Well, things sure change quickly in the NFL. After two years of dominating the NFC West, the San Francisco 49ers, after reaching the NFC Championship game and then the Super Bowl in back-to-back years, might not enter the 2013 season as the favorites… to win the Super Bowl? Nope. To win the NFC Championship? Nope. They might not even be the favorites in the NFC West.
After two critical free agent additions, the Seattle Seahawks are considered by many to be the best team in the NFC West, and therefore the best team in the NFC.
Hogwash, here are my power rankings for the NFC West:
1 – San Francisco 49ers: This is the team that beat the Atlanta Falcons at home in the playoffs, something Seattle couldn’t do last year. This team also beat Green Bay in Green Bay, where Seattle needed a favorable call to squeak out a win at home (one of the most difficult road venues in the NFL).
People often point to Seattle’s demolishing of the 49ers late in the season as the reason Seattle should be the #1 team in the division. Meh. Anybody who watches football knows that teams scoring a major emotional victory on the road on a short week frequently stumble the next week, especially if that 2nd game is on the road. Like, say, going into Foxboro and beating Brady in December on a Sunday night and then going to Seattle for a (nearly) meaningless game.
Along with a favorable schedule, the 49ers have the better QB, better overall run game, better pass catching corps, and a relatively equal defense, and are thus my pick to win the NFC West. 13-3
2 – Seattle: Is all resting on Russell Wilson? Would you trade Wilson for Kaepernick, straight up? Me either. Which of the two quarterbacks is more likely to have a regression in their second year? Kaepernick looked like a man among boys, Wilson looked like Jeff Garcia, Doug Flutie, and even Shaun Hill. Short, scrappy, a total gamer, but can he maintain that?
More questions at the QB position than the 49ers causes me to put them 2nd in the division. They also have a much tougher road schedule (at Atlanta, Houston, New York Giants). 10-6
3 – St. Louis: Now that Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola are gone, Jeff Fisher is in for a challenge. This might be the year Fisher rebuilds and puts his stamp on a team he inherited. He might be the best coach in the division, and it showed as his game plans led to a win and a tie against the 49ers in 2012. For that reason, I have them 3rd in the division. 8-8
4 – Arizona: If they can figure out the quarterback position and add an average running back there are pieces here. The defense is well regarded; Larry Fitzgerald is still a top-flight wide receiver, and a new coaching regime to help turn things around. Is Drew Stanton that QB? Probably not, so Arizona is easily the 4th team in the NFC West. 4-12