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NFC West, NFC

Why all 4 NFC West teams could make the playoffs after impressive Week 1

With Week 1 almost completely in the books, there are still many unknowns in NFL, but one thing is for certain: The NFC West is the best division in football.

After impressive performances in Week 1, the NFC West appears to be the only division where every team has a legitimate chance to make the playoffs.

With the extra playoff spot being added this season, it’s not crazy to think that all three NFC Wild Card spots could be grabbed by NFC West teams. Including the division winner, the 2020 NFC West could become the first division in NFL history to have every team make a single postseason.

One short week ago, the San Francisco 49ers were the easy favorites to defend their division crown. Last year’s NFC Super Bowl representative returned a lot of quality starters on defense and had continuity on offense under Kyle Shanahan’s brilliant schemes.

But the Niners now have a target on their back, and as the team to beat in the NFC, they’ll be facing teams throwing the kitchen sink at them every week.

The Cardinals took their shot on Sunday, and behind a steady rushing attack, the explosiveness of Kyler Murray and a decent defensive performance, Arizona was able to start the season off on a high note with a big win against a division rival, 24-20.

In one of the most competitive games of the weekend, Niners-Cardinals looked like an early playoff match-up, with both teams throwing haymakers knowing that they both have a long road ahead in a tough NFC West division.

“It is tough because it’s definitely one of those things where the NFC West is so competitive and you just can’t leave anything out there,” 49ers running back Raheem Mostert said via Nick Wagoner of ESPN. “You’ve got to leave it all on the line and it’s tough to go back and watch this film but you have got to go back and be honest with yourself, be truthful with yourself because that’s the only way you’re gonna get better in this league.”

After that tough loss, the Niners now sit in last place in the very division they won last year, with the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams earning wins off solid performances in Week 1.

They still have the Super Bowl pedigree, but the Seahawks and Rams posting solid outings on Sunday does not bode well for Niners fans.

The days of the Legion of Boom holding court in Seattle is long gone, as the Seahawks did give up 450 yards through the air on Sunday, and will need to improve in pass coverage to make a playoff run.

But despite letting Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan rack up the yards, the Seahawks still dominated that game thanks to an artful performance by Russell Wilson.

Wilson was nearly perfect on Sunday completing 31 of 35 passes with 322 yards passing and posting a stellar 143.1 passer rating while becoming the first Seattle quarterback with four touchdown passes in a season opener.

Wilson has been one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history when he has a lead going into halftime. After Sunday’s NFC win over the Falcons, Wilson can flaunt an impressive 58-0 record when leading after 30 minutes of game time.

If Wilson can continue to dominate and stay at the front in the MVP race, the Seahawks are a shoe-in for playoff contention.

That leaves the 2018 NFC champion Rams, who were far from perfect in Sunday night’s win against the Dallas Cowboys, but with an impressive pass rush and an improved offense, they proved to be more capable of making some noise in the division.

While they only scored on 2 of 5 trips to the red zone, they were able to control the clock (35:38 of ball possession) thanks to an underrated duo at running back in Malcolm Brown and Cam Akers (combined for 118 yards, 3.6 yards per carry and two touchdowns) controlling the clock.

Fifth-year quarterback Jared Goff looked shaky on more than a few games, but a solid receiving corp of Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Tyler Higbee helped pick of the slack and were why the Rams completed on third down 53 percent of the time.

Combine that imperfect, yet efficient offense with studs on defense like Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey making a few big plays a game, and it’s not crazy to say the Rams could win double-digit games and perhaps even steal the NFC West crown.

The NFC West will be one of the most fun divisions in football because of its unpredictably.