Prior to the start of this season most of us looked at the schedule and probably rubbed our hands in glee that we got to face the NFC West teams this year. You know, the putrid, pathetic NFC West, where Seattle won the division 2 years ago with a 7-9 record. Yeah, the 49ers are good now, but we had them at home, and we'd clean up against the rest of the division, right?
Not so fast. What a difference 2 years make. Right now the NFC West has the #s 2, 3, 4 and 5 defenses in the NFL in terms of points allowed per game. In terms of yards allowed per game it's #s 1, 5, 7 and 10. These are some young, tough, hard hitting defenses. Now, you may say, the only reason they look so good is because they've been playing each other and beating up on some admittedly mediocre offenses. Well.... not so much. SEA has played 3 of 7 games in the division, but STL and ARI have only played 2 divisional games, and SF only one. These defenses have been beating everybody up. So far, they look like they're for real.
The NFC West has allowed by far the fewest points in the NFL. It has the best overall record and the best record outside the division of any division in the NFL. It has the second highest point differential in the NFL. This division is no longer a joke, and the games we play against them are not going to be the easy part of our schedule. Which brings us to our schedule. We play NE and MIA next, then we get the bye at the exact halfway point in our schedule. Returning from the bye, we are on the road against SEA, on the road against STL, home against NE and home against ARI. It is probably not a stretch to say those 4 games will make or break our season. Going into the season many probably looked at that stretch and thought besides NE we catch a breather, and we'd come through that stretch 3-1, or at worst 2-2. At this point in the season that stretch no longer looks easy, and 1-3 looks distinctly possible, with an outside chance of a disastrous 0-4 stretch.
This year, our shot at the playoffs goes through the West. If we are to have any chance at all, we must find a way to solve those very tough West defenses. For better or worse, our season's hopes are headed West. Let's hope it's not West to oblivion.