NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: 2017 Record (8-8)

Key Offseason Additions: QB Sam Bradford, QB Mike Glennon, OT Andre Smith, G Justin Pugh, CB Jamar Taylor, CB Bene Benwikere

Key Offseason Losses: QB Drew Stanton, RB Adrian Peterson, WR John Brown, TE Troy Niklas, OT Jared Veldheer, DE Kareem Martin, NT Xavier Williams, ILB Karlos Dansby, CB Tramon Williams, CB Justin Bethel, S Tyrann Mathieu, S Tyvon Branch

Carson Palmer retired after the 2017 season, so the Cardinals signed free agent Sam Bradford and used their first-round NFL draft pick on Josh Rosen to replace the 38-year-old Palmer. Bradford is a reliable quarterback when he plays, but staying on the field has been an issue for him his entire career — Bradford has missed 49 games in his nine-year career, including 14 of last season's 16 games. Expect the rookie Rosen to be the starting quarterback at some point this season.

Whoever is at quarterback will get to enjoy a healthy David Johnson in 2018. The All-Pro running back missed all but one game last year because of a wrist injury. He could have returned later last season but stayed off the field, so he will definitely be at 100 percent for 2018. 

Despite poor quarterback play, veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald managed to have another strong season in 2017 — 109 receptions for 1,156 yards — and is back for what could be his final season. Second-round draft pick Christian Kirk will be another target for whichever quarterback plays. The speedy Kirk had a nice preseason and should be the number-two receiver for the Cardinals.

Arizona will need to find a replacement for safety Tyrann Mathieu, who left for Houston. The Cardinals lost two other members of the secondary, Tramon Williams and Tyvon Branch, but they will return one of the best defensive backs in football in Patrick Peterson. Second-year player Budda Baker is expected to replace Williams at the other corner position. 

The front seven will be led by defensive ends Chandler Jones, who had 17 sacks in 2017, and Markus Golden. Golden notched 12.5 sacks in 2016 before missing all but four games last season. Arizona is also hoping defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, a former first-round pick, finally has his breakout year after two disappointing seasons.

Los Angeles Rams: 2017 Record (11-5)

Key Offseason Additions: WR Brandin Cooks, DT Ndamukong Suh, ILB Ramik Wilson, CB Marcus Peters, CB Aqib Talib, CB Sam Shields

Key Offseason Losses: WR Sammy Watkins, TE Derek Carrier, DE Robert Quinn, DE Connor Barwin, LB Alec Ogletree, CB Trumaine Johnson, CB Kayvon Webster, S Cody Davis

Quarterback Jared Goff had an impressive second season and will return his entire offensive line, which gave up just 28 sacks in 2017. Goff was named to his first Pro Bowl after throwing for 3,804 yards and 28 touchdowns in his second year.

Todd Gurley should have another All-Pro season with the O-line back. Already an elite runner, Gurley improved on a huge part of his game in 2017: catching the ball out of the backfield. In 2016, Gurley caught just 43 balls for 327 yards — that increased to 64 catches for 788 yards  in 2018. 

Sammy Watkins and Goff never developed great chemistry together in 2017. The team is hoping Watkins’ replacement, Brandin Cooks, who is with his third team in three years, develops that chemistry with Goff and becomes the team’s number-one receiver.

Two receivers Goff did have good chemistry last season with were Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Both are coming off solid seasons and will be more comfortable with Goff in his third season. The addition of Cooks could open up the field more for these two.

Los Angeles added three players this offseason who should take an already good defense to another level: defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and defensive backs Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. 

Suh will join Aaron Donald, who is arguably the best defensive player in football, and Michael Brockers to form one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Peters and Talib will team with safeties Lamarcus Joyner and John Johnson and that should give the Rams another position group that could arguably be the top in the league. 

San Francisco 49ers: 2017 Record (6-10)

Key Offseason Additions: RB Jerick McKinnon, G Jonathan Cooper, C Weston Richburg, CB Richard Sherman

Key Offseason Losses: RB Carlos Hyde, OT Trent Brown, G Zane Beadles, C Daniel Kilgore, DE Aaron Lynch, DE Tank Carradine, DE Elvis Dumervil, CB Dontae Johnson, S Eric Reid

San Francisco traded for New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in late October. When inserted into the starting lineup with five games left in the season, Garoppolo led the team to a 5-0 record. 

With Garoppolo, the entire San Francisco team was completely different. The team's yards per game increased with him at the helm — 321.7 yards without Garoppolo, 410.0 with him — as did the team’s points per game — 17.0 without and 28.8 with. 

Receiver Marquise Goodwin’s play really enhanced when Garoppolo took over. Goodwin caught 29 passes for 384 yards and one touchdown the final five games of the season after catching just 27 passes from Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard the previous 11 games. Goodwin looks poised for a breakout 2018 season. Veteran receiver Pierre Garcon missed the final eight games of 2017, so he never got a chance to play with Garoppolo. Garcon has always been a reliable wideout, though, so the two shouldn’t have any trouble getting on the same page. 

