Let’s face it. The NFC West is now one of the best divisions in professional football. At 16-12, the division currently has the second best record in the NFL, behind only the surging NFC North.
What makes the teams out of the West so dominant is their defenses. All four teams rank within the top 10 in the NFL in points allowed and passing yards allowed per game.
In my opinion, however, this race remains between just the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks.
While the St. Louis Rams defense is greatly improved with the addition of Cortland Finnegan among other changes, the Rams offense doesn’t have the firepower nor the schedule to keep up with the top-tier defenses of the West, and that is why I don’t have them listed as a competitor.
San Francisco has been the focal point of the NFC West once again. The 49ers' defense gives up just 272.3 passing yards per game—the lowest in the NFL—and allows just 14.3 points per game—second in the NFL.
The Niners’ offense hasn’t been too shabby either. The 49ers' rushing attack, led by Frank Gore, ranks second in the league with 176.6 yards per game.
The 49ers would run all over the Cardinals' defensive line, which gives up 120.9 yards per game on average to opposing running backs, and would have no problem shutting down John Skelton and the Arizona air game.
The Seattle Seahawks pose another huge matchup problem for the Cardinals.
Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch and the ferocious Seahawks defensive line would manhandle the Cards’ offensive line, shut down the run game and fluster Skelton with ease. Struggling offensive tackle Bobby Massie will have the task of trying to contain monstrous defensive end Chris Clemons, and the young and extremely talented Seahawks secondary made up of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Brandon Browner will have a field day with Skelton’s poor decisions.
Seattle also has an extremely efficient running back of its own in Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch. The powerful bruising back and the Seahawks’ offensive line are able to wear down opposing defensive lines effectively and control the line of scrimmage.
San Francisco and Seattle have two of the NFL’s top defenses to go along with their power running games. Despite the different strengths of the Arizona defense, it is not in the same class as those of the 49ers and the Seahawks.
Thanks to John Skelton, the Cardinals’ offensive line and the tough competition they play in the NFC West, Arizona will surely drop out of the divisional race.