The rivalry between Northern California and Southern California has always been at its best in baseball. It pits San Francisco against Los Angeles. Dodgers vs. Giants. One team has eight World Series titles, the other has six.
Finally, the NFL is well-positioned to pit the Bay Area and the Entertainment Capital against each other: the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams are loading up this offseason. The latest edition to the NFC West arms race is Marcus Peters — a 25-year-old spitfire at cornerback — who was traded from the Kansas City Chiefs to the Rams on Friday.
Peters, a two-time Pro Bowler, is a turnover-forcing machine who’s racking up interceptions at a rate that only a handful of the most elite defensive backs of the era have managed:
He’ll bring that talent and playmaking ability to the Rams’ defense, which is led by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips — a coach well known for his aggressive, ball-hawking units.
Peters also comes with attitude concerns. He was suspended for a game by the Chiefs in 2017 when he hurled an official’s flag into the stands and walked off the field only to later return without socks. Under Phillips, the Rams stand a good chance at being the team that can harness that energy and attitude.
One more point on #Chiefs Peters.. Vet DB coach told me when he was coming out that you need a strong-willed coach to get the most out of a strong personality like Peters..."It takes a wolf to coach a wolf"#LARams W.Phillips has no problems w/those kinds of players.(See A.Talib)— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) February 23, 2018
With Peters and the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald, wreaking havoc inside, the Rams stand to be a turnover tornado and a powerhouse for years to come.
This sets up a clash of offensive powerhouses in the NFC West
The 49ers ended 2017 with a 6-10 record, but finished strong after starting the year 0-9. The spark down the stretch was the insertion of Jimmy Garoppolo into the starting lineup.
The 26-year-old former Patriots quarterback led the 49ers to a 5-0 record during his time as a starter, including wins over three playoff teams — the Titans, Jaguars, and Rams — in the final weeks of the season.
San Francisco was so sold on Garoppolo as the quarterback of the future that the team gave him a record-breaking five-year contract worth $27.5 million per year.
In Los Angeles, the Rams have 23-year-old quarterback Jared Goff, who overcame a rough rookie year to make the Pro Bowl in 2017 with 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
The Rams finished No. 1 in the NFL in points scored and have the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year, Todd Gurley, in the backfield with Goff.
Both the Rams and 49ers have quarterbacks in their mid-20s worth building around. Both have young coaches who established themselves as two of the brightest offensive minds in the NFL before getting their first head coaching gigs in 2017 — Kyle Shanahan for the 49ers, Sean McVay for the Rams. Both have offenses that are probably going to be tough to stop for years to come. And both are being aggressive in adding more talent.
Age caught up with the Seahawks and Cardinals
When Richard Sherman tore his Achilles in November, it marked the end of an era for the Seattle Seahawks. The team went to the playoffs six times in seven years, largely on the back of a dominant defense that finished No. 1 in points allowed in four consecutive seasons.
Leading the way was the “Legion of Boom” — a secondary consisting of Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and [insert a soon-to-be-overpaid-in-free-agency cornerback].
Sherman is a month from his 30th birthday and the subject of trade rumors now that he’s recovering from a serious injury and entering the final year of his contract. Chancellor’s career is possibly in jeopardy due to a neck injury. And Thomas is entering the final year of his contract too and already looking at his options after the Seahawks.
The Seahawks still have Russell Wilson, a whirling dynamo who dragged an otherwise underwhelming offense to the 11th-most points in the NFL last season. But with little cap space to work with, Seattle could be weeks away from losing Jimmy Graham and Sheldon Richardson — a pair of players acquired via trade.
The other recent power in the NFC West, the Arizona Cardinals, collapsed from contender to a .500 football team.
The Cardinals went to the NFC Championship in 2015, but have since withered away and been picked apart in free agency. The defense lost Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson in free agency a year ago. And then the offense suffered a blow when coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer retired after 2017.
Running back David Johnson’s return in 2018 should bolster the Cardinals’ offense and Larry Fitzgerald’s decision to stay for another year helps, but make no mistake: it’s rebuilding time for Arizona.
Things change fast in the NFL. The Seahawks and Cardinals could climb back into the mix soon. But for now, it’s the Rams and 49ers show in the NFC West and I, for one, am fired up about the budding rivalry.