A lot of it depends on the type of music you're listening to. Each genre has its own style. I think playing any rhythm is a lost art that often gets overlooked. I listen to a lot of the progressive rock from the 70's. I've heard some people do fantastic things with simple strums and others that...well, there were times when I wanted to lean over and say "...why don't you put down your guitar for a while" There's a right and wrong way to approach it.
For me, the master of acoustic rhythm guitar is Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. I take A LOT of cues from his playing:
Often a very simple straightforward strum can carry a whole arrangement:
I agree with the notion that a strum pattern can easily carry the whole arrangement. A great example in my opinion is the syncopated rhythm in "Tequila Sunrise" by The Eagles. For me, this is a really great song that is extremely hard to strum and sing effectively and I'm a pretty good natural strummer.