The NFC West is still up for grabs, but the San Francisco 49ers are out in front and look like the better team through half a season.
The San Francisco 49ers are 6-2 and firmly in place atop the NFC West division, thanks in part to two primetime games against the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals, respectively. They've got the St. Louis Rams up next, but first they've got a bye week to rest and prepare themselves for the second half of the season.
As noted, they've got a good lead in the NFC West thanks to winning their divisional matchups, though the race for the division is far from over. San Francisco is possibly a better team than they were a season ago, but it seems as though every team in the division has taken a big step forward from 2011. Every one of them looks improved, so let's take a minute to get a status update on each of them.
Arizona Cardinals (4-4), Last Week: L, San Francisco 49ers, 24-3, Next Week: @ Green Bay Packers
The Cardinals are probably the most tenuous of all .500 teams. John Skelton is their starting quarterback and the team is nearing NFL record territory in regards to how many sacks they're allowing. Skelton isn't a world-beater in any situation, and giving him less-than ideal protection is going to hurt the Cardinals big time. They're always a threat to win with Larry FItzgerald, and that defense has been finding creative ways to make things happen, but they've been riding some pretty unsustainable percentages this season, and it should only be downhill from here. Especially against a very good Green Bay team.
Also facing a tenuous quarterback situation, the Seahawks have been relying on a very stout defense to get things done. Russell Wilson has looked good at times, but he's a rookie quarterback that was supposed to be a couple seasons away from being prepared to start. They'll create turnovers and make games gritty and hard-fought, but again, this team has too many holes to really be that big of a threat. Losing to Detroit in the final seconds was tough for them, and should hurt their confidence going into a deceptively tough matchup against the Vikings.
St. Louis Rams (3-5), Last Week: L, New England Patriots, 45-7, Next Week: Bye
They were thrashed by the Patriots on Sunday, and have struggled off and on all season. They're a team that has been surprising one second and totally unsurprising the next. The defense isn't nearly as good as advertised, and the offense is lagging as always. They're still young and they still have a lot of promise, but they're going the wrong way through eight weeks. They've got a week to prepare for what Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers have to offer, and it's definitely a tall task.