Leading up to the start of the 2010 NFL season, it wasn't uncommon to hear the phrase, "The San Francisco 49ers will win the NFC West."
One month later and four games into the current campaign, well, not so much.
St. Louis was to start a rookie quarterback, and Seattle and Arizona were teams in transition, so it was only natural to think this division was San Fran's to win. Most thought they would do so going away.
As Week 5 approaches it is anything but, and Mike Singletary's team is staring down the prospects of an unthinkable 0-5 start.
Still, you hear a whole lot of chatter suggesting there is much reason to believe the Niners can still finish atop a very weak foursome. However, they have it all to do, and it's quite a tall order for a team that has found ways not to finish games.
Chalk up their season-opening loss to Seattle as a bad loss, one in which they were completely outclassed and outplayed.
Week 2 on Monday Night Football against the defending Super Bowl champion Saints was a tough one to swallow. San Francisco played well enough to win and should have. Costly turnovers in New Orleans territory were a killer and kept Drew Brees and company in the game, and down the stretch the current holders battled their way back and kicked a game-winning field goal to burn the home side.
Facing the Chiefs in their third game of the season, and installed as road favorites to my surprise, it was more of the first week than the second. Kansas City was clearly the better team, and the scoreboard represented that. A 31-10 setback left more questions than answers, so it was back to the drawing board for their matchup in Week 4 vs. Atlanta.
No doubt the Niners' heartbreaking loss to the Falcons this past Sunday was their toughest to date. Up 14-13 with under two minutes left, a Nate Clements interception seemed to wrap up the game. However, his unnecessary desire to run the ball back for six led Roddy White to chase him down and strip the ball, leading to his team to recover the fumble with just a shade over a minute left.
Atlanta's "Matty Ice" Ryan, with his clutch fourth quarter prowess, proceeded to march his team down the field and earn his team a final chance to win it via a Matt Bryant field goal. He nailed it, and San Francisco found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
So the NFL's top underachievers now are up against the wall at home this weekend. They host Philadelphia, but perhaps their first break of the season is the news that Mike Vick is out for the game. His rib injury will more than likely prevent him from playing.
Also, further injury news that would seriously boost San Fran's matchups would be if LeSean McCoy is unable to go as well. Philly's top tailback's status is very uncertain just the same.
Be it as it may, San Francisco must find a way to earn a victory, no matter how ugly or at what expense. Nothing short of a victory to get on the "win" scoreboard is acceptable.
You hate to look ahead on the schedule, especially for a team that hasn't even won a game yet. But let's say the 49ers can get to 1-4 here. Their following schedule through Week 12 looks like this:
v. St. Louis
Now if there were ever a team that was to fire back into the divisional race when they looked so utterly hopeless, this might be the opportunity. There isn't a playoff team on the schedule the next six weeks, starting this Sunday with the Eagles. But then again, the 2010 San Francisco 49ers might not be either...