While most teams continue their final preparations for Week 3, one storyline that is gaining speed is the strength of the NFC West.
With a young defense and a rookie QB who continues to defy expectations, the Seattle Seahawks are serious competitors in the division. But there are three other teams, who so far, don’t look as if they are going to back down.
In a 16-game season every win is crucial. The race to the division championships is short, but the finish line is months away.
The NFC West houses two of the six undefeated teams after two weeks. The division's combined point differential (+37) is the best in the league. But having arguably the toughest schedule in the NFL will make that number hard to sustain.
“It’s shaping up to be a really cool division and I think that people are going to look back at it a lot differently than they have these past couple of years” – Pete Carroll [Source: KitsapSun.com].
The NFC West has come a long way since being the laughing stock of the league. Just two years ago a 7-9 record qualified the Seahawks for the playoffs. Last year the 49ers came within a field goal or arguably a fumble call away from making the Super Bowl.
The 49ers had a great offseason and have proved it with a great start this season. All 11 of their starters have returned on defense, and led by their linebackers they are an imposing threat to any offense. The improvement of their receiver corps, adding Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, will give Alex Smith stronger targets to look for. They have the personnel in place to better their 13-3 performance last season.
But the 49ers are not the only threat to Seattle’s hopes of topping the division.
The Arizona Cardinals have been the biggest surprise of the season thus far, after starting 2-0. Their defense has gotten worthy attention after successfully shutting down both Russell Wilson and Tom Brady. If their momentum continues, then their wins won't be called upsets anymore.
The return of Coach Jeff Fisher to the NFL has paid dividends for the St. Louis Rams. Fisher earns the respect of his opponents and the Rams' performances so far this season have shown that he deserves it. Danny Amendola has emerged has a consistent target for Sam Bradford, and the Rams offense is posting improving numbers.
With challenging matchups across the board this weekend in the NFC West, Week 3 could start to separate the contenders from the pretenders. The Seahawks have a tough match on Monday Night Football. A victory against the Green Bay Packers could be looked back as a season-defining moment.