The past few years, the NFC West has belonged to the L.A. Rams. Before that, it belonged to the Seattle Seahawks.
And suddenly things are looking very interesting.
Because this year, the division looks like it could easily belong to the San Francisco 49ers.
Let’s start with the Seahawks. After their massively important win last week over the Rams, we can honestly say that the Hawks are contenders. Russel Wilson might be having his best season ever. Many are talking about him being squarely in the MVP conversation. The offense is multidimensional and can score when it needs to. And the defense looks stout. It will likely only get better once Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah—both recent additions—start to jell more with their teammates and Seattle’s scheme.
Right now, the team in first place is the 49ers. And they look like they should be. Their offense under Garoppolo is explosive and hard to stop. They’ve got road wins over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cincinnati Bengals. Don’t take road wins, even against inferior opponents, for granted—especially when you take into account the big time-change adjustments that players have to make.
And if you want to compare common opponents, the 49ers beat the Bengals by over 20 points on the road, whereas the Seahawks only beat them by one point, at home. Granted that was the first game of the season.
What about the Rams? Having lost their last two games, are they still contenders?
Nobody should rule them out until we have a larger sample size. They did go to the Super Bowl last season with many of the same players still on the team. They have one of the most explosive offenses in the league with quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley. They did give the Seahawks everything they could handle last week in Seattle, and will likely work a few more things out in time to win a lot more games.
Just as we shouldn’t count out the Rams, should we be a little skeptical of San Francisco? Perhaps, though they are one of only two undefeated teams left (the other being the Patriots).
The beautiful thing about wondering about the Rams and the 49ers, is that we get to see them play each other this weekend, which should go a long way towards knowing how good they are, especially relative to one another.
Let’s assume that the 49ers can handle the Rams on Sunday. What does their schedule look like after that? With games against the Redskins, Panthers, and Cardinals, they could relatively easily find themselves hosting the Seahawks for Monday Night Football on November 11th with very few or no losses.
But beating a Rams team angry after back-to-back losses is a big ask.
What if the Rams do win this weekend in San Francisco? What does their schedule look like?
Well, their schedule looks, if not daunting, then challenging. They play bad teams but have to travel back east to do so; that’s never easy for West Coast teams. Then they play good teams at home, which is a place they have proven they are not invincible (see their home loss to Tampa Bay). Their next five opponents are the Falcons, Bengals, Steelers, Bears, and the Ravens. It should be obvious which they play at home and which they play on the road, from the abovementioned categories of opponents they play.
Given that the Rams have lost two in a row, I’m going to make an executive prediction: the NFC West will come down to the Seahawks or the 49ers.
Those two teams face off on 11/11 and again on 12/29.
Now, this is a lot of information to process. What are we do to as fans?
There’s only one solution. Watch every single one of these games. Study the teams and the outcomes intently. Read about the games before, during and after. Listen to commentary. Basically, consume as much football as you can before the season is over. But while you’re doing this, don’t forget to take care of your body. You’ll need to eat and drink to stay alive. And it’s a scientifically proven fact that the best sustenance for football observers is quite simple. It’s hot wings and hop juice, forever and always, until the end of time.