Talk about a division of prestige– since 2008, the NFC West has represented the NFC in the Super Bowl six times and in the NFC Championship game nine times. It’s currently the cradle of coaching; with Pete Carroll, Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay and Kliff Kingsbury all in the division. Basically, the route to the Super Bowl goes through the NFC West. But betting on it can be a nightmare, with Seattle and San Francisco being separated by a coin flip annually and teams like the 2019 49ers going from 4-12 a year prior to 13-3 and in the Super Bowl.
Before breaking it all down, remember to shop around before deciding on a bet. Just because FanDuel Sportsbook offers Los Angeles (+370) doesn’t mean that all outlets will. Just a few extra minutes of shopping around can win you big bucks. This page will serve as a one-stop-shop guide for betting on the NFC West, complete with a lookback at 2019, a preview of 2020, historical division results, and how to bet on the division.
NFC West odds
2019 NFC West results
The 2019 49ers had the second biggest turnaround between seasons in NFL history (1999 Colts & 2008 Dolphins), going from 4-12 and the second overall pick to 13-3 and a berth in the Super Bowl. Nobody wanted to face Shanahan’s 49ers, which ranked both third overall in points scored per game (29.6) and seventh in points allowed per game (19.5). None of their losses were by more than a single score and two were at the hands of serious Super Bowl contenders (Seahawks, Ravens). And, up until the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, San Francisco was having a dream season. The only thing they were susceptible to was Patrick Mahomes’ magic and yet another double-digit comeback– the same fate as the Titans and Texans before them. Regardless, the 49ers exceeded expected wins by five (best in the league) and nearly defied +4500 odds to win the Super Bowl, making 2019 nothing short of a success.
One inch kept Seattle from claiming the 2019 NFC West over San Francisco, where tight end Jacob Hollister was knocked just short of the goal on fourth and 1 of Week 17 and the final five seconds of the game expired. It was one of the most thrilling endings to a football game ever, and the Seahawks fell just short of the NFC Championship Game for the fourth postseason in a row, this time at the hands of Green Bay. Seattle played in just four games decided by more than seven points (where they went 1-3) and Russell Wilson once again created wins out of nowhere. Wilson, playing behind a bad offensive line, was sacked 54 times (second most in the league). The defense wasn’t the Seahawks’ usual nightmare squad and another frustrating season for Carroll and Wilson was in the books.
One of the finest examples of a Super Bowl hangover was on display in Los Angeles, where the Rams were trying to follow up a desperate championship effort in which they were held to three points (averaged 30.8 in 2018). Out of the gates, the Rams were second only to the Patriots in odds to win Super Bowl LIV (+700) and had an NFC-leading 10.5 projected wins. The dice just didn’t fall in Los Angeles’ favor, where they faced one of the toughest NFL schedules and dropped eight games (including both to division-rival San Francisco). The offense tumbled down the charts to 24.6 points per game (11th)– over a touchdown less per game than the season prior. McVay was out-coached time and time again by Shanahan and ultimately was replaced as the young genius in the division. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but Rams fans would like to move forward and bury 2019 in the past.
The offseason hiring of Kingsbury with the Cardinals originally caused some head-scratching; the former Texas Tech head coach mustered a 0.467 (35-40) record at the school and was hired as the offensive coordinator at USC before being hired by the Cardinals. Kingsbury installed a wildly successful and popular air raid system at Texas Tech, which ranked in the top 25 in scoring offense five of his six years (twice in the top five) despite losing records. Kingsbury was brought on with Heisman winner and number one pick Kyler Murray, who seemed to be a perfect fit for the spread-it and gun-it system. The system was a success, bringing Arizona’s scoring offense up from a NFL-worst 14.1 points per game in 2018 to 22.6 points per game in 2019 and Murray won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. The team still managed just five wins due to a defense that ranked 28th in scoring (27.6 points per game), which was on par with their expected total, but excitement was back in Phoenix for their football team.
2020 NFC West outlook and predictions
The only questions still surrounding Shanahan are his remarkable meltdowns in Super Bowls; could be worse questions, right? The 49ers are locked and loaded for 2020, losing just DeForest Buckner, who was traded to Indianapolis for the 13th overall pick (which turned into Javon Kinlaw, Buckner’s replacement) and Joe Staley to retirement. In place of Staley, the 49ers went and acquired Trent Williams in a trade with Washington. Superstar George Kittle was given a historic extension and the rift with running back Raheem Mostert was ironed out quickly. For assurance, they signed talented but oft-injured Jordan Reed as their second tight end. It’s a team that’s ready to make another run at the Super Bowl. Because of their juggernaut roster and stellar coaching, San Francisco remains favorites to take the NFC West (+100) and is third in odds to win Super Bowl LV (+900). Barring a Rams-esque Super Bowl hangover, the 49ers will once again be one of the most dangerous teams in football.
