Upset Central: Is the NFC West the Toughest Division in Football?

Yes, you read that headline right. 

And, brace yourselves – the following sentences are recaps of NFC West team achievements after two weeks of regular-season action, and contain no typos:

The Cardinals beat the New England Patriots on the road.  

The Rams upset the new-look Washington Redskins.

Last week, the 49ers shocked the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. 

And today, the Seahawks dominated the Dallas Cowboys today at CenturyLink Field, 27-7. 

We’re only in Week 2 of the 2012 NFL season, but the teams in the oft-mocked NFC West have done enough in that short amount of time to force people to pay attention. The 49ers were clearly the best team in the division last year, with the Cardinals finishing 8-8 and the Seahawks coming to within a field goal of the same record. The Rams were a mess, and were lucky to win two games. 

In 2012, the 49ers still look impressive, as they’ve kept 11 of 12 starters on defense, and Alex Smith continues to lead the offense effectively. But the Seahawks and Cardinals have both impressed with unexpected victories today, highlighted by strong defensive showings that leave no room for so-called experts to make any excuses. 

The Seahawks completely shut down Tony Romo and the Cowboys’ offense today, after a first half that included a fumble recovery on the opening kickoff return, and a blocked punt return for a touchdown. The Seahawks led 10-0 after the first five minutes, and would never cede their advantage throughout the afternoon.

Granted, there was much of last week’s game in the Arizona desert that Seahawk fans wish they could have back: Dropped end-zone passes that would’ve resulted in game-winning touchdowns, for example. But the third quarter of that game gave a glimpse of what this defense is capable of: Five three-and-outs out of six possessions (the other resulting in a punt) is nothing to scoff at, especially since the Cardinals just went to New England and shocked the country with a road win against a 14-point favorite.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Rams edged out a win against the Washington Redskins, who were led to victory by the best rookie QB start in NFL history from Robert Griffin III.

Did anyone see any of this coming?

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would say “yes.”

Remember when the Seahawks won the division two years ago with a 7-9 record? Rest assured that record won’t be winning any accolades this year; let alone lead to a playoff berth. 

With today’s freakishly surprising upsets from the NFC West, the division has quickly ascended from bottom-feeders and perennial underdogs to arguably the most exciting and competitive division in the National Football League. 

And if the Seahawks continue to raise the bar they’ve set today, the potential they have will only continue to be realized.