The season began with the concept that the NFC West was the best division in the NFL.
The NFC Best, if you will.
With the NFL now down to its final five teams -- and with the Los Angeles Rams hosting the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game next week -- it's hard to argue that the NFC West belief wasn't accurate.
The Cardinals were of course the third NFC West team in the postseason. The NFC West was the only division with three teams make the postseason.
The Rams did to the Bucs on Sunday the same thing they did to the Cardinals in the playoffs' opening round, pressuring quarterback Tom Brady relentlessly -- Brady did produce a big comeback, but only because the Rams couldn't stop turning the ball over.
Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles rolled the dice on the final deep pass, leaving his safety Antoine Winfield on an island against the most productive receiver in the game this season, and opened the door for the Rams not to choke away what had been a 27-3 lead.
(Amazing that the first three Divisional playoff games this weekend have all ended on field goals on the final play of the game to break a tie. UPDATE: Chiefs-Bills saw the other three games and said, "Hold my beer." )
The 49ers are the team that have found themselves late in the season, especially defensively. The Rams have played two excellent postseason games, and after the Bucs' game, it doesn't look like their domination of the Cardinals was an anomaly (or that it was just about the Cardinals playing a poor game), although if they turn the ball over like that against the Niners, the Niners are going to win their seventh straight against the Rams.
To think back to Nov. 7, when the Cardinals were 3-0 against these two teams, seems a long time ago.