The 49ers and NFC West: It's never too early for conclusions

My intial plan was to post some of the player quotations and some analysis on what they had to say.  Unfortunately for me, most of the quotes lacked the kind of sizzle that make for good analysis.  So, instead, with one week down and a big 49ers-Seahawks divisional showdown fast approaching, let's reassess where the NFC West is as a whole.  Based on performances today, it might be safe to say that the division is up for anyone to grab...except maybe the Rams.

Seattle Seahawks
Over at Field Gulls, John Morgan is definitely not pleased with the Seahawks performance.  Of course, if the 49ers had been smacked around 34-10, I'd probably be just as pissed.  The Seahawks struggled in all aspects of the game, and while their defense certainly wasn't abysmal, I don't know if John's use of the word "fine" is the best descriptor.  Not in bad shape, but even they have plenty of room for improvement. 

As some of us mentioned before, that running game is going to have to work to become more impressive.  Falling behind early didn't help matters, but Julius Jones and Maurice Morris just doesn't inspire fear in anybody.  Jones is certainly talented, but we'll see if he can break through and return to his somewhat respectable 2006 performance.  As for Seattle's special teams?  Well, this video isn't pretty and I don't just mean the blurry picture.  We'll have plenty to preview going forward this week.

St. Louis Rams
I really don't think week one could have gone any worse for the Rams.  For a while it looked like they could come away with keeping DeSean Jackson quiet on punt returns, but then he busted one for 60 yards.  VanRam went so far as to even consider beginning a discussion about the #1 overall pick.  I do think Philadelphia is a talented team and I'm not stunned that Donovan McNabb appears to have finally bounced back from his knee surgery.  That kind of surgery usually takes more than a year for a 100% recovery.  Once they get Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis healthy, the Eagles will be dangerous.

The Eagles aside, probably the only highlight was Randy McMichael with a solid debut for the Rams.  I certainly think there are enough bad teams in the league that the Rams will win some games.  In spite of the 49ers flat effort I feel a little better facing the Rams.  However, while the Rams are not a playoff bound team, they are definitely not as bad as they appeared today.  Steven Jackson missed a significant amount of time with his holdout, so he probably isn't quite 100%.  The Rams definitely need to work on their pass protection as Marc Bulger is going to get killed before the end of the season otherwise.  While awful this week, I'd like to see how they play against the Giants in their home opener.

Arizona Cardinals
Well, we know how these guys looked.  Considering how poorly the 49ers performed, the Cardinals probably should have put 30+ on the board.  They left 11 points out there on two drives because of one moronic personal foul and another poorly time chop block.  While we can blame JTO and company all we want, the Cardinals got pressure to force the two O'Sullivan fumbles.  He had issues with staring down his receivers and I'm kind of surprised he didn't throw more picks.

Kurt Warner remains the 49ers nemesis as even in the face of impressive pressure at times, he made things happen, particularly with Anquan Boldin.  The 49ers would get them to 3rd and long and then give up a first down catch.  Even the Cardinals running game was slightly less than stellar and yet it seemed like they were taking care of business when it mattered most.  The Cardinals only averaged 3.8 yards a carry, but they made some important gains on short yardage situations.

I would also briefly like to address the luck situation.  Luck is often taking advantage of an opportunity.  I definitely don't think the Cardinals were lucky to the beat the 49ers today (in fact I think the 49ers were lucky to not lose by more).  However, it felt at times like things were bouncing the Cardinals way all day long.  Every punt seemed to bounce just right.  A Warner pass would be deflected by a defensive lineman, only to end up in Anquan Boldin's arms.  Things like that.  It's not sour grapes because I wouldn't be surprised for the shoe to be on the other foot in some of these games.  Nonetheless it's certainly frustrating when your team is not on the receiving end of those lucky bounces.

Conclusions
I don't have a separation section for the 49ers because obviously we have been and will continue to discuss them plenty.  For now, while the 49ers certainly were not wildly impressive today, they did enough for me to be hopeful in what for now is a wide-open NFC West.  If the Seahawks can get bodies back I still think they're the team to beat in this division, poor running game aside. They are certainly better than they showed today, particularly their defense.  However, it won't be easy work for them in the division.  The Cardinals show a certain spark under Kurt Warner that will definitely make them a tough out.  It's hard to judge their defense against a developing 49ers offense, but they definitely can bring some heat at times.

I remain somewhat hopeful for the 49ers season because if the season goes anything like this for the likes of Seattle and St. Louis, the 49ers and Cardinals both could conceivably win the division.  Even though the Seahawks will improve this season, I think the 49ers will as well and the Rams will certainly not be this awful (or maybe they will).  If an NFC West team walked into the playoffs at 8-8 I would not be remotely surprised.  Of course performances in the coming weeks could certainly change my thoughts on all of that.

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