The NFC West is flexing its muscle early

For years, we've known the NFC West as the punching bag of the NFL. They've been working to shed that image early in 2012, and the division is beginning to resemble something of a powerhouse. Earlier today, the Cardinals outlasted the Patriots, the Rams hung on to beat the Redskins just a week after losing a thriller to the Lions, and the Seahawks trounced the Dallas Cowboys.

Tonight, the San Francisco 49ers have an appointment with the Detroit Lions, and they'll be playing to keep pace with the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers were the division's lone playoff team last year, making it all the way to the conference title game before losing to the New York Giants.

Part of the popularity with the NFL is how quick and often power struggles shift. For years, the NFC East was counted as the NFL's toughest division, but in recent years that sentiment has eroded significantly. Today's losses by the NFC East at the hands of the NFC West only furthers that cause.

Tonight's game between the 49ers and the Lions will no doubt be a great contest between two teams that are considered early contenders. It's rare that there are truly crucial games this early in the season, but tonight's game could have tie-breaking implications in late December.

The NFC West used to be a quick out for most teams in the league, but this year, the 4 teams of the west are proving to be ready for any matchup. Look out world. This division could be for real, and it's about time.

About Shane Clemons

Shane Clemons came from humble beginnings creating his own Jaguars blog before moving on to SBNation as a featured writer for the Jaguars. He then moved to Bloguin where he briefly covered the AFC South before taking over Bloguin's Jaguars blog. Since the inception of This Given Sunday, Shane has served as an editor for the site, doing his best not to mess up a good thing.