NFC West 2012: So about those Arizona Cardinals...

Christian Petersen - Getty Images

We take a look at the development in the NFC West that has the Arizona Cardinals in first place at 4-0.

The 2012 NFL season reaches the quarter point for 30 of 32 teams after Monday Night Football and the NFC West is shaping up to be an incredibly interesting race for now. Through four games, our San Francisco 49ers are 3-1 and looking up at the 4-0 Arizona Cardinals.

Yep, while the New Orleans Saints remain winless, the Arizona Cardinals have somehow run the table through four games. While I don't think the '72 Dolphins are getting nervous quite yet, these Cardinals are looking like they could provide quite the reckoning for the 49ers. The Cardinals struggled yesterday against the current version of the Dolphins, but they just showed some grit in battling back to claim the overtime win.

The Cardinals have been winning "ugly" with some generally solid defensive efforts that mix ball-hawking with a bend but don't break style. We saw Ryan Tannehill throw for 431 yards, but he managed only one touchdown in a relatively low scoring game. The Cardinals just get the job done, even if it isn't pretty to watch.

The big story for the Cardinals entering this season was their QB situation. The Kevin Kolb, John Skelton combination was considered a joke by many. Skelton got hurt in Week 1 and Kevin Kolb really hasn't looked back. Kolb hasn't been lights out, but he's been effective enough in this system. Sound familiar? OK, I really don't want to turn this into another Alex Smith debate, but there is that '11 Alex Smith/San Francisco 49ers vibe with this Cardinals team. Or maybe it's just me.

Whatever the case, the Cardinals will have a winning record when they host the 49ers on Monday Night Football at the end of the month. They are 4-0 and will be traveling to the Rams this week, hosting the Bills next week and traveling to Minnesota in three weeks. All of those matchups retain some level of intrigue, with the first and third being most interesting. The Rams showed you can't sleep on them in St. Louis, while the Vikings are surprising folks left and right.

The 49ers host the Bills, Giants and Seahawks before that road trip. The 49ers are not guaranteed a three-game sweep of that home stretch, but they will likely be favored in all three games. They will be looking for strong performances to carry them into what could be the biggest divisional showdown that week. The next three weeks leave plenty of room for change, but these Cardinals are at least interesting for now.

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