EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Over at Grantland, Bill Barnwell took a deep look at the evolution of the NFC West, offering a timeline of the events that have taken the division from one that was won by a 7-9 team as recently as 2010 to one that now boasts two Super Bowl favorites in San Francisco and Seattle and two up-and-coming teams in the Rams and Arizona.
It's hard not to agree with the sentiment that the NFC West is now the best division in football, or at least one that should garner such consideration. It's been something of an amazing turnaround given that fans and media alike used to derisively refer to it as the "NFC Worst."
The addition of energized former college coaches Pete Carroll in Seattle and Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco, along with well-respected NFL veterans such as Rams coach Jeff Fisher and Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, has brought a certain cachet to the division in addition to the improved rosters.
Better quarterback play has also been at the root of the turnaround, with Sam Bradford, Carson Palmer, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick representing huge upgrades over the likes of Shaun Hill, Charlie Whitehurst and John Skelton.
To me, the turnaround in the division started with defense and grew from there. All four teams have gradually built defenses that already have been top-10 units or are on their way to being in the mix. It's made for some hard-hitting games and left teams in other divisions black and blue.
It's not just Barnwell who has taken notice, either. The nation will get some up-close looks at the strength of the NFC West on a big stage in coming days and weeks. The 49ers and Seahawks take center stage on Sunday night, and the Rams meet San Francisco in a Thursday night showdown on Sept. 26. That's just the tip of the iceberg.
Your daily roundup of anything you might have missed Friday from this corner of cyberspace. ... We started with a look at the Rams' emphasis on hidden yards and the importance of yards after the catch in this offense. ... From there it was an injury update on end Chris Long, who did not practice Friday and is questionable for Sunday. ... We followed with a look at the rest of the injury report, including the status of running back Daryl Richardson. ... Finally, we took a look at what a Rams victory would mean to a group that hasn't started a season 2-0 since 2001.
The always-prolific Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch dived deeper into what could become an interesting debate on the Hall of Fame possibilities for running back Steven Jackson. From there, he offered an interesting take on Tom Brady dealing with struggling wide receivers and compared those issues to the problems Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has had in his first few years in the league. Finally, Miklasz joined fellow columnist Bryan Burwell for a breakdown of the Rams-Falcons matchup.
Post-Dispatch Rams writer Joe Lyons gave a quick look at the anticipated return of tight end Cory Harkey against the Falcons.
Over at stlouisrams.com, fantasy writer Matt Lutovsky believes receiver Chris Givens could be a sleeper this week as Atlanta shifts its attention to tight end Jared Cook.