LA Rams face wide open NFC West in 2023

2023 NFL Pro Bowl Games
2023 NFL Pro Bowl Games / Ethan Miller/GettyImages
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Brock Purdy
NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

The San Francisco 49ers will not have an easy 2023 NFL season

The last team on this list is the San Francisco 49ers, a team that has proven to be the nemesis of the LA Rams and head coach Sean McVay. Invariably, when the LA Rams struggle, the 49ers seem to be that team that is ideally positioned to exploit that opportunity. In 2022, the 49ers had the right players in the right positions to succeed. But for the second time in two years, the San Francisco 49ers made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game, and fell short. But this time feels a bit . . . different.

The San Francisco 49ers greatest concern is over their quarterback position. Right now, the 49ers believe that the starting quarterback position belongs to rookie quarterback Brock Purdy. But there could be a wrinkle in that strategy. You see, Purdy is slated to have reconstructive surgery on his injured elbow, with the expectation that he will rehab and be medically cleared in time for training camp. That is pretty optimistic in my view. The healing time to be medically cleared for his procedure is an impressive four months. But that simply opens the way for him to begin football throwing motions. Getting up to NFL playing strength takes more time, and the medical staff and trainers will have plenty to say about his workload and progress throughout the process.

That could open the door for now 49ers third-year quarterback Trey Lance to pry his way into a starting role. Lance was the quarterback who the San Francisco 49ers traded a boatload of draft picks to move up and select, but who has yet to make any meaningful contributions for the team so far. Finally, the team reiterates once again that they will not extend veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in 2023, but that is a similar 'he won't be back,' message that the team used in 2022. And yet, Jimmy G played in 11 games for the 49ers in 2022. So much for taking the 49ers at their word, eh?

49ers face a difficult offseason too

Much like the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers offseason is littered with land mines and pitfalls. Despite the fact that the team has two relatively cheap quarterbacks who will compete for playing time, neither is 100 percent healthy. Purdy will be coming off elbow surgery, Lance will be coming off ankle surgery, and long-time veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be selling his wares to the highest bidder in the NFL Free Agency Market.

As far as free agency, the 49ers have 48 players under contract for the 2023 NFL season. Right now, 25 players are projected to hit the NFL Free Agency market, included seven defensive linemen, four offensive linemen, five defensive backs, a placekicker, two quarterbacks, two linebackers and more. Keep an eye on those defensive free agents, as many had a very close relationship with defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who has since agreed to become the head coach of the Houston Texans. Many of his former players would love to follow him to the Texans, and I believe that he will be more than happy to welcome several of the key contributors to his new team.

In the end, all NFC West Division teams face significant challenges for the 2023 NFL season, and in some cases, more than those of the LA Rams. Unlike other NFC West Division rivals, the Rams have a pretty solid confidence level in the players who will be back in 2023, and the production that can be expected from their healthy return. The Rams simply need to address the weaknesses that surfaced in 2023. Since the Rams have a proven track record for doing exactly that, I'm very optimistic over the team's chances this season.