On Jan. 2, 2011, the NFC West suffered the ultimate shame. The Seahawks won a nationally televised game to clinch the division title -- at 7-9. The embarrassment was such that NFL bigwigs talked of changing the rules to prevent such a weak division from getting an automatic playoff spot again.

Barely two years later, the Seahawks and 49ers seem primed for a Steelers-Ravens style battle for supremacy for years to come. Each has had an eventful offseason, with the Seahawks picking up Percy Harvin and Cliff Avril and the 49ers adding Anquan Boldin and Glenn Dorsey.

Seattle got within a missed field goal of facing San Francisco in the NFC title game in January, and many expect to see that matchup happen deep in the playoffs next year.

Teams were giddy to have the NFC West on their schedule just a few years ago. But nobody will be happy to deal with these two burgeoning powerhouses now.

- Elliot Smilowitz