|Thanks to Jim Harbaugh, after seven years, Alex Smith|
might finally take the Niners to...the playoffs. (AP)
As shocking as this might sound, I think the NFC West might even be worse than last season!
To recap, let's remember (sorry, if you've tried to forget) that the Seattle Seahawks became the first team in the history of the NFL to win a division with a losing record when they did so at 7-9 last year. They edged out 7-9 St. Louis in a tiebreaker (by beating them in the final game of the season), 6-10 San Francisco and 5-11 Arizona.
- Seattle is worse this year. The only noticeable improvement was Sidney Rice at WR, but I still contend that Tarvaris Jackson was a downgrade from Matt Hasselbeck at QB. They're 1-2 and could easily be 0-3.
- St. Louis was expected to get better based on more experience. Offensive and defensive leaders like QB Sam Bradford and LB James Laurinaitis were poised to be studs, but St. Louis sits at 0-3. If they don't beat Washington this week, they'll go into a bye week without a win and with trips to Green Bay and Dallas coming out of the break. They could easily end up as this year's version of the 49ers, who were expected to win the division in 2010 but started in a 0-5 hole.
- Speaking of San Francisco, it didn't get any better this year aside from at the Head Coaching position. Their self-named "bell cow" in Frank Gore has started suffering his injury woes earlier than normal and they got rid of several big names on defense in the offseason.
- Arizona might be the only team that noticeably improved, thanks to the addition of Kevin Kolb at quarterback. But, they struggled to beat Carolina at home and lost to Seattle, so they're no sliced bread and sit at just 1-2.
Having been around the 49ers last year, it's shocking to me that, at 2-1, they're in first and emerging as a favorite. It's a team still trying to transition to a completely new style of offense (Jim Harbaugh's West Coach pass attack directly opposes the smash-mouth running game Mike Singletary employed) and still looking for the personnel to fill out that offensive style. I have a lot of faith Harbaugh will get the team to a playoff consistency, but I didn't expect them to be a defacto favorite three weeks into the 2011 season.
All in all, I just can't help but think that, all due respect to the 49ers and their future aspirations, that if they were to represent the NFC West in the playoffs, it would be because the division got even worse than last season.