NFC West Predictions 2023: Division Winner Odds & Best Bet

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf (14) warms up prior to the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium.
Image Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL season will be here before we know it. Most major free agents have found homes, and the NFL Draft is in the rearview. Thus, barring significant injuries, the general outlook for teams is clear. 

Our Divisional Betting series begins with our NFC West Predictions for 2023. The defending division champion — San Francisco — is positioned atop the heap as a sizable betting favorite to capture the crown again this year. 

Can someone topple the 49ers and overtake them for the NFC West title? Looking across sportsbooks, BetMGM Sportsbook has the most favorable odds for my favorite bet in this division. Let’s run through the NFC West odds and predictions below. 

NFC West Odds

San Francisco 49ers-160
Seattle Seahawks+195
Los Angeles Rams+1000
Arizona Cardinals+2500

Odds via BetMGM Sportsbook as of August 23.

San Francisco 49ers Odds To Win NFC West: (-160)

The 49ers were elite last year and reached the NFC Championship Game, ultimately losing to the Eagles. Unfortunately, their season ended on a sour note. After enduring injuries to Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo. Brock Purdy, Mr. Irrelevant in the 2022 NFL Draft, was a revelation. Sadly, they saved their most crippling quarterback injuries for the NFC Championship Game. Not only did Purdy suffer a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, the backup quarterback, Josh Johnson, was knocked out with a concussion. 

Purdy’s elbow injury could have a lasting impact on the 49ers since it casts doubt on how he’ll play this year and when he’ll be ready for game action. Lance will return from his season-ending ankle injury, and the team signed Sam Darnold, providing some depth at the position. Nevertheless, an unsettled quarterback situation is suboptimal for a team with -160 odds to win their division. 

Furthermore, the Texans hired San Francisco’s defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans as their head coach. So, the defense might have an adjustment period with a new defensive coordinator, Steve Wilkes. 

Per Football Outsiders, the 49ers were second in Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). In addition, according to Pro Football Reference, the 49ers had the best point differential in 2022, outscoring their opponents by 173 points. San Francisco’s talent is undeniable, and their ceiling is hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Yet, since they have some kinks to iron out early, betting them at -160 to win the NFC West isn’t appealing. Instead, it is more appealing to hope they’re clicking on all cylinders by the postseason and betting them to win the NFC Conference Championship or the Super Bowl.

Can the 49ers go over 10.5 wins? We analyze that in our 49ers Win Total Prediction article.

Seattle Seahawks Odds To Win NFC West: (+195)

The Seahawks had a bleak outlook entering last year. They traded Russell Wilson, and the consensus was 2022 would be a rebuilding year. Seattle wasn’t having any part of that. They went 9-8 and reached the postseason. They were the only other team in the NFC West with a positive point differential, outscoring their opponents by six points.

A significant reason for Seattle outperforming the 2022 preseason expectations was the breakout campaign from Geno Smith. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), among quarterbacks with at least 300 dropbacks in the regular season and postseason, Smith was 11th in PFF’s passing grade, third in Big-Time-Throw Percentage (5.4 BTT%), and sixth in Adjusted Completion Percentage (77.7 ADJ%). Smith regularly put the ball in harm’s way, tying for the third-highest Turnover-Worthy-Play Percentage (4.2 TWP%). Yet, he was tied with Carson Wentz, Tua Tagovailoa, and Josh Allen. So, Smith’s ability to make high-level throws offset his willingness to take chances. 

The offense already had two top-shelf wideouts, with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett headlining the position group. Now, Smith will have the highest-drafted wide receiver in this year’s draft class in the fold after Seattle picked Jaxon-Smith Njigba 20th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. 

How good are the Seahawks? We take a look at whether or not they can go over 8.5 wins in our Seahawks Win Total Prediction.

Seattle’s offensive line could also take a substantial step forward this year. Per PFF, Charles Cross played the most snaps (1,156) on Seattle’s offensive line, and Abraham Lucas was fourth (1,043). They were Seattle’s bookend tackles and rookies last year. They could make strides in their sophomore campaigns with a season under their belt. 

Seattle has even more room for growth on defense. They were 21st in defense DVOA, 23rd in PFF’s team defense-grade, and 25th in scoring defense (23.6 points per game). The Seahawks hit a home run in the fifth round of last year’s draft when they selected uber-athletic Tariq Woolen. He was a ballhawk, picking off six passes. The Seahawks have also pumped resources into the defense in free agency and this year’s draft. They signed Dre’Mont Jones and Jarran Reed along the defensive line, brought back linebacker Bobby Wagner after a one-year stint on the Rams, inked Julian Love to a contract at safety, and spent five picks in the draft on defense. Namely, they picked cornerback Devon Witherspoon fifth, outside linebacker Derick Hall 37th, and spent post-100 picks on defensive tackle Cameron Young, defensive end Mike Morris, and safety Jerrick Reed II. The Seahawks are built for sustainable success and look like an ascending ball club.

Los Angeles Rams Odds To Win NFC West: (+1000)

The good news for the Rams is championship banners fly forever. The bad news is their bill for win-now moves came due last year. They had a dreadful Super Bowl hangover, going 5-12 and getting outscored by 77 points. 

Injuries were problematic for the Rams in 2022. Matthew Stafford missed eight games, Cooper Kupp was out eight, and Aaron Donald missed six, among LA’s most notable injured players. Their respective returns should help the Rams bounce back from their forgettable 2022 season. Yet, the Rams also shipped Jalen Ramsey to the Dolphins, removing a critical piece from their defense. 

Head coach Sean McVay, Stafford, Kupp, Donald, and others should make the Rams competitive, but their lack of draft resources and cap space to add meaningful free agents leaves their aging roster thin at many positions. As a result, they’re unlikely to compete for the division title.

Arizona Cardinals Odds To Win NFC West: (+2500)

The Cardinals waved the white flag on the season when they granted DeAndre Hopkins his release after failing to find a trade partner. Arizona was 4-13 last year and had the fourth-worst point differential, getting outscored by 109 points. To turn a familiar phrase on its head, adding injury to insult, Kyler Murray tore the ACL in his right knee on December 12, 2022, and underwent reconstructive surgery on January 3, 2023.

It’s unclear when he’ll return to the field this year. Veteran Colt McCoy, David Blough, Jeff Driskel, and rookie Clayton Tune are the other quarterbacks on the roster. So, the outlook is bleak before Murray returns, and Murray can’t cure all that ails the Cardinals. Therefore, Arizona is likelier to be the first team on the clock in the 2024 NFL Draft than they are to win the NFC West.

NFC West Predictions & Best Bet

If the glowing write-up for the Seahawks didn’t spoil the best bet, let me clarify it: I love their odds of winning the NFC West.

It’s not a sure thing since they share the same division as the talent-rich 49ers. Nevertheless, as I cautioned in San Francisco’s write-up, they might have an adjustment period out of the gate, which could award the Seahawks the sliver of opportunity they need to overtake them for the NFC West crown.

Best Bet: Seattle Seahawks to win the NFC West | +210 at BetMGM Sportsbook

More Division Odds & Predictions

Check out Josh’s predictions from across the other NFL divisions: