The San Francisco 49ers are a likely lock to repeat as champions in the NFC West, but the Arizona Cardinals might not be too far out of the playoff picture as soon as this season.
When the 2020 NFL season gets underway, how things look in the NFC West might be different than most observers had thought. While the defending division champions San Francisco 49ers might be a default type of pick, and the Seattle Seahawks a solid stand-by, there is another team that should garner a lot of attention. Enter the Arizona Cardinals.
After an underwhelming yet promising 5-10-1 season, a draft that played it safe but offered a lot of upsides, the Cardinals look poised to be a dark horse kind of team in 2020. For fans in Arizona, the idea of exiting the division cellar and being a player for anything other than a top 10 pick will be a massive upgrade.
Certainly, and without question, the 49ers should return to the top of the division. Adding Trent Williams is a franchise changer, and the addition via the draft of Javon Kinlaw and receiver Brandon Aiyuk will keep San Francisco in the driver’s seat of the NFC. However, after the Niners, things could get interesting.
First and foremost, you can pencil in the Los Angeles Rams at the bottom. The 2018 team who was 13-3 and in the Super Bowl is now the easy pick for the division cellar. A lot of bad contracts and a “win-now” mentality was nice but clearly unsustainable.
As for Seattle, they likely remain steady, but no longer scare anyone. Granted, Russell Wilson is still a top-5 quarterback, but his team is no longer a top-5 NFL team. They will compete, but can certainly be beaten. Which is where the Cardinals come in.
If Kyler Murray, and most importantly, Kliff Kingsbury don’t take a step back, as can often happen in year-two of such a coupling, Arizona will make a move up the division. In the most relative of a talking point in the NFC as a whole, adding DeAndre Hopkins all but assures they do not.
With a schedule that has some opportunities (Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, and two against the Rams), the Cardinals could find themselves in the prime position of being a playoff contender in late December. If Arizona can manage road wins in either Seattle or San Francisco, a playoff appearance this season might not be completely out of the question.