After Garoppolo started, the Niners' defense became a top-10 defense by virtue of the offense picking up first downs and not letting the defense stay on the field for too many snaps.

Richard Sherman signed with San Francisco after being released by the Seahawks and could be an upgrade in the secondary if fully recovered from a torn Achilles he suffered late in last season. He will start across from Ahkello Witherspoon, who had a solid rookie season in 2017.

Linebacker Reuben Foster impressed in his rookie season but had a roller coaster offseason. Foster was arrested for sexual assault and looked like he was going to be cut until the accuser retracted her statement. Foster will be back and could have a big second year. He has the potential to become one of the better players at his positions.

Seattle Seahawks: 2017 Record (9-7)

Key Offseason Additions: WR Brandon Marshall, WR Jaron Brown, TE Ed Dickson, G D.J. Fluker, DT Tom Johnson, DT Shamar Stephen, OLB Barkevious Mingo, CB Dontae Johnson, K Sebastian Janikowski

Key Offseason Losses: QB Trevone Boykin, RB Thomas Rawls, WR Paul Richardson, TE Jimmy Graham, TE Luke Willson, G Luke Joeckel, DE Michael Bennett, DE Cliff Avril, DT Sheldon Richardson, OLB Michael Wilhoite, CB Richard Sherman, CB Jeremy Lane, CB Deshawn Shead, K Blair Walsh 

Seattle still has one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Russell Wilson, but also one of the worst offensive lines and running games, which are hugely correlated. The line and run game needed big upgrades this offseason, but not much was done by the front office. Guard D.J. Fluker and fifth-round pick Jamarco Jones were the only linemen added to a group that gave up 43 sacks and allowed constant pressure on Wilson. If not for Wilson’s mobility, that sack number would be even higher.

One of the running backs who will have to run behind this line is Chris Carson, who was effective in 2017, averaging 4.2 yards per carry before his season-ending injury in Week 4. Seattle used its first-round pick on Rashaad Penny; he and Carson are likely to split carries.

Wilson lost two key targets this offseason in Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson but will return number-one receiver Doug Baldwin, who is coming off another strong season. The team also signed Brandon Marshall, although he’s coming off disappointing back-to-back years with the Giants. 

Seattle had a defense that made them Super Bowl contenders year after year, but this isn’t 2014 anymore and those days are long gone. Earl Thomas is the only remaining member of the “Legion of Boom” after Richard Sherman was released and Kam Chancellor announced his retirement. Thomas has requested a trade or an extension, but it’s said he was to report to training camp. 

The defensive line also lost a couple members from those defenses — Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril were both key members but are gone. Defensive end Frank Clark has collected 22 sacks in his three seasons and is the best pass rusher on the team. Veteran linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are back to lead what will be the best group in the defensive unit.

AFC West

Denver Broncos: 2017 Record (5-11)

Key Offseason Additions: QB Case Keenum, OT Jared Veldheer, DILB Su'a Cravens, CB Tramaine Brock, P Marquette King

Key Offseason Losses: QB Trevor Siemian, RB C.J. Anderson, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Cody Latimer, TE Virgil Green, G Allen Barbre, CB Aqib Talib

Denver was one of the finalists for quarterback Kirk Cousins before he signed with Minnesota, so the team ended up with Case Keenum, who had the best year of his career in 2017 with the Vikings. Keenum will have an excellent offensive line protecting him, led by second-year left tackle Garett Bolles and veteran right tackle Jared Veldheer.

Denver’s top two receivers are looking to have bounce-back years after down seasons in 2017. Demaryius Thomas struggled with drops all season, while Emmanuel Sanders battled injuries throughout the year. If they don’t bounce back, Denver has two rookie receivers, Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, who could get chances. 

Denver selected defensive end Bradley Chubb with the fifth overall pick in last year's draft, and he will team with All-Pro Von Miller to form potentially the league’s best pass rush. Miller has 83.5 sacks in his seven seasons and should be a great mentor for Chubb. 

The rest of the D-line is questionable: Defensive tackle Derek Wolfe has battled neck injuries and hasn’t played a full season since 2014, while defensive end Adam Gotsis has been battling a ankle injury in training camp. 

Kansas City Chiefs: 2017 Record (10-6)

Key Offseason Additions: QB Chad Henne, WR Sammy Watkins, NT Xavier Williams, LB Anthony Hitchens, CB David Amerson, CB Kendall Fuller, S Robert Golden

Key Offseason Losses: QB Alex Smith, WR Albert Wilson, G Zach Fulton, NT Bennie Logan, DE/OLB Tamba Hali, DE/OLB Dee Ford, DE/OLB Dadi Nicolas, LB Derrick Johnson, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, CB Marcus Peters, CB Terrance Mitchell, CB Darrelle Revis, CB Phillip Gaines, S Ron Parker, S Steven Terrell

Patrick Mahomes was selected 10th overall in the 2017 draft and will now be the starting quarterback in his second season after Kansas City traded Alex Smith to Washington in the offseason. Mahomes has a huge arm and will provide more downfield passing than Smith did.

