Times have definitely changed. Years of being browbeaten are at an end for the NFC West. Rosenthal polled other writers and his power rankings show renewed respect for the "Left Coast" division.
It was only a year ago that the NFC West was viewed as a lower-rung division. We created some Division Power Rankings via poll at Around the League last summer, not one of our four voters ranked the division above sixth. They finished seventh overall, which was one spot ahead of where NFL.com's Michael Lombardi ranked the division in 2011.
Now the division has the two favorites in the NFC along with a rising force in St. Louis. We decided to take the same poll again on Thursday following York's words to see how the results looked differently this year. Here goes:
1. NFC West
2. NFC North
3. AFC North
4. NFC South
5. NFC East
6. AFC South
7. AFC East
8. AFC West
I started to wave this banner last year, and few paid me heed. With the rise of Seattle and St. Louis - and a powerful San Francisco team just off a visit to the Super Bowl - the division is getting the media love it so richly deserves. The West takes on the #4 ranked NFC South this season. Unlucky them, eh?
I think Arizona is being underrated as a team. They have some issues to work out, but no one should discount their defense. Cardinals fans are waiting anxiously for word of whether they'll stay in a 3-4, or shift to a 4-3 defense. The key will be the outcome of Daryl Washington's recent troubles with the league and law. I personally think they're better than at least half the teams in the NFL.
We wanted a tough division, and we have it. NFC West division games are going to flat out brawls.