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Niners' NaVorro Bowman to Seahawks: Earn the hype

CULVER CITY, Calif. -- The NFC West has evolved into a wild, unpredictable beast of a division.

Just three seasons ago, the jokes flowed with ease as the Seattle Seahawks sealed up the West with a ghastly 7-9 record. Since, the Seahawks have grown into a conference power with arguably the finest roster in all of football -- just don't go telling that to the San Francisco 49ers.

"I think people like the next best thing," 49ers All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman told Around The League on Friday. "I think people like seeing the challenger get close to being the best. That's what they're doing. (The Seahawks) had a great game against us at their house (a 42-13 victory over the 49ers in Week 16.) (They) turned heads, knowing that we were a good team, and the cookies fell where they may.

"You have to earn these things. This is their first time being mentioned like that, in this sentence, and we'll see what they'll do with that."

The 49ers-Seahawks rivalry has morphed into a fascinating grudge match largely because of how alike the teams are: Both are imaginative on offense and blisteringly physical on defense.

"They're a good team," Bowman said. " ... I think it's built our division up, I think it's made it a lot tougher and people understand now, when they play us, that us guys in the NFC West -- they have to come play us."

I asked Bowman, point-blank, if the Seahawks have drawn even with the 49ers.

"I don't do the judging," he said. "All I know is, the 49ers? We work hard every single day. That's all I know. I know that we're going to come and play every single day."

For the NFC West -- and all of the NFL -- September cannot come soon enough.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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