The 2011 NFL season is 25 percent completed, but already some elements have come clear about who is the best, the worst and the most surprising.
For example, there’s no doubt that New England can score, that Baltimore, thanks to its defense, can overcome poor quarterback performance, and that St. Louis and Minnesota are drifting into obscurity.
There have been major injuries (see Kansas City). There have been rookie breakthroughs (Julio Jones in Atlanta is good but Cam Newton has defied the laws of physics). Coaches have been placed on hot seats (a little warm there, Tony Sparano?), and stars like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are demonstrating that they are capable, if their play continues, of breaking records (5,000 passing yards, here they come).
That said, a look over the NFC West has the San Francisco 49ers at 3-1, two games up on the Cardinals and the Seahawks, three up on the St. Louis Rams. There is no argument that this lead could change in the near future. There is no argument that no NFC team has the right to think about or not think about printing playoff tickets in October.
It may not be possible to win the NFC West in the first four weeks, but it’s certainly possible to lose it in that time (hello, St. Louis). Here are five reasons why the 49ers are headed towards an NFC West title.