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NFL NFC West Thoughts: Two playoff entrants puts West among best

Defenses were the story of 2012 in the NFC West, but some dynamic young offensive players in San Francisco, Seattle and St. Louis also made names for themselves.

Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

I've heard it said on several occasions. The NFC is garbage. A joke. It doesn't compare to the other NFC or AFC divisions to the east. To that argument, my response is this: arguably the hottest team in the league, the team that stands a good shot at road win in the playoffs, is in the NFC West. And it's not even the division winner.

The San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) took care of business and won the division as expected. They earned a first-round bye. The Seattle Seahawks (11-5) were in contention to win the division until the final day of the regular season, and they, too, finished strong. They were the only NFL team to go a perfect 8-0 on the season and get to go to Washington D.C. to face RGIII in a battle of two of the best rookies in the league.

The St. Louis Rams finished 7-8-1 after losing in Seattle Sunday. But there is reason for optimism in St. Louis. The Rams' defense had a pretty good year and if the offense can get better over the offseason, via the draft or free agency, St. Louis could be a stronger contender for the playoffs.

Two of the most dynamic young quarterbacks in the league came out of the NFC West this season. We saw what Russell Wilson was able to do in his rookie year, tying the rookie record for most touchdown passes by rookie with 26 this season. That tied Peyton Manning in 1998.

Colin Kaepernick took over the 49ers in midseason and went on to throw 10 TD passes with only three interceptions. He figures to be the man going forward in the Bay Area.

The Seahawks landed five Pro Bowlers, the 49ers a whopping nine. And every defense in the division was solid, even that of the last-place Cardinals.

The offenses in Seattle and San Francisco look to be in good hands going forward and they have pieces in place to be good for years to come. What a season for Michael Crabtree, the 49ers receiver who caught 85 passes for 1,105 yards and nine TDS. Same for the defenses. San Francisco might need a new kicker with David Akers having a down year.

The Rams will need some help on offense and might lose running back Steven Jackson with the emergence of young Daryl Richardson. The Cardinals will need a complete offensive overhaul.