In an attempt to recapture the defensive magic from the Legion of Boom, Seattle traded a haul to the Jets for All-Pro safety Jamal Adams. The issue of pass rush (30th in sacks, 29th in QB knockdown percentage) went largely ignored with the team choosing not to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney and letting other pass rushers go elsewhere. The draft class is widely seen as subpar, and calls for the team to let Russell Wilson cook (“Let Russ cook”) have been growing louder and louder. Despite being contenders for the division (+240) and a good choice to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl (+2000 odds to win, 8th), it seems the pressure on Pete Carroll and the front office is mounting. Most sportsbooks give Seattle a modest win total of 9.5 with their difficult division and schedule (0.503 opposing win percentage, t-13th). If the team can stay healthy and the offensive line can clean it up a bit, Seattle could be a tough team to beat.
The Rams, last year’s -175 favorites to win the NFC West, have tumbled after a rough season to +370 underdogs (third in division). Recent sample size of Super Bowl losers have shown serious dropoff in the seasons following their championship berth (Panthers 0.453 since 2015 Super Bowl appearance, Falcons 0.500 since 2016 Super Bowl appearance), and Los Angeles followed suit. Most sportsbooks project the Rams to win 8.5 games this coming season after a mostly quiet offseason and an under-the-radar draft. It’s a new era for the offense as former star running back Todd Gurley was released and receiver Brandin Cooks was dealt to the Texans. Since 2014, just one team featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks has managed a winning record (2015 Texans, 9-7). It’ll be uphill running for Los Angeles this season, which battles all of the aforementioned factors with one of the toughest divisions in football.
It’s year two for Kingsbury and Murray in Arizona and many project the duo to disrupt opposing defenses all season long. The draft was regarded as a success for the Cardinals, who landed Clemson multitool Isaiah Simmons, offensive tackle Josh Jones, and a host of defenders. Arizona took the analytical approach and drafted anchor players on both sides of the ball. They also pulled one of the most surprising trades in the NFL by landing superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Texans, sending aging running back David Johnson to Houston, and unloading an unfavorable contract. The Cardinals are slated for seven wins this coming season, two more than last, and are on pace to be one of the NFL’s most improved teams. At the very least, they’ll be wildly entertaining to watch.
San Francisco’s dominance last season was extremely visible, and the public betting market is reacting appropriately; the 49ers have a division-leading 51% of all bets and 55% of the betting handle, despite a competitive league. The Seahawks fall in second with 33% of all bets and 27% of the handle, followed surprisingly by Arizona with 13% of bets and 13% of the handle. Los Angeles falls in fourth, with just 3% of bets and 5% of the total handle. It seems that the Cardinals are the hot bet this year, while San Francisco is dominating the market.
Past NFC West division winners
|2019||San Francisco 49ers||13-3|
|2012||San Francisco 49ers||11-4-1|
|2011||San Francisco 49ers||13-3|
*Super Bowl champion
How to bet on NFL division winners
To reiterate advice given here, shop around before diving headlong into the first bet you see; different outlets offer different odds and a minute or two of your time could result in some more money coming your way.
When reading an odds table, there’s several numbers of note. The first is the odds, which tells you who is favored (lower numbers are favored) and how much a successful bet would earn you. For example, a $100 bet on Los Angeles (+500) would win you $500 with a total payout of $600. Next is the handle, which tells you what percentage of the total amount bet on the NFC West division winner each team commands. For example, the Seahawks have 27% of the handle– meaning 27% of all money bet on the NFC West winner has gone to the Seahawks. Last is the percentage of bets, which refers to the number of bets– not the amount– wagered on each team. The 49ers have 51% of all bets, which doesn’t reflect how much was bet (the 49ers have 55% of the handle, meaning larger betting amounts are being placed on the 49ers).
The NFC West is in competition to be the best and most difficult division in football this coming season, with even their fourth-place projected team, Arizona, being projected for seven wins. Both San Francisco and Seattle have the ability and the power to make and win the Super Bowl, and Los Angeles is only a year removed from their Super Bowl berth. The coaches combined with the offenses and superstars at every position, the NFC West might be the most entertaining division in the NFL.
NFL division betting previews
|AFC East||NFC East|
|AFC North||NFC North|
|AFC South||NFC South|
|AFC West||NFC West|