Mahomes will have a great supporting cast to help him through his first year as a starting quarterback — Kansas City was the only team in the NFL of last season to have a 1,000 rusher, 1,000 yard wide receiver and 1,000 yard tight end. All three of those guys are back and could put up even better numbers in 2018.

Tyreek Hill is an explosive athlete who can score anytime he touches the ball. Hill had a breakout year in 2017, catching 75 passes for 1,183 yards and seven touchdowns. Hill is also a threat on special teams — three punt returns for touchdowns in two years. Hill will have less attention on him now that Sammy Watkins was signed in the offseason. Watkins is a talented receiver who is looking to rebound in Kansas City after a disappointing year in L.A.

Tight end Travis Kelce is another one of those players to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in 2017. He will be back as one of the top targets.

Kareem Hunt ran for 1,327 yards in his rookie season after being named the starter after Spencer Ware suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason. Hunt is also effective in the passing game — 53 receptions for 455 yards — and will be another option for Mahomes. 

The defense lost some players this offseason but should still be a strong unit. Kendall Fuller was acquired in the Marcus Peters trade and will be the team's top cornerback. Safety Eric Berry returns after suffering a torn Ahilles in Week 1 last year and should be 100 percent to begin the season. They will be joined by cornerbacks Steve Nelson and David Amerson and safety Eric Murray. 

Los Angeles Chargers: 2017 Record (9-7)

Key Offseason Additions: QB Geno Smith, TE Virgil Green, C Mike Pouncey, CB Jaylen Watkins, K Caleb Sturgis

Key Offseason Losses: RB Branden Oliver, TE Antonio Gates, G/C Matt Slauson, G Kenny Wiggins, DE/OLB Jerry Attaochu, ILB Korey Toomer, S Tre Boston, K Nick Novak

The offensive line and injuries were the main problems for the Chargers last season. Second-round rookie guard Forrest Lamp was lost before the season began, and first-round pick Mike Williams battled injuries all season. Lamp is back, along with the newly signed Mike Pouncey, so the offensive line should be better at protecting Philip Rivers.

Keenan Allen was healthy and played all 16 games for the first time in his career; as a result, he put up the best numbers of his career, catching 102 passes for 1,393 yards and six touchdowns. If he and Williams stay healthy, Rivers should once again throw for over 4,000 yards for the sixth-straight season.

The improved offensive line should give Melvin Gordon more holes to run through. Gordon averaged less than four yards per carry but was still able to rush more than 1,000 yards for the first time last season. 

The defense has arguably the best pass rush in football, with Joey Bosa and Melvin Engram combining for 23 sacks in 2017. They get constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which helps an already-talented secondary immensely. The secondary is led by All-Pro Casey Hayward, Trevor Williams and Desmond King. 

Oakland Raiders: 2017 Record (6-10)

Key Offseason Additions: RB Doug Martin, FB Keith Smith, WR Jordy Nelson, TE Derek Carrier, DE Tank Carradine, DT Ahtyba Rubin, OLB Tahir Whitehead, OLB Kyle Wilber, ILB Derrick Johnson, CB Rashaan Melvin, CB Shareece Wright, CB Daryl Worley, CB Leon Hall, S Marcus Gilchrist

Key Offseason Losses: FB Jamize Olawale, WR Michael Crabtree, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, OT Marshall Newhouse, DE Aldon Smith, DE Khalil Mack, DT Denico Autry, ILB NaVorro Bowman, CB T.J. Carrie, CB David Amerson, CB Sean Smith, S Keith McGill, K Sebastian Janikowski, P Marquette King

Renowned coach Jon Gruden takes over and will finally have a healthy Derek Carr. Carr injured his back early in the 2017 season, and it affected his play the entire year. He says he is back to 100 percent and will look to get back to his 2016 numbers. 

Amari Cooper also battles an injury and his numbers show it as well. Cooper’s receiving yards fall to 680 after 1,153 in 2016. He also struggled catching the ball in 2017, dropping seven balls in the team’s first four games. Cooper has proven to be above average receiver in the NFL so look for him to bounce back in a big way in 2018. Long-time Packer Jordy Nelson signed with Oakland after being released by Green Bay and will also be looking to bounce back. If he’s able to, Oakland will have a very good receiving corps. 

The offensive line has improved, and that's good news for running backs Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin. Lynch came out of retirement in 2017 to average 4.3 yards per carry but is 32, so Martin will be a nice insurance policy for the Raiders.

The defense took a huge hit when Khalil Mack was traded to Chicago last week. Mack is arguably the best defensive player in the NFL, so finding a replacement isn’t going to be easy. 

Bruce Irvin is now the team’s best returning edge rusher, while talented rookie Arden Key figures to be Mack’s replacement.

Without Mack putting pressure on the quarterback, the secondary will need to step up its play with two new starters. 2017 first-round pick Gareon Conley barely played in his rookie season but will be one of the starters opposite of Rashaan Melvin, who had a great year last year with the Colts. Veterans Reggie Nelson and former first-round Karl Joseph round out the secondary.

@CWickham2

cw687616@ohio.edu

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