Burning Question for each team in the NFC West
The NFC West saw two teams make the 2022 postseason (Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers) and one of them made an appearance in the NFC championship game (49ers). As the season grows closer, it’s time to raise a question concerning each team in the NFC West division.
1. Arizona Cardinals: Should Kyler Murray play in 2023?
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray suffered a no-contact ACL injury during a week 14 matchup against the New England Patriots thus ending his 2022 season.
Arizona drafted Murray with the number one overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft and since 2019, the Cardinals have made only one playoff appearance (2021). As a starter, Murray is 25-31-1 and before his season ended in 2022, he led the Cardinals to a 3-8 record.
The Cardinals have an option to tank in 2023 for a chance to snag USC quarterback Caleb Williams who is the reigning heisman trophy winner (2022) in the 2024 NFL draft. An ACL injury is a career altering setback, so it’s not certain that Murray will perform at his full potential when he eventually returns.
It’s likely Murray will miss more than half the season due to the injury, so what good does it do for Arizona to start him at that point? If he does play, Murray’s trade value will decrease depending on if his on-field performance waned or not so there a lot of things to consider for the Cardinals.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Will we see the same Purdy?
49ers quarterback Brock Purdy went down in the 2022 NFC championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first quarter due to an elbow injury. Purdy underwent successful elbow surgery in the offseason. The 49ers expect Purdy to be ready for week 1 of the 2023 regular season.
San Francisco drafted Purdy with the last overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft out of Iowa State. Purdy took over the starting job after season-ending injuries to 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (ankle) and former 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (foot). In week 14, Purdy made his first career start and defeated the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers in dominant fashion.
Throughout the remainder of the 2022 season, Purdy led the 49ers to a 5-0 record as a starter and accumulated 1,374 passing yards, thirteen touchdown passes along with a passer rating of 119.4 (highest for a quarterback in first five starts since Hall of Fame QB Kurt Warner in 1999). The former Iowa State quarterback then led San Francisco to two playoff victories over the Seattle Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys in the postseason.
The 49ers have a strong offensive front as well as immense talent at their skill positions, but Purdy’s on-field performance post-elbow injury is vital for the team’s success in 2023.
3. Seattle Seahawks: Was 2022 the real deal for Geno Smith?
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith had a career resurgence in 2022 after years of being a backup quarterback. Smith had to fill the shoes of former Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson after he signed with the Denver Broncos prior to the 2022 season.
In 2022, Smith led the Seahawks to the postseason with a 9-8 record while garnering 4,282 passing yards (most passing yards in a single season in Seahawks history), 30 passing touchdowns with a completion percentage of 69.8 (led the league). Due to his improved level of play, Smith was elected to his first pro bowl and named the 2022 NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
Smith will be without former Seattle Seahawks coordinator Dave Canales, as he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the offseason. Seattle signed Smith to a lucrative 3-year extension during the offseason, thus conveying their trust in the 2022 pro bowler.
2023 is going to be a reality check season for Smith and the Seahawks, as the franchise hopes he can be their cornerstone player going forward.
4. Los Angeles Rams: How will the Big-3 perform after injuries in 2022?
Los Angeles’s 2022 campaign were riddle with injuries, as they were the third-highest team with the most players on the injured reserved list. The Rams three best players such as quarterback Matthew Stafford, defensive lineman Aaron Donald, and wideout Cooper Kupp all went down during the season due to major injuries.
The Rams finished the 2022 regular season with a 5-12 record and missed the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl a year prior. Los Angeles released veteran key pieces during the offseason such as cornerback Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Bobby Wagner, linebacker Leonard Floyd, defensive lineman Greg Gaines and safety Nick Scott. The Rams utilized the 2023 NFL draft to fill those voids by drafting 7 defensive players.
Stafford suffered a spinal cord contusion and was placed on injured reserved prior to week 14 for the remainder of the regular season. In nine games that Stafford played, he led the Rams to a 3-6 record while posting 10 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Stafford is entering his fifteenth season in 2023 and the Rams hope Stafford can make it through the season injury-free.
Donald’s 2022 season ended in week 13 due to an ankle sprain. The defensive lineman missed the final six games and finished the season with 49 combined tackles, 10 tackles for loss and five sacks. 2023 will be Donald’s tenth season as his career is leaning towards the end rather than the beginning.
Kupp, the Super Bowl 56 MVP, suffered a high ankle sprain during a Week 10 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. He was placed on the injured reserve list, thus ending his 2022 season. Kupp finished with 812 receiving yards, six touchdowns and 75 catches in nine games. The Rams expect the 2021 NFL Offensive Player of Year to be his former self as they look to be competitive in 2023.
Los Angeles will be getting their “Big 3” back in hopes to win their second Super Bowl in three years.