No one has had a better few weeks than the NFC West. The division is off to a 7-1 start in the 2020 NFL season.
The Seattle Seahawks’ offense is getting the best out of quarterback Russell Wilson a lot earlier in games. The Arizona Cardinals are celebrating the union of quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The Los Angeles Rams actually look fairly good, and the San Francisco 49ers, despite suffering a number of injuries to key playmakers, can stay afloat given their next couple of less-capable opponents.
The NFC West has gone from a division often looked over to a powerhouse with legitimate Super Bowl contenders. It’s no longer the division of the previous hot-and-cold Seahawks. The NFC West should sit atop all power rankings after storming through the doors this season. If this early success is indicative of how the rest of the season will play out, we could see all four teams making the playoffs in the new expanded format.
After the NFL expanded the playoff field to 14 teams and gave conferences a third wild-card spot, an entire division could make it to the postseason. There’s currently a 3.1% chance of all four teams making it, according to NFL.com, which without context can seem low. However, the next-highest percentage is the NFC South's at 0.002%.
But how did we get here? It starts with the success of Murray in Year 2. The Cardinals were one of the worst teams in the division for much of the last two decades; they finished first three times in that span and second four times. After investing in two top-10 quarterbacks in back-to-back drafts, Arizona has finally found the face of its franchise and it made sure to give him ample opportunity to succeed this offseason. Hopkins’ addition has helped push this offense forward. If the Cardinals aren’t playing for the division, they should be able to, at minimum, take a wild-card slot.
The 49ers’ latest outing has sparked some concern. Injuries to two former first-round picks in defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas will hamper one of the league’s best defenses, and injuries to running back Tevin Coleman, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and three receivers will affect the other side of the ball. San Francisco can get through the next couple of weeks with backup-turned-starter Nick Mullens. The 49ers will return to MetLife Stadium—the site of their unfortunate Week 2 injury-riddled win—and face the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Miami Dolphins before they return to conference play against the Rams.
San Francisco’s own ascension to Super Bowl 54 after a number of down seasons should give Arizona a blueprint for its own postseason success.
Both the Rams and the Seahawks also have playoff blueprints. It’s just been a matter of sustaining each offense. Quarterback Jared Goff, who some think is paid more than he’s worth, has been efficient, particularly in the Week 2 win over the Eagles. But no one, not in the NFC West, or the NFL, is playing as well as Wilson.
Head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer listened to the cries to let Wilson cook and he’s serving us Thanksgiving Day meals. The Seahawks will continue to be successful regardless of how soon they let Wilson take control. Seattle’s standing in the NFC West, and its playoff hopes, will remain strong with Wilson playing at a consistent MVP-level.
The rest of the division, however, still needs to make strides if all four teams want to continue playing into the new year. The direction they’re currently taking points to postseason appearances across the board.