The floor is higher in the NFC West, and the St. Louis Rams aren't sleeping on it.
It's a new day in the division now that the Rams are above .500 for the first time since 2006. They're not in last place, either. That distinction belongs to 2-2 Seattle, pending the Seahawks' game at Carolina on Sunday.
Around the NFC West: Oct. 5, 2012
The Rams' 17-3 victory over the previously unbeaten Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night had a cathartic feel to it for St. Louis fans conditioned to expect the worst. The team is now 3-0 at home after winning three total games over the 2009 and 2011 seasons.
This game revealed deep flaws in both teams and the Rams' ability to overcome theirs, something Arizona had demonstrated it could do during an overtime victory against Miami in Week 4.
The nine sacks they hung on Kevin Kolb was the most for a Rams defense since the team got nine against Buffalo in 1998. Kolb has now taken 17 sacks in the Cardinals' last two games, as many or more than 28 teams have taken over a full 16-game season since 1983.
There's a tendency to overreact following a game with such extremes.
"It's only five games into the season and we’re doing very good, but we’ve got to continue to do this," Rams running back Steven Jackson told reporters afterward. "We've got to continue to grow and get better each day."
That will be tougher if top receiver Danny Amendola misses an extended period of time. The Rams were hopeful Amendola escaped a fracture while diving for an attempted reception early in the game. They'll find out more Friday.
The audio files I passed along Thursday from 101ESPN St. Louis analyst and former NFL assistant Rick Venturi featured a deep appreciation for how well Amendola had played against Seattle last week and this season overall.
"Amendola right now is playing out of sight," Venturi had said. "Nobody really has the answer unless they load tons of people in there. (Marcus) Trufant couldn't stay with him in the nickel. Seattle was getting desperate. They brought Earl Thomas down to try to get him out. Earl has played some corner at Texas, and he shook Earl right away and got open."
Amendola shook the Cardinals with a 44-yard reception against top corner Patrick Peterson in the early going. But as Darren Urban of azcardinals.com noted, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford completed only 3 of 16 passes once Amendola left the game.
Of course, the Rams can't sweat over how they're winning. The fact that they're winning is enough.