3 Things San Francisco 49ers Must Do to Protect NFC West Title

Steve Maze@N/ACorrespondent IIJuly 12, 2012

3 Things San Francisco 49ers Must Do to Protect NFC West Title

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    One of the larger hurdles the San Francisco 49ers must overcome this season is something they maintain no control over: their schedule.

    After a 13-3 regular season that included a trip to the NFC Championship game, the 49ers must deal with having the target on their backs. Along with that, a difficult road schedule means the 49ers will be tested early and often.

    Their fellow division members include the Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals, but it is the Seahawks who seem most likely to contend with the 49ers for the NFC West crown.

    The following are things the 49ers must do to repeat as NFC West champions.

     

    49ers Schedule

    Week 1 @ Green Bay

    Week 2 vs. Detroit

    Week 3 @ Minnesota

    Week 4 @ New York Jets

    Week 5 vs. Buffalo

    Week 6 vs. New York Giants

    Week 7 vs. Seattle

    Week 8 @ Arizona

    Week 9 BYE

    Week 10 vs. St. Louis

    Week 11 vs. Chicago

    Week 12 @ New Orleans

    Week 13 @ St. Louis

    Week 14 vs. Miami

    Week 15 @ New England

    Week 16 @ Seattle

    Week 17 vs. Arizona

Can't Get Discouraged Early

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    Traveling to Green Bay and then hosting Detroit, the 49ers will have their work cut out for them early. Both were playoff teams last season, and both are offensive juggernauts ranking at the top of most offensive passing categories.

    The pressure will be on the defensive secondary to start the season. For the 49ers to see success throughout the remainder of the season, their secondary can't get discouraged after the first two games.

    Leaders Carlos Rogers and Dashon Goldson will have to shut down the likes of Greg Jennings and Calvin Johnson if the 49ers want to compete early on.

Pull Some Road Upsets

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    Continuing the theme of how difficult the 49ers schedule is, they must also travel to New England, New Orleans and the New York Jets along with the Week 1 opener in Green Bay. 

    Those are a tough batch of away games. All are playoff contenders and will be hungry to prove themselves against the 49ers.

    For the 49ers to gain a lead over their divisional foes, they must win a couple of these difficult road games to swing the standings in their favor.

    If the 49ers can play with the same determination seen in Philadelphia last season, they are definitely capable of winning tough games.

Dominate the Division

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    The NFC West is an extremely weak division.

    If the 49ers want to repeat as division champions, they need to repeat their 5-1 record within the division.

    With the rigorous start to the season and difficult East Coast road trips, the 49ers must take advantage of their divisional games. While the Rams, Cardinals and Seahawks have made improvements to their rosters, none should compete with San Francisco.

    The 49ers are a more experienced team and should win the division. That said, if they fail to capitalize on their weak division, the difficulty of the schedule provides less margin for error to repeat. Everything accounted for, an 11-5 record is reasonable and should be enough to win the division.