Predicting the NFC West: How the Standings Will Look at Season's End

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Predicting the NFC West: How the Standings Will Look at Season's End
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Alex Smith (11) and coach Jim Harbaugh led the Niners to a division title in 2011. Will they repeat?

The San Francisco 49ers had the talent to be a playoff team a couple years ago. They just didn’t have the quarterback play to get them over the hump.

That changed last year when Alex Smith turned in the best season of his seven-year career and led the 49ers to the NFC West crown and the NFC Championship Game.

The Niners, largely because of Smith’s lackluster play in previous seasons, were not the favorites to win the division last year.

That distinction fell to the St. Louis Rams, who appeared to be on the upswing after going 7-9 and falling just one game shy of winning the division. The seven wins were a plus-six from the season before. The Rams laid an egg with the division on the line in a season-ending loss at Seattle. The Seahawks also went 7-9, but won the division on a tiebreaker to become the first team with a losing record to win a division.

Seattle again went 7-9 last year while the Rams suffered through an injury-plagued season to a 2-14 record. The Arizona Cardinals finished strong to end the year at 8-8. Do the Cardinals have enough to usurp the crown away from the 49ers? Have the Seahawks done enough in the offseason to reclaim their title. Can the Rams return to greatness under new coach Jeff Fisher?

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