Two years ago, the NFC West was the laughing stock of the NFL, but now the division is arguably the best in all of football.
In 2010, the Seattle Seahawks became the only team to ever make the playoffs with a losing record at 7-9. The Rams finished with the same record, and the San Fransisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals combined for 21 losses.
It is safe to say that those days of the NFC West are behind us.
The Cardinals, Seahawks and 49ers have elite defenses and are finding a way to win games against elite teams.
Seattle and Arizona rank among the top 10 in yards allowed per game, and are currently No. 1 and No. 2 in scoring defense. Then of course there's the 49ers (11th in yards and points allowed), whose defense was being praised as the best in nearly a decade before their loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3.
Here is a breakdown of the four teams in the NFC West.
Arizona Cardinals (3-0)
The Cardinals have been the most impressive team in the division. They have taken down the Patriots, Eagles and Seahawks, all games they were not supposed to win coming into the season.
The defense has been stifling, recording 12 sacks, three forced fumbles and two interceptions in first three weeks.
However, for how good the defense has been, the offensive has been stagnant. The Cardinals' unit ranks second to last in yards per game and 19th in points per game.
There is one thing the offense is doing well though, and that is not turning the ball over. Outside of the one crucial fumble by second-year running back Ryan Williams that nearly cost them the game against New England, the Cardinals have not given their opponents many extra opportunities.
The Cardinals have shades of the 2001 Ravens team that won it all—an elite defense and an offense that doesn't turn the ball over.
Seattle Seahawks (2-1)
No matter how controversial the ending was on Monday Night Football, the Seahawks kept up with reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers stride for stride and pulled out a victory with no time left on the clock.
The Seahawks battered Rodgers Monday night with eights first-half sacks. They flushed the Green Bay quarterback from the pocket all night and held the prolific Packers offense to only one touchdown.
A little known fact is that the Seahawks’ defense boasts three Pro Bowl defensive backs in Brandon Browner, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. Browner and Richard Sherman are two of the most physical corners in football and showed how they can dominate the opposition’s offense in the team’s 27-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2.
The Seahawks are built very similarly to the Cardinals, the only team that they have lost to.
Seattle's offense has only averaged 19 points per game thus far, and their passing game ranks last in the NFL. However, they have a reliable back in Marshawn Lynch that they can lean on to take the pressure off rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.
The Seahawks should be able to ride the legs of Lynch and their dominant defense to a playoff berth.
San Francisco 49ers (2-1)
Before San Francisco’s stunning loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3, the 49ers were widely viewed as the best team in the NFL. The team's first loss of the season is nothing to panic about, though.
The 49ers' defense is elite, Alex Smith has developed into a solid starting quarterback and the team has talent and depth at both the running back and wide receiver positions.
Jim Harbaugh has transformed the franchise since coming in. In his first year as an NFL head coach, the team was a punt return fumble away from a trip to the Super Bowl.
The 49ers set the tone for this division last year, and despite not having the best record through three weeks, they are still the best team in the NFC West.
St. Louis Rams (1-2)
The Rams are in the basement of the NFC West, and it will remain there for at least a little while longer. Jeff Fisher is only in his first season as the Rams' head coach, and while he is one of the NFL's elite coaches, he is not a miracle worker. There is a severe lack of talent on St. Louis' roster.
The Rams' most impressive victory this season was against the Redskins. Sam Bradford looked solid, recording 310 yards and three touchdowns and Danny Amendola caught an NFL-record 12 first-half passes.
It should be noted, however, that the game was one Josh Morgan mental lapse away from almost surely being sent to overtime.
The Rams have some holes to fill. Bradford is a good quarterback when he is healthy, but he doesn't have enough talent around him (Amendola seems to be the only sure-handed option in the receiving corps).
Another problem for St. Louis is that the once elite Stephen Jackson has looked old this season, only racking up 140 yards through Week 3.
The Rams have some improving to do, but with Fisher at the helm they have a bright future. As for this season, they have proven they can keep up with the majority of NFL teams, but they probably won't be surprising anyone.
The NFC West has developed into the new "Black and Blue" division in the NFL. It would not be a surprise if they sent three teams to the playoffs, with one of those teams making a deep run, potentially to a Super Bowl.
What do you think? Is the NFC West the best division in football? Are the Cardinals, Seahawks and 49ers legitimate contenders for the Super Bowl? Let us know in the comments below!
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