NFC West writer: Seahawks’ division rival could be NFL’s surprise team

Jul 2, 2024, 9:58 PM | Updated: Jul 3, 2024, 2:15 pm

Arizona Cardinals Kyler Murray Seattle Seahawks 2024...

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray runs for yardage against the Seattle Seahawks in 2024. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Given that they share a division with the juggernaut San Francisco 49ers and perennial playoff-contending Los Angeles Rams, the Seattle Seahawks already have plenty of competition in the NFC West.

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Might the Seahawks now have another divisional rival to worry about too? During an appearance Monday on Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy, FOXSports.com NFC West writer Eric Williams was asked who will be the surprise team of the NFL this year.

His answer? The Arizona Cardinals.

“I don’t think people are talking about them enough,” Williams said. “… I think the Cardinals are a team to be reckoned with once the season starts.”

Arizona is coming off back-to-back last-place finishes in the NFC West, having struggled to 4-13 campaigns each of the past two seasons. However, as Williams points out, there are reasons for optimism in the desert.

For one, the Cardinals are entering the second year of their rebuild under head coach Jonathan Gannon. That’s the point where teams typically can begin making strides. They also are coming off what was widely perceived as a strong draft, headlined by the selections of star wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. at No. 4 overall and defensive end Darius Robinson at No. 27 overall.

And perhaps most importantly, Arizona could get a boost from a healthy Kyler Murray at quarterback. The 26-year-old former No. 1 overall pick missed 15 of 34 games over the past two seasons due to injuries, including the first nine games of last year with a torn ACL. Williams also thinks Murray could be in a better system to succeed under Gannon and second-year offensive coordinator Drew Petzing than he was under previous head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

“Just having been down there and watched (the Cardinals) two or three times last year and a couple times already this year, I think (Murray) is unique as a playmaker,” Williams said. “He was drafted number one overall for a reason. I just think that him and Kliff, for whatever reason, there was a disconnect there and there wasn’t trust between those two.

“There is trust between Gannon and Murray, and (Murray) loves the offensive coordinator Drew Petzing, who I think understands how to use his skill set. … I think he’s in a system that fits his skill set. He should go out there and put up numbers, and they should be better because of that.”

Who has the edge between Seahawks and Cardinals?

After reaching the Super Bowl last season, the 49ers are heavy favorites to win another NFC West crown. The Rams, who reached the playoffs last year, are generally projected to finish second in the division. Where does that leave the Seahawks and Cardinals?

“I think it’s gonna be both the Cardinals and the Seahawks kind of competing for that number three spot in the NFC West, and it’ll probably come down to a final game during the regular season,” Williams said. “I expect both those teams to kind of hover around .500. It’s tough because (with) the NFC West – two of the best coaches in the league (San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan and Los Angeles’ Sean McVay) are in that division, and so you expect the Niners and the Rams to be good year in and year out if they have talent.

“And so, you’re really kind of competing for that third spot as you continue to kind of create your identity as a franchise. For Seattle, they’re in the first year of that. For Arizona, they’re a little bit ahead because they’re in the second year of creating that system.”

Listen to the full conversation with FOXSports.com’s Eric Williams at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story. Tune in to Bump and Stacy weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

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