The third week of the NFL season has passed, and so it's the first week where realistic projections and somewhat accurate judgements can begin to form. The first two weeks can often be one-off events that trick you into foolish story lines (Oh-em-gee, the Eagles are unstoppable!), but by week three there's usually some confirmation (Nooooope, it's just the Redskins defense).
Obviously, there are a lot of things that take much longer to play out and the sample size is still small, but it's the time that we round file all the erroneous preseason expectations and replace them with ideas that are more grounded in reality (so let's get to forming!).
We don't know exactly what's going to happen, but the process of elimination can begin in earnest.
And the first offseason notion that can be unceremoniously dumped is 'the NFC West as the most dominant division in football'. Untold man hours were dedicated this offseason debating (aka: mindless chatter) which division was the strongest, and conventional wisdom settled on the NFC West with a slight advantage over the NFC North. Three weeks into the season and we know this hard fought storyline to be complete bullshit, and truth be told, the NFC North isn't really any good either.
...All roads lead to Roma, DC.
Seattle sits atop the West at 3-0 and Chicago sits upon the Norrth at 3-0, and the other six teams account for another 6 total wins, 4 of which are over each other. In games outside of our new "super division", these 6 teams have generally gotten throttled, save for one exception. So let's take a quick look at the wins.
San Francisco started the season strong getting their first win vs. Green Bay in the opening week, and Green Bay bounced back in week two to collect their first win in Washington. St. Louis opened up the season with a victory over division rival Arizona before dropping the next two in convincing fashion, while Arizona picked up their first and only win in week two at home vs. Detroit. And Detroit's only non division win came on the road against none other than the Washington Redskins.
For those at home keeping score, that leaves only undefeated Chicago and Seattle with wins outside of the theoretical division that didn't come against The Nation's Capital team. The Minnesota Adrian Petersons remain winless, and unfortunately have to wait until week 10 for their turn at the Redskins, who are allowing 488 yards and 32.7 points per game.
If transitive property were a real thing in football, the bottom 75% of the two divisions would only only capable of beating one team in the NFL.
Now, some NFC teams are going to make a go of it from 1-2, if only because there's so many of them. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers, so they can't be counted out, and Atlanta and Carolina can't be counted out either. The rest are in the NFC West, previously known as the NFC Worst, and if not for the NFC Least, they might still be.
Where promise appeared, a lesson in hubris awaited.
Niners fans began the season believing they had reclaimed their rightful place in the NFL hierarchy of franchises, that days of glory had returned upon them. A short two year run of success led them to overlook structural roster deficiencies, and talk themselves into ridiculous ideas like Anquan Boldin as a number one receiver and Nnamdi would return to form and shore up the secondary (when he likely wasn't ever all that good to begin with).
Losing Michael Crabtree during the offseason was a major blow, one that hardly anyone in the red and gold was willing to admit the severity of, and the secondary that wasn't very good got worse. Their front seven hasn't gotten much pressure or stopped the run, which has been surprising, so their secondary's flaws, which they were able to compensate for last year, are now gaping holes on the field left to exploit. Losing Aldon Smith to rehab only exacerbates the issue.
This is looking more and more like a .500 ballclub. Crabtree returning with Vernon Davis at full strength could possibly turn their season around but that could be be too little too late. A turn around isn't out of the question though.
Meanwhile, watching some Niner fans lament the trade of Alex Smith is highly entertaining.
One step forward, two steps Ramward.
The Rams started out the season believing they were primed to challenge San Francisco and Seattle for the division and at least challenge for a wild card playoff spot. Weeks one thru three have not been kind to them either. Jeff Fisher is looking like he did in Tennessee, a decidedly average coach and wholeheartedly stubborn. They won against a bad team, lost against a good team, and got smoked by the Cowboys. In the Cowboys game it became clear that their secondary's issues haven't been resolved, they can't stop the run, their receivers aren't quite ready for prime time, their O line can't run block or pass protect, and their shiny new overpriced free agent acquisition franchise left tackle Jake Long was sent to the bench for sucking. They did not find an adequate replacement for Steven Jackson.
Amidst it all, Sam Bradford continues to meh his way through a career. The most interesting thing going forward for this team is #SKINSWATCH2013, because the last remaining 1st round pick from the RG3 bounty has them in a leading pole position for another top draft pick. Do the Rams parlay the pick for another haul in another vote of confidence for Bradford, or do they draft a guy like Bridgewater? That's what the Rams faithful have to talk about this year.
Side note: the Redskins can go pound sand, some more.
Phoenix, ashes, something.
Arizona had hope for a minute when they traded for Palmer and drafted Cooper, ..........oh, you know the drill Cards fans.
Rebuilding with ancient veteran free agents never works. Rashard Mendenhall. LOL.
From the scrap heap, there can only be one.
Seahawks fans came into the year with realistic expectations. Armed with the historical advantage of low expectations, Hawks fans are in general a delusion free bunch because they are always on the lookout for the other shoe, which luckily, looks like it has dropped on a rival this year, possibly.
While it might have felt good to be included in the toughest division in football, I'm sure the Broncos and Patriots will tell you those bragging rights aren't worth a fig compared to a red carpet ride into the postseason. Right now, the storyline of 2013 and Vegas has the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos set on a collision course for NYC where Peyton Manning plays the role of the other shoe. The season and the season's expectations so far has a comparable feel not to the 84 Hawks, but to the 96 Sonics. Where Payton and Kemp rolled through the west only to have Jordan looming to spoil an otherwise historic season. The only thing that keeps this idea from taking a impenetrable foothold in my psyche is that during the playoffs Peyton Manning is a regular Roy Munson compared to Micheal Jordan. And, he can't win in the cold or something.
There are two 1-2 NFC West teams playing this Thursday, and one of them is almost assuredly going to pick up a win since they play against each other. Or tie. Sometimes they tie, if you're into that sort of thing.
Per usual, all conclusions drawn from current week are subject to change the following week.
Go Hawks, and follow Jimmy on twitter.