After four weeks, the Seattle Seahawks finds themselves in quite the divisional battle.
During the summer we wrote about the history of the various NFL conferences and how many of them have been “elite” – finishing with three teams above .500. It was a pretty fun exercise, and the bottom line was that the NFC West has historically seen the weakest parity. Our very own Seahawks were part of the one time since divisional merger that the West had three winning records.
Only one other foursome has been so unfortunate. The NFC division tied with the West for winning records? The NFC North, who is currently boasting the best record in the NFL at the moment.
After four weeks, not only does the NFC West enjoy a triad of winning teams, but it has the fewest losses in the NFL right now. At 9-5-1, only the NFC North at 10-5-1 has a better record in the league.
Additionally, the San Francisco 49ers are outpacing everyone’s expectations, falling in line with what we projected they’d need to do to overcome a brutal finish to their schedule and enjoy any success.
The Niners have also been surprisingly strong in their individual performances, boasting the second best point-differential in the NFC conference to date.
The Arizona Cardinals have yet to contribute a bit of help, standing at 0-3-1, but at least they are a far more interesting team to watch than the past few seasons of mediocrity. Matthew Stafford has the all-time record for passing attempts in a season at 727, set in 2012. Kyler Murray? Was on pace for 730 until his average dipped a bit against the Seahawks. This is not to say that he’s really good, just that he’s really involved. Which is fun, especially when he’s getting sacked all the time too.
There’s a lot going on in the NFL right now that makes some of these divisions looks more like the MLB or NBA than what we’re used to in American Football. In the AFC, the Miami Dolphins and NY Jets are two of the dumbest franchises to ever employ decision makers. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are barely any better off. Three of those four are working out relatively new coaches while the Steelers continue to recover from the Antonio Brown/ Le’Veon Bell headache.
Both the AFC and NFC South only have one healthy starting-caliber quarterback apiece, and neither the Houston Texans nor Atlanta Falcons are playing particularly well behind their QBs.
To compile it all into one thought: seven winless teams currently remain in 2019. Week four of last season saw only three such squads, and 2017 had four winless teams. In a week or two a couple of playoff berths will be nearly clinchable.
Meanwhile, the NFC West is humming along well and the race is on. Things should start to take shape in the West quickly, as the Seahawks have handled Arizona and take on Los Angeles on Thursday, and the 49ers make the in-state trek to face the Rams the following Sunday.
As the rivalry games unfold, the strength of Seattle’s conference coupled with some unexpected (albeit early) struggles in the South and East, this means a few things for the Seahawks.
At least one wild card spot should probably come from the West. It’s far too early to hope for a second, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
The phenomenon of three playoff teams out of the same division currently takes place about once every other year. In this decade it’s happened in 2017 (Saints, Panthers, Falcons), 2014 (Steelers, Bengals, Ravens), 2013 (Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers) and 2011 (Ravens, Steelers, Bengals once again).
But the West does play the NFC South with all of their current QB issues which will likely help Seattle and its rivals. New Orleans Saints notwithstanding.
The Hawks’ next four opponents are a combined .500 record. Seattle has yet to beat an opponent with any NFL wins, so this stretch should say a lot more heading into the halfway point than what the first quarter season has revealed. The Rams’ next four opponents are also .500, while the 49ers’ next four are a combined 7-8. It’s a stream of mediocrity for the NFC West leaders, while they play each other once.
Prepare for it to remain a very tight race at the halfway point. I could easily see another one loss apiece to create a whole host of 6-2 teams, making every game down the stretch even more important.