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NFC West providing league’s best divisional fight

It’s usually around this point in the season when we can begin to see whether or not teams are good enough to stay in the playoff race in the long term. Hot starts turn into extended winning streaks, bad games turn into losing skids, and fights within the divisions get bigger and better as the leaves turn orange.

And boy, do we have a real fight out west.

Maybe we should’ve seen it coming. The NFC West is one of just two divisions that has crowned three different divisional champions in the last three years (NFC East) and the only team that hasn’t won the division in that time frame reached the Super Bowl in 2019. It’s the only division in the league that’s had two teams win double-digit games in every season since 2018, and it’s also one of just two to send multiple teams to the playoffs in every season during that window as well (AFC North). Simply put, some of the best football in the world is played in the NFC West.

But what makes this season unique for that division is that a legitimate case can be made for all four teams, and every single one looks like a serious contender. The Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams, and (to an extent) the 49ers have all impressed in the early stages of the season. For us fans, it means every single divisional game will be a must-watch.

Last week, I wrote a piece about how Kyler Murray is leading the MVP candidates after three weeks. Would be a bit hypocritical of me to say I’m not buying into their start, wouldn’t it?

Kyler has been brilliant, and if he continues his form, there’s no reason to think the high-flying Cardinals offense can’t lead the team to the division title. An impressive Week 1 win over Tennessee, who should also be in the playoff discussion, served as a fantastic tease to what Arizona is capable of, and we’ve seen it continue in the two weeks following. They’re tied for the most points scored in the league (105), have gone for over 400 yards on offense in each game, and showed they can squeak out wins against tough opponents with a 34-33 win over Minnesota in Week 2. This team will continue to get better.

Maybe the team best suited to get in Arizona’s way right now is the Rams. Los Angeles, three years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, looks to be headed back in that direction on a full-speed freight train.

Simply put, everything is clicking for them early. The defense is as scary as it’s always been. Cooper Kupp is the best wide receiver in the National Football League through the first three weeks. And Matthew Stafford, who has always been criticized for not being able to consistently beat the league’s top teams, looks to be thickly in the early season MVP discussion. The former Lion has thrown for 942 yards, nine touchdowns, and just a single interception, making him one of the most effective and efficient signal-callers in the league. In a tricky division with both the Cardinals and the Seahawks, it will be easy to make a misstep somewhere. That said, the Rams may be the best suited of the three to make a run at the Super Bowl.

And how about San Francisco? We all thought they might be a step behind the other teams in the division at the start of the season, but they’re one trademark Aaron Rodgers game-winning drives away from being 3-0. Jimmy Garoppolo – undoubtedly feeling the pressure of having a short leash due to the presence of third overall pick Trey Lance – has looked the part, having only thrown one interception and averaging over 250 passing yards per game. They hung 41 on Detroit in the first week of the season, ran through Philadelphia a week later, and pushed the Packers, a team that many people like as the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, to the brink in primetime. They’ve been better than we thought.

And call me crazy, but Seattle is still my favorite to win the NFC West despite sitting at the bottom of the division through three weeks. It’s no secret what this team is capable of. Russell Wilson has been fantastic and is a sneaky MVP candidate thanks to his 7:0 TD: INT ratio. He’s bolstered by a dangerous receiver duo of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, the former of which has looked like one of the best receivers in the NFL following back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Jamal Adams has started slow, but will quickly be back to terrorizing opposing quarterbacks and running backs behind the line of scrimmage. Pete Carroll has been here before, and he will always make Seattle a tough team to beat. 

This isn’t the only division with a fascinating early-season fight, either. The AFC West looks like it’s shaping up to be Mahomes v. Herbert – not just this season, but for the next fifteen years. The Bengals have forced themselves into the AFC North conversation. And the NFC East may be a race to nine wins.

But if you’re searching for the only division in which all four teams have staked claims as divisional contenders, look to the wild, wild NFC West.

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