For only the second time since the realignment, the NFC
Worst West went 4 - 0 in one week. The division now boasts the NFL's best record, at 6 - 2, and also boasts the NFL's best record outside its own division, at 5 - 1.
And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone when I say that I dig it. Division rivalries are a lot more fun when the games mean something, and when the teams on both sides of the field are actually legit. So long as the 49ers continue to come out on top, I am willing to accept the sun rising in the West and setting on the East (and North and South).
Looking back through the years, the NFC West has had the longest streak without a Wild Card team of any division. Not since the 2004 season have two NFC West teams made the same post-season, when both the Rams and Seahawks did that; and the division has not garnered two double-digit winning teams since the year before that.
Dare I say both those streaks might end this year? The Rams will have it rough, and certainly have their hands full this week on the road (though wouldn't it be awesome if they won?) - but the Seahawks and Cardinals are facing well-loved NFC opponents at home, and have as good a chance now as ever to establish themselves as contenders.
The Arizona Cardinals are one home win away from starting 3 - 0 for the first time since 1974. Yes. 1974.
I wish that was 1984, so I could make Orwell references, but I guess I'll have to stick to Rush references instead. I'll do the Best I Can.
The Cardinals face a great opportunity to make some more noise in the NFC. In the 90+ year history of their team, from Chicago to St. Louis to Phoenix to Arizona, they have only finished with double digit wins six times. Going 3 - 0, with victories over the Patriots and Eagles, however, is a great start to making that seven. The NFL is a Marathon and not a sprint, but an early lead won't hurt.
So it's time to put on your Kid Gloves and capitalize, Arizona, because momentum is a delicate thing. Otherwise, you might not go 3 - 0 again until 2112.
Let's look at their chances today...
First off, I have to admit, despite the loss they handed San Francisco in 2011 leaving a bad taste in my mouth, I did enjoy seeing Arizona beat Dallas last year; and taking down New England in Gillette Stadium last week is an impressive feat. Their recent surge has brought them Closer to the Heart of a 49er fan who would otherwise wish them nothing but the worst.
Under different Circumstances, I would hope they lose that game, but seeing Brady go down at home is too much fun to let a little division rivalry get in the way of it. Entre Nous - and we won't let this leave the room - I hope the Cardinals continue to win.
I respect that Arizona, under Ken Wisenhunt, continues to bring a Working Man mentality to each and every week. Dating back to last year, they have won six straight at home, and 9 of 11 overall.
Their defense, in particular, is looking very stout and showing great Chemistry, averaging 18 points against over the past 11 games with 13 turnovers. I've been Finding My Way through Philadelphia and Arizona stats to gauge their chances this week, and the Cards have a favorable match-up thanks to their defense.
Michael Vick has thrown six interceptions in two games, and Arizona has a pick in both their games so far this year. Also, Vick has shown no Grace Under Pressure, taking two sacks in each game and making terrible decisions while throwing outside the pocket.
Arizona has seven sacks through two games, and that should continue this week. Last week they made Tom Brady look pedestrian, keeping him to under seven yards per attempt and adjusted yards per attempt - and Vick is no Brady. Though Vick can scramble more, it is his scrambling that, as mentioned, has got him into trouble this year.
I expect this match to have turnovers on both sides of the ball, but I give the edge to Arizona as Kevin Kolb has been playing Different Strings this year than last. He has yet to throw an interception through two games, or at all in his last 68 attempts; and the Witch Hunt on his head appears to have been temporarily called off.
If they can capitalize with points on a shorter field, and benefit from some nice Patrick Peterson returns, they can hold the Eagles to around 20 points and pull out the "W" in a very close contest. I'm going 23 - 20 Arizona in a down-to-the-wire bout.
By-Tor and the Snow Dog.
The Seahawks came off a disappointing loss in Week 1 to said Arizona Cardinals in a game they could have won. Pete Carroll got an extra time-out and rookie quarterback Russel Wilson threw a catch-able ball to Braylon Edwards in the end zone for the go-ahead sore. It was not to be.
But the Seahawks being who they are, and their fan-base being among the most electric in the NFL, bounced back in Week 2 at home and absolutely dominated the Dallas Cowboys.
This week, they face the last year's consensus #1 team, the Green Bay Packers. Luckily for Seattle, this match is also at home. If they want to make a stab at 2 - 1 and take down an NFC powerhouse in the process, now's their chance.
Many people are promoting this contest as one between one of the best wide receiving groups in the NFL to one of the best secondaries. The Seahawks' secondary last week managed to handle Tony Romo with ease.
Romo, who tore up the Giants in the NFL's opening game with 10.59 yards per attempt, 11.10 adjusted yards per attempt, and a 129.5 rating, was held to just 251 yards on 40 attempts, with one touchdown, one interception, and a measly 74.1 rating. Dallas only put up seven points, and star running back DeMarco Murray was held to 44 yards on 12 carries.
Seattle is averaging 13.5 points against this year, and 15.7 over their last 10 games. While their overall record at home is not so great, Seattle has consistently shown ability to upset greater opponents when the 12th man at Century Link roars.
Last year they beat Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia at home - three good teams. And of course, in the '09 post-season, they shocked the New Orleans Saints.
Fact remains, unless you're Jim Harbaugh and you just happen to know how to beat Pete Carroll in his own house (whether it be in LA or elsewhere), no team should be looking forward to a game at Century Link Field.
On top of that, Aaron Rodgers has not looked himself recently, especially in his past three starts. The 49ers, of course, handled him very well. They defended the long pass superbly and forced Rodgers into mistakes, where he eventually threw a pick. Green Bay needed a special teams touchdown that should not have counted just to put up 22 at home.
The following week, the Chicago Bears had similar success against Rodgers. Despite four Jay Cutler interceptions, Chicago held the Green Bay offense to 25 at Lambeau. Once again, Green Bay needed a special teams touchdown to boost their score to 32.
Both teams managed to keep Rodgers to under seven yards per attempt - a number far below his '11, '10, and '09 averages. The Giants kept it below six in the NFC Divisional Round, and also kept his completion percentage below 60%.
The blueprint has been laid. Rodgers is beatable, and all three of these teams found ways to do it against him on his own field. If the Seahawk's defense is as legit as many believe - heck, as I believe - then they will deliver the goods today at home and contain Rodgers.
If the game was at Lambeau, I'd give it to Green Bay by 10, assuming a late touchdown to put it away after a Russel Wilson pick. But in Seattle it's a different game. I'll take both quarterbacks to throw one pick, but Marshawn Lynch will run wild on the Green Bay defense, and Seattle will find ways to keep Rodgers to field goals. 23 - 27 Seattle.
Time for the NFC West to rise. Because you know if the division goes 4 - 0 again this week people's heads will explode; and it will make our season as Niner fans a lot more exciting.
Let's just make sure we do our part and destroy the Vikings.