Ask any fan of the National Football League as we move into the third week of the regular season, and the consensus is pretty clear on which division is the most entertaining.
That’s the NFC West.
Being a fan of either the Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers or, of course, the Seattle Seahawks, we get to see these teams battle each other twice during the season. As it stands, the division’s four teams have a combined record of 7-1. The really intriguing part is looking forward to the games pitting these rivals against each other.
First off, the Seahawks really focused on maintaining their core during the offseason. Though quarterback Russell Wilson was the subject of the rumor mill, he put the speculation to rest and stayed in Seattle.
The Seahawks also kept the rest of their backfield in place by retaining running back Chris Carson. Seattle is ready to make a run despite a disappointing overtime loss to Tennessee on Sept. 19.
The 49ers have been one of the most injury-ridden teams in recent years, so staying healthy is clearly their goal. When quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is under center, they have been at their most successful, with a 24-8 record.
On the other side of the ball, defensive end Nick Bosa’s injury last year knocked the wind out of their sails, and having him line up once again has rejuvenated San Francisco’s defense.
Unfortunately, injuries, notably in the secondary and at running back, continue to plague the franchise.
The Rams might have made one of the best trades of the year, with Matthew Stafford taking over behind center for Jared Goff, who moved to the Motor City.
The Rams’ offense continues to shine, and all three division foes will have their work cut out for them in defending the L.A. passing attack.
A year ago the Arizona Cardinals were the wild card, the most unpredictable team of the division. But quarterback Kyler Murray continues to improve, and the tandem of Chandler Jones with newly acquired defensive end JJ Watt has made their defensive line very dangerous.
The Cardinals also were able to add wide receiver AJ Green to line up with star receiver DeAndre Hopkins, a combination that solidifies Arizona as a contender.
There is a strong possibility that the NFC West could take every wildcard spot. Being a fan of any team in this division is pretty stressful. There is no easy game in the division. As the smoke settles at the end of the season, the last place team could have a winning record — but look at this in the wider scope.
To survive this division with potentially the best record, your team likely will be considered a favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Even if your team goes to the playoffs as a wildcard, it could be a very dangerous squad come January.
So, regardless of the team that you root for, buckle your seatbelt, and firmly place yourself on the edge of your seat. We are destined for incredible divisional football play in the NFL West, and if your team finds itself at the top of this division, that alone will be an incredible feat to accomplish on a potential path to the Super Bowl.
It’s going to be a wild ride.
Corey Kirk is the sports editor for the Baker City Herald.