for Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray.

Our beat writers covering Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco each picked their team to go 12-5 and win the division, creating the tightest three-wide race out of the eight divisions. San Francisco was the only team out of 32 to show up in four different spots on four different ballots, and the Rams won out here essentially because they were no lower than second on any of them, while Seattle had two third-place votes. This division looks to be best poised to produce two wild cards on the NFC side of the playoffs.

Final standings in the predictions: Rams, Seahawks, 49ers, Cardinals.

Arizona was the clear number four, with not even the Cardinals writer daring to predict them to finish better than third in the NFC West.