While we sit twiddling our thumbs waiting for the NFL Lockout to come to an end, I thought it would be at least mildly entertaining to take a look at 2011 schedules around the NFC West. More importantly, I wanted to pull up the final four games for each member of the NFC West. While it's possible somebody might run away with the division, odds would seem to be fairly high that the division will come down to the wire. Throw in the fact that the NFL will have all divisional matchups during the final week of the season and it could prove to be a wildly entertaining final Sunday.
Head after the jump to see the final four games in 2011 for each NFC West team, along with a few thoughts.
San Francisco 49ers
Week 14: @ Arizona
Week 15: vs. Pittsburgh (MNF)
Week 16: @ Seattle (Saturday)
Week 17: @ St. Louis
Week 14: vs. 49ers
Week 15: vs. Cleveland
Week 16: @ Cincinnati (Saturday)
Week 17: vs. Seattle
St. Louis Rams
Week 14: @ Seattle (MNF)
Week 15: vs. Cincinnati
Week 16: @ Pittsburgh (Saturday)
Week 17: vs. San Francisco
Week 14: vs. St. Louis (MNF)
Week 15: @ Chicago
Week 16: vs. San Francisco (Saturday)
Week 17: @ Arizona
It's also worth noting that St. Louis and San Francisco square off at Candlestick in Week 13.
The 49ers and Seahawks have the most divisional games with three apiece. The 49ers have the most road games with three out of four to close the season, while Arizona has the fewest with one out of four. If you exclude each team's game with Seattle, the Cardinals are the only NFC West team not facing a 2010 playoff team during the closing stretch. The 49ers get the Steelers at home on Monday Night, the Rams face Pittsburgh on the road, and Seattle travels to Chicago.
Looking strictly at the schedule, Arizona would seem to have the easiest stretch to close out the season. Three of four at home, Seattle is the only playoff team on their schedule, and they get the Seahawks and 49ers at home during that stretch. Of course, if they don't find a legitimate quarterback by the beginning of the season they might be long since out of it at that point.
I'd say the 49ers have the toughest stretch over the close of the season. Even though their road opponents are "just" divisional opponents, those will likely be some tough ball games given how tight the division is bunching up. The Steelers game is one in which I'll go in with low expectations but high hopes, if that's possible. I'd love the big home upset but I'm not holding my breath.
Of course, we have no idea what state the 49ers or the NFL will be in at that time. It's a combination of mildly educated guesses and wild shots in the dark, but I think we can make some reasonable inferences at this point. Whatever happens, I strongly believe we'll see a wild race to the finish in the NFC West this season.