If it had not been for the division matchup on Thursday Night, the NFC West would have undoubtedly ran table on the rest of the NFL this weekend. Instead, the new powerhouse division of the NFL went 3-1 during Week 5, now with a combined record of 14-6 and, more impressively, 11-3 outside of the NFC West. The West may single handedly put a majority of the AFC East in the Top 10 in April during the 2013 draft, with the definite possibility of sweeping the bottom three teams in the division. The NFC West is the only division in football without a losing record, which is made even more significant by the fact that all of the losses for the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks have come from other teams within the division. Only the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, and Detroit Lions have been able to pierce the armor thus far in the season. In the last ranking, the Cardinals were on top of the division, with the ‘Hawks sitting at the bottom. How are things stacking up this week…
1. San Francisco 49ers (4-1, 0-0)
The San Francisco 49ers sure know how to make people forget about their loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3. They hung 34 points on the New York defense, while keeping Tim Tebow and the Jets offense off the board in Week 4. They followed up that performance with a 45-3 destroying of the down-spiraling Buffalo Bills, recording over 600 yards of total offense (the most in franchise history) and having six different players score touchdowns in the game. In all fairness, the Bills did allow 580 yards and 52 points to the New England Patriots just last week, but that shouldn’t take away from the 9ers performance. They have firmly reestablished themselves as the leader of the dominating NFC West and will likely remain their unless the St. Louis Rams or Arizona Cardinals can fix their problems on offense.
2. St. Louis Rams (3-2, 2-0)
It seems like an eternity ago that the St. Louis Rams played the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday Night Football, but the dominance in the game is still fresh in the minds of Rams fans everywhere. St. Louis turned up their defense, if that is even possible, to record 9 sacks on Kevin Kolb and allow only 3 total points from the previously undefeated team. The offense, while inconsistent, did score twice on the ferocious Arizona defense, connect on the opening drive from Bradford to Kendrick’s and later from Bradford to Givens on a 53 yard burner. Even the special teams played amazing, with Zuerlein punching through another field goal from 50+ yards and Johnny Hekker averaging 56.6 yards on seven punts, including a 68 yarder that pinned the Cardinals inside their 20. The St. Louis Rams are now 3-2 overall, but, more importantly, 2-0 in the division with wins against Seattle and Arizona. They appear to be on the raise in the minds of most analysts and may have a shot at fighting for a playoff spot if they continue to progress as a team.
3. Arizona Cardinals (4-1, 1-1)
Just like last week when Ramblin’ Fan had the Cardinals in the top spot because of their record, they are holding down the third spot out of respect for the same thing. Technically, the Cardinals are still first on the division, winning the tiebreaker with the 49ers through their higher win-loss-tie percentage within the NFC West. However, they are also coming off of a tough, hard-fought loss to the St. Louis Rams, who won the match in all three phases of the game. The offensive line and lack of a true tailback has finally cost the Cardinals a game, and will likely spell trouble as the season progresses and teams get an opportunity to dissect the film of the St. Louis defense from this game. The 49ers are the clear favorite in the division, and until they beat the Rams or show that they are a significantly better team, will stay in the bottom half of the division in rankings.
4. Seattle Seahawks (3-2, 0-2)
The Seattle Seahawks were a mishandled, Cam Newton pass attempt away from their second loss in two week. Luckily, they were playing against one of the only teams in the NFL that is more dysfunctional on offense then themselves, resulting in the ugly 16-12 win over the Carolina Panthers. The defense continues to keep the Seahawks in games, which was exemplified yesterday after Russell Wilson and Leon Washington turned the ball over three times in extremely untimely fashion. Typically, a win this early in the season would have a team jumping up the rankings, but until the offense can put together complete, drives and limit offensive turnovers, the Seahawks will continue to anchor the NFC West, even with a 3-2 record.