With all that has gone on in the first quarter of the 2012 season, one story has been unjustly overlooked. What better time to highlight it than now?

Yes, the official referees are a welcomed sight on the field of play. I concur that Robert Griffin III has exceeded the expectations of many. Of course Peyton Manning’s comeback campaign is nothing short of compelling.  Above all these, the storyline I’m here to magnify is that of the NFC West.

As recently as this preseason, the NFC West was considered the league’s weakest division. Just two seasons ago, the Seattle Seahawks won the division with a 7-9 record.  At the rate these teams are now going, 7-9 is a mark to sneeze on if mentioned in the discussion of playoff contention.

Right now, these teams are a combined 11-5, a league best amongst divisions. It’s the only division where every team, at a minimum, has a .500 winning percentage.

What has contributed to the early success of this division?  Here’s my take on why the West ain’t to be messed with:

Arizona Cardinals- Between the solid play of Kevin Kolb and its defense, Arizona has been blessed with pleasant surprises. Add the coaching stability of Ken Whisenhunt and assistant/offensive line coach Russ Grimm, who are products of the Bill Cowher coaching tree and it’s pretty self-explanatory as to why they’re undefeated at the moment.

San Francisco 49ers- Defensively, San Francisco can impose its will on just about any offense it faces.  Meanwhile, Alex Smith’s campaign to turn the corner as a solid quarterback continues.  If he continues playing mistake-free football and should Frank Gore stay healthy, sky’s the limit for this offense.  It’ll be interesting to see how vital Randy Moss will be to this offense’s production.

Seattle Seahawks- Russell Wilson may not be lighting up the stat sheets like a few of his rookie counterparts, but he is doing just enough to keep Seattle in games.  It would help greatly if his receivers can keep their mitts on the passes he delivers.  Thankfully, he has Marshawn Lynch, the league’s leading rusher, offsetting those mishaps.  Seattle’s marveling speed and ball awareness are features that can’t be ignored.

St. Louis Rams-  The best way to describe this team is attitude.  The arrivals of head coach Jeff Fisher and cornerback Courtland Finnegan have resulted in a form of grit that is infectious throughout its locker room.  The days of nicknaming this team the “Lambs” are over.  Already, the Rams are establishing an identity that in no way will be associated with “The Greatest Show On Turf” of a decade ago.

Make no mistake about it the NFC West is putting everyone on notice.

Last week, I did something outside of my identity by throwing caution to the wind with my picks.  It resulted in a 7-8 mark.  I guess I should stay the course and go back to what I know.  Will it work?  Here we go:

Cardinals over Rams

Bengals over Dolphins

Packers over Colts

Ravens over Chiefs

Giants over Browns

Steelers over Eagles

Redskins over Falcons

Seahawks over Panthers

Bears over Jaguars

Vikings over Titans

Broncos over Patriots

49ers over Bills

Chargers over Saints

Texans over Jets


Let’s see how week five treats me!

By Antoine Hoffman


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