Sports | October 7, 2021 4:07 pm

The NFL’s Toughest Division Is Shaping Up to Be an All-Time Great

The NFC West doesn't have a single team below .500 and is also home to the undefeated Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Corey Peters pressures Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford
Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Corey Peters pressures Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Terry Pierson/The Press-Enterprise via Getty

For the second straight season, it appears the NFC West is the NFL’s best.

Home to the 4-0 Cardinals, 3-1 Rams, 2-2 Seahawks and 2-2 49ers, the NFC West is one of two divisions in the NFL that does not have a team below .500 through four weeks of play and is home to the only undefeated team in the league.

Fresh off a big win over the Rams who were coming off a big win over the defending champion Buccaneers, the Cardinals have the league’s No. 1 yardage and scoring offense as well as an above-average defense. Although the Cardinals are just fifth in FiveThirtyEight’s quarterback-adjusted Elo ratings, Arizona has a 52% shot to win the NFC West, something the franchise has not done since the 2015 season. That’s also the last year that the Cardinals made the playoffs, an accomplishment the team seems destined to duplicate this year as long as star QB Kyler Murray stays healthy.

Based on their record as well as their play, the Cardinals have a great shot at making the postseason but all of the NFC West’s other teams also have at least a 42% chance of qualifying for the playoffs; there is a chance this could be the first season in NFL history that a division will have all of its members qualify for the postseason.

“In fact, this year’s NFC West could be the strongest division since the NFL expanded to 32 teams in 2002 and settled into its current alignment,” per FiveThirtyEight. “Through four games, according to Football Outsiders’ total DVOA, the average NFC West team has been 20.1 percent more efficient than the average NFL team. It’s well ahead of the second-place AFC North, at 12.6 percent, and far ahead of the third-place AFC West, at 5.9 percent. If that holds up over the next 13 games (and 14 weeks) of the NFL regular season, the 2021 NFC West would be the strongest DVOA division of the 32-team era.”

All of that is just a long way of saying that the NFC West is currently the best class of football and it is very possible one of the division’s teams will advance to the Super Bowl for the third time in the past four seasons. The division is the complete opposite of the AFC South, which only has one team that is .500 (the Titans) and has one of the league’s two 0-4 teams (the Jaguars). The other two teams in the division (Texans and Colts) are 1